A new trust aiming to restore the mauri (life force) of the Waitangi River has got off to a roaring start, planting nearly 10,000 trees in two days.
Ko Waitangi Te Awa Trust was formed this year in a bid to regenerate the river through replanting, education and local employment.
It brings together the seven marae in the Waitangi catchment, along with the Northland Regional Council's Waitangi Catchment Forum and conservation groups such as Sustainable Coastlines.
The trust held its first public planting days last Thursday at the lily pond and on Saturday at Jamesons Esplanade, both bordering the river upstream from Haruru Falls.
On Thursday about 30 volunteers planted 3184 trees and shrubs, and on Saturday 65 volunteers planted 6203 plants in swampy pasture that drains directly into the Waitangi River. The area, which has been retired from farming, will now revert to wetland and forest.
The trust's interim chief executive, Sam Judd, said the planting days aimed "to go wide and broad and invite everyone who wants to give some love to this beautiful river".
Species planted on Saturday included harakeke, mānuka, ti kouka (cabbage trees) and swamp dwellers such as oioi (a type of rush) and toetoe. All seeds were harvested from within the catchment, in line with best practice.
"This marks the start of a journey that will go on beyond our lifetimes, to restore the mauri of the Waitangi River," Judd said.
It was "super cool" that farmer Mack Lynn had decided to retire the land permanently and had invited the public along, he said.
Lynn said he had so far retired 120ha at the deer and beef farm. Having less land for grazing wouldn't hurt his bottom line because he could concentrate on the land that was more suitable for farming.
"There's also the feel-good factor," Lynn said.
The trust is closely involved with Bay of Islands College in Kawakawa, where it has run wānanga showing students how to carry out baseline water quality testing using citizen science kits.
The students also took part in the planting days and entered a competition to design a logo for the new trust.
Trust chairman Ngāti Kawa Taituha said the idea was to teach young people about the river from a Māori perspective and raise them to become future kaitiaki.