I have just returned from a few days at my turangawaewae - Kairakau Beach on the East Coast of Central Hawkes Bay.

Our family have been holidaying at this beautiful place since my grandfather built one of the first baches amongst the dunes way back in the early 1900s.

During my childhood and teenage years we spent a fortnight over the summer months enjoying the recreational opportunities and shared adventures with youngsters of similar ages.

Since then it has remained a sanctuary to recharge our batteries preparing for the more mundane activities of life earning a living. I could happily spend the rest of my days as a beachcomber just soaking up the elements, memories and clean air that can heal more readily than any tonic known to man.


But sadly, for most of us who now reside in places far away, this type of respite is always a rare experience and our responsibilities for others tend to determine when and where we spend our discretionary time.

However, if those glorious memories are regarded as part of our heritage, then we need to be mindful that our responsibilities for the maintenance of these incredible places remains as long as we breathe the air when there or even just dreaming about them when not.

Thankfully, each more infrequent trip back does allow the opportunity to reflect not only on the therapeutic value of this magic environment for us but also for those who have much greater claim to an association.

I refer, of course, to the living members of the Kahungunu hapū, who have owned parts of the area since the days of early Māori settlement.

Readers who are familiar with this part of Hawkes Bay's coastline will know that there are remnants of fortified pā sites on prominent cliffs above river gorges and on hilltops overlooking the sea close to Kairakau itself.

A ex-farmer cousin of mine has retired to live at Kairakau Beach and has gained permission from the descendants of the early Māori settlers allowing him to begin the process of re-establishing native trees and shrubs over much of the coastal land upon which they originally thrived.

To help with the process, some of the farm paddocks have been retired from grazing in order to give the juvenile plants a reasonable chance of surviving the transplanting from nursery to open spaces.

My cousin, who l'm guessing for reasons of modesty would prefer to remain nameless, has undertaken this huge project which is funded mainly from his own pocket and small donations.


He is grateful for the willing co-operation he gets from the Māori owners who are very supportive of his work. They don't have to be but it certainly helps that they are and it probably couldn't happen if they weren't.

Having been fortunate enough to have a personal guided tour of the nurseries that house the plants at various stages of growth from seeds harvested from local species, l can appreciate the effort involved in making this project as successful as it has been.

For those of us who have been lucky enough to have enjoyed times spent at this iconic place, there is a responsibility to make sure this massive undertaking does not fail.

Financial contributions to help cover the ongoing expenses are a way to do that.

While it will be future generations who benefit from the experience of waking to the dawn chorus of all those native bird species that used to consider Kairakau home - tuis, bellbirds and others that left the environment because of a lack of food supply as grassland farming engulfed everything, this generation can still enjoy observing the evolution process as the new plants grow to adulthood.

It is also a time to reflect on the value of dedicated landowners and project managers such as those who are transforming this place many of us call home.

They have themselves become guardians (kaitiaki) worthy of the name.

Clive Bibby is a fourth generation member of a CHB farming family that has been farming at Tolaga Bay on the East Coast since 1980.