Far North projects involving kauri conservation and Māori tourism have been granted $7.5 million in the latest grants from the One Billion Trees programme and the Provincial Growth Fund.
Regional Development Minister Shane Jones made the announcements in Kerikeri on Friday, pledging up to $6.25m for New Zealand's first bio-secure kauri sanctuary.
The pest-proof sanctuary would be created on land owned by Bay of Islands hapu Ngāti Rēhia at Takou Bay in an attempt to keep the trees safe from kauri dieback disease.
Jones also announced $1.25m from the PGF to revamp Rewa's Village, a replica Māori fishing village at Kerikeri Basin, across the river from the Stone Store.
Ngāti Rēhia has plans to develop the village as a tourist attraction but it has fallen into disrepair since it was built more than 50 years ago.
Jones said the kauri sanctuary was an attempt to future-proof the existence of kauri in Northland.
''But it also gives hope, new skills and injects economic activity to the broader Kerikeri community. It is very much a long-term project when you consider how long it takes kauri to reach maturity.''
The money, from the One Billion Trees programme, would pay for pest-proof fencing, boardwalks and other biosecurity measures, clearing, planting and training.
Earlier funding from the PGF had paid for a study ensuring the land was suitable for kauri and free of dieback.
Pest management would be an important part of the project because wild pigs were believed to spread the disease, which was confirmed in Puketi Forest, west of Kerikeri, in March.
Jones described the sanctuary as a kind of Noah's Ark but it might better be called Nora's Ark, after kuia Nora Rameka who has been the project's driving force.
Rameka said the 45ha sanctuary would allow Ngāti Rēhia to utilise its land, create work and training opportunities, and teach its young people how to be good kaitiaki (guardians).
Ngāti Rēhia spokesman Kipa Munro said the funding for Rewa's Village would bring it up to the standards of the rest of Kororipo Heritage Park.
The hapū would revamp the tracks, whare and exhibits and planned a whare waka (waka shelter), mangrove walkway and waka tours.
He likened it to a kind of Jurassic Park because it would allow visitors to experience the area as it was in the past, with guests arriving at the park around the year 1770 and leaving about 1830.
The upgrade would employ 30 people and be complete by the end of the year. Up to seven permanent jobs would be created.
Jones paid tribute to the group of mostly Pākehā woman who created Rewa's Village in the 1970s as a way of raising funds for their battle to save Kerikeri Basin.
Their group, Spokssa (Society for the Preservation of the Kerikeri Stone Store Area), managed to stop a developer's bulldozers turning the ridge adjoining Kororipo Pā into a subdivision. Eventually MP Matiu Rata persuaded the Government to buy the land.
Takou Bay, which is between the Bay of Islands and Matauri Bay, has great significance to Māori. Takou River is the resting place of Mātaatua, the ancestral waka of Ngāpuhi, Tuhoe, Ngāti Awa and other tribes; the bay is also home to the first pā built by Puhi, the eponymous ancestor of Ngāpuhi.
The royal connection
More than 150 people squeezed into the Plough and Feather restaurant at Kerikeri Basin to hear Friday's announcements.
The included a cultural group from Kerikeri High School and a delegation from the Māori King led by Tainui orator Rahui Papa.
The King's connection to Kerikeri goes back to about 1824 when Ngāpuhi made peace with Waikato iwi after a series of bloody battles.
To cement the peace Ngāpuhi chief Rewa offered his daughter Matire Toha to Waikato chief Te Wherowhero, who later became the first Māori King.
Matire Toha married Kati, Te Wherowhero's younger brother, and one of their descendants — great-great-great-great-granddaughter Ngaire Noki Lasika — took part in Friday's event to celebrate her personal connection to Rewa's Village.
''It was a beautiful, very emotional day,'' she said.
Regional Development Minister Shane Jones said a carving at Rewa's Village would commemorate Matire Toha and ''the historic bond between Tainui and Ngāpuhi''.