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Maori-led kaitiakitanga to help Tairawhiti Ngutukaka - East Coast Kakabeak thrive

Updated: Sep 22, 2021

The threatened Tairāwhiti ngutukākā (kakabeak) plant has been given a chance to thrive thanks to the hard work and dedication of a small group of people on the East Coast of Aotearoa.

Graeme Atkins and his team are aiming to return the ngutukākā to appropriate landscapes across Te Ika-a-Maui, with the goal of replanting and regenerating the numbers of this threatened species. The programme focuses on raising awareness of the threatened status of the plant in original habitats to ensure it not only survives but thrives into the future. During 2020 mahi involved collecting sufficient seed and materials to work with three kura and their students. These schools were provided with tools needed to grow the ngutukākā and students were then taught how to propagate and rear these precious plants.

“Key to recovery of the Tairāwhiti ngutukākā is to also build momentum for ongoing and everlasting protection,” says Graeme.

Sustainable protection will be done by bringing together experts, passion, knowledge, councils, corporates, communities and kaitiaki to learn from each other. Mahi in the whenua will involve communicating the best ways to collect seeds, raise seedlings, plant, protect and build ngutukākā populations around the rohe. The team will also share established stories and traditions of this taonga species and create new ones with everyone involved.

“We will be educating and informing each other about how best to grow, care for and protect ngutukākā to ensure the long-term survival of this iconic species,” says Graeme. “We are also working to enhance and promote the importance of Maori-lead kaitiakitanga for ngutukākā and other taonga”.

Central to the revival efforts will be developing a central repository for ngutukākā-related information and protocols for sharing.

Moving forward the team would like to build a community of dedicated supporters of this kaupapa, to ensure ongoing and sustainable support including collecting seeds, protecting plants, establishing and distributing seedlings, and financial and technical supporters. Regeneration efforts will also be shared with potential corporate partners for broad support including funding, access to habitats, volunteer time and the development of resources.

If you would like to offer financial or hands-on help to cultivate, and advocate for knowledge and protection for ngutukākā so it is never on the brink of extinction again, please contact Alice Cameron on

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