Returning the rata bloom to Moturata Island

30 years ago severe erosion threatened Moturata Island’s existence and the bulk of the Island’s native rata trees had been removed for fuel or destroyed by fire. With the aim of seeing rata blooming once again on the island, the Moturata Taieri Whanau group was formed and has worked tirelessly over the years to restore the Island to its former crimson glory. Initially the group worked to eradicate rabbits and restore the soil, and now a southern rata regeneration project is underway.

The Project Crimson Trust is assisting with this goal with the provision of 50 southern rata trees through the 2015 Community Restoration Programme. Each year Project Crimson reviews applications and supplies trees or funding to groups and individuals around New Zealand who aspire to create a long-term benefit to their local community through conservation projects involving pohutukawa or rata.

“This year’s programme is especially special to the Project Crimson Trust as we celebrate our 25th anniversary” says the Trust’s Chairman, Joris de Bres. “It seems hard to believe but 25 years ago the future of pohutukawa and rata looked bleak. Possums were out of control and in some parts of the country up 90% of coastal pohutukawa stands were gone. We have been overwhelmed with the support of New Zealanders across the country who have all contributed to bringing back our much loved tree from the threat of extinction. Such was the success of the project in the early days that our mandate broadened to a national focus, to include rata, and more recently a wider ecosystem focus.”


Robyn Ashton and father Martin Palmer, Moturata Taieri Whanau, in front of Moturata Island. Photo credit Dan Hutchison, The Star

Moturata Taieri whanau spokesperson Robyn Ashton says the project has proved to be challenging but thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding. “Moturata Taieri Whanau comprises local families of Kai Tahu (Kate Mamoe, Wai Taha) descent, who claim kaitiakitanga over Moturata. Moturata Taieri whanau, local Taieri Mouth residents, Taieri Beach School children and cribbies have all contributed to this project over the last 24 years. Plenty of heart, sweat and thought has been put into this project by the whanau. So far over 100 southern rata trees have been planted in the area and progress has been fantastic. We are proud with what we have achieved together and are very grateful for the trees we have been donated by Project Crimson” she said.