A Far North iwi hopes a joint venture with a company to extract valuable waxes and resins from a peat wetland north of Kaitaia by using solvents will help provide its economic future.
The Ngai Takato iwi is collaborating with Auckland-based Resin & Wax Holdings, which has just gained consent to extract kauri resin and wax from about 10 per cent of the Far North's more than 4000-hectare Kaimaumau wetland.
Resin and Wax has held a mining licence for peat in the Kaimaumau area, north of Kaitaia, since 1991, but machinery has only been invented in recent years to extract valuable waxes and resins from the peat by using solvents.
The Northland Regional Council has granted the company consent for commercial kauri resin and wax extraction.
The company now has the various consents needed for the staged extraction of resin and wax from peat from 400ha of wetland that forms part of a wider, almost 950ha, block now owned by Ngai Takoto.
Te Runanga o Ngai Takoto chief executive Rangitane Marsden said the venture was a big win for the iwi that would help secure its economic and environmental future, by providing jobs and opportunities for its people.
The iwi bought the farm as part of its post Treaty of Waitangi settlement process and at that stage it was largely covered in wattle, pine and scrub.
''We knew that the farm required a lot of work to bring it back into any kind of state that it could be used to provide any economic benefit. But the environment is a big part of our kaupapa and that had to be a primary focus.''
Marsden said Resin and Wax would extract the resins and waxes from the peat, then return the peat to the ground in a state that could then be used for planting. The resins and waxes have a variety of uses, including in industrial solvents and lubricants, and are used for sealing roads in some countries.
''We knew the soil was quite toxic and this will enable us to get the soil cleaned up so we can use the land again, whether that be for farming or horticulture or whatever, but it will help provide work and opportunities,'' Marsden said.
Two iwi members were already working with Resin & Wax to establish the project and more employment and training opportunities would come as the pilot expanded. No value or potential job numbers have been given at this stage.
''This is the first time we've done a joint venture, but it's going to be a big win for us and will help future-proof the iwi. To be honest, we're over the welfare programmes; that's not going to create education or create jobs or opportunities,'' he said.
''We have to get out own ventures going to create those opportunities and this will help set up those economic, environmental and employment opportunities.''
Marsden said the iwi would also work with the Department of Conservation (DoC), which has an estate neighbouring the iwi land, to enhance the environment.
Northland Regional Council regulatory services group manager Colin Dall said extraction
was initially proposed over up to 5ha annually, increasing to 20ha a year if the operation reaches full production.
He said the non-notified consent was granted because – subject to extensive conditions imposed – any adverse effects of the proposed activity on the environment would be "no more than minor".
The consented area excludes DoC-managed wetlands to the north, and Kaimaumau's scientific reserve, both of which the council says will not be affected by the extraction operation.
Proposed extraction areas will be confined to places previously disturbed by Kaurex – which mined peat there in the 1980s – and by subsequent farming operations. Resin & Wax Holdings must also obtain a Crown permit before any extraction can begin because kauri resin and wax are legally classed as minerals.