Te Awaroa – a vision for our rivers

06 Jul 2012

Our Sanderson Memorial speaker Dame Anne Salmond shared a vision of establishing bush buffers along our waterways to improve their health, at our 2012 conference.

In a speech that linked ideas about the Age of Enlightenment and Maori philosophy to our present ecological crisis and ways to restore our environment, Dame Anne said she and
some fellow attendees at the Transit of Venus conference in Gisborne in June
came up with an idea aimed at restoring our rivers.

“A number of us came up with this idea we are calling Te Awaroa (the long river), which is the idea of getting bush buffers alongside the waterways to green our rivers again and do that in such a way that we bring back life to the lifeblood of the land,” Dame Anne said.

“It will take networking and a capacity to inspire. I think this is one way we can get a Trojan horse out into our landscape because once you start planting trees you don’t like seeing them get eaten once you start seeing kereru coming back you don’t like seeing them being sprayed to death with chemicals.

“We need to join arms and link up because we will never make a difference unless we do that.”

Dame Anne, a writer, historian and the Distinguished Professor of Maori Studies and Anthropology at the University of Auckland, has over the last 12 years been restoring the Longbush Reserve near Gisborne.

It was a place she visited with her family as a child and returned to with her husband Jeremy.

When the land was put up for sale for farming or forestry, the Salmonds decided to buy it, although they lived in Auckland.

“For some reason that was totally crazy, we put in an offer and bought the land
because we could not bear to see this special place destroyed,” she said.

With help from ecologist Steve Sawyer and the government’s biodiversity funds they started restoring the land. “Native orchids started to come out of the ground and all sorts of native birds were reappearing.”

They have also planted 60 different varieties of harakeke, or flax, that had been collected by local woman Rene Orchiston.

“Birds have got to have safe places to nest, the fi sh have got to have safe places to swim and they don’t know about all these boundaries on the land.

Human beings have got to get together and create safe spaces for them and share the landscape in a more generous way, and be less arrogant, and less selfish,” Dame Anne said.