Mahitahi-Maitai River
Image: Tim Cuff | ©

Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


Ecological restoration of Nelson city’s Mahitahi (Maitai) river catchment will step up a gear with a $2 million Jobs for Nature funding boost that will create jobs equivalent to 30 fulltime roles spread over two years.

Date:  25 September 2020

The Department of Conservation Jobs for Nature funding was secured by Nelson City Council through Kotahitanga mō te Taiao Alliance, a top of the South Island alliance of iwi, councils and DOC that is working collaboratively to enhance resilience in natural landscapes and communities across the region.

The investment will further support the implementation of Council’s Mahitahi (Maitai) catchment Ecological Restoration Plan and will focus on tree planting including taonga species, controlling pest plants, and restoring wetlands through Project Mahitahi, a partnership involving Nelson City Council, iwi and DOC.

Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese says the funding answers two pressing needs – the protection of our natural environment, and the creation of jobs as we recover from COVID-19.

“Jobs for Nature is an innovative way of stimulating the economy, while also keeping our environment at the forefront of our thinking. This will be local people doing the mahi to enhance a natural resource that Nelsonians hold very dear.”

Ngāti Koata Trust General Manager and Project Mahitahi Co-chair Justin Carter said that this project provided a great opportunity for iwi and Council to continue to strengthen their relationship while achieving a number of outcomes in response to the impacts of COVID-19. 

 "The Mahitahi (Maitai) catchment area is a place of cultural significance to iwi so it is pleasing to see a project which brings iwi and crown alliance members together in such a way that enhances our relationships and supports those in our community most impacted by the pandemic.

“It is also a rather fitting location for this project given that the name of this river catchment is Mahitahi, which by its very meaning describes the unity of people working towards a specific goal."

The Mahitahi project is the first in the country to be granted DOC Jobs for Nature funding through a regional alliance involving councils and iwi.

The DOC funding is in addition to $1.7 million Ministry for the Environment Jobs for Nature funding over five years already committed to Project Mahitahi.

DOC Northern South Island Operations Director Roy Grose said that under the DOC Kaimahi for Nature funding stream, $200 million nationally is being invested through regional alliances to provide nature-based jobs that achieve conservation gains at a large scale.

“Kotahitanga mō te Taiao and other regional alliances will prioritise environmental projects in regions for Kaimahi for Nature funding to create work for businesses struggling due to Covid-19 and their workers.  This approach enables decisions to be made in regions to accelerate projects that benefit local communities by providing much-needed employment and environmental investment.”

Through the Jobs for Nature programme, the Government will invest $1.3 billion into the creation of 11,000 nature-based jobs over the next four years to revitalise communities impacted by Covid-19 and benefit the environment. 

Mayor Reese says the Jobs for Nature funding will accelerate work the council already had planned for the Mahitahi (Maitai) catchment restoration with the following intended outcomes:

  • enhanced water quality
  • a reduction in weeds that will help to reduce the spread of invasive plant species across a wider area
  • habitat improvement
  • the preservation of indigenous tree and plant species, some of which are found only in the Mahitahi (Maitai) Valley
  • the development of a food corridor that will support movement of native bird species across the Nelson region
  • benefits for taonga species such as kōura/freshwater crayfish, tuna/eels, inanga/native fish

Background information

  • Nelson City Council is leading the Mahitahi Project with Te Tau Ihu iwi and working with landowners, the community, and organisations in the region.
  • Kotahitanga mō te Taiao Alliance spans across Buller, Tasman, Nelson and Marlborough. Membership includes eight iwi, all councils and DOC.
  • DOC has been allocated $500 million from the Jobs for Nature programme and is responsible for administering three funding streams (Kaimahi for Nature, Protecting Nature and Restoring Nature) to projects that will create 6,000 nature-based jobs over four years.


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