The Reconnecting Northland team has reached double figures for the first time since it was established in 2012, boosting conservation efforts across Te Tai Tokerau.
Reconnecting Northland pou manatū Eamon Nathan said the extra staff added considerably to the country's only conservation connectivity programme's operational capabilities, expertise and support it could provide.
Funded by the Tindall Foundation and Foundation North, Reconnecting Northland is a non-governmental organisation tasked with revitalising a range of natural processes and ecosystems across the region, while also building environmental, social, cultural and economic resilience.
Nathan said it was entering an exciting new phase of its development, and is involved in three flagship initiatives across Te Tai Tokerau, including Te Kawa Waiora, a tangata whenua-inspired research project revolving around the health, wellbeing and mauri of the Wairoa River and its tributaries, and He Ripo Kau, whose purpose was to weave people together in the wider Hokianga area to achieve clean waterways and forests stretching to the sea.
It also supported Kaitiaki Whangaroa to realise the vision there of abundant local resources, while Clean, Clear Water, a workstream within He Ripo, which had received Provincial Growth Fund investment, incorporated planting and fencing in the south Hokianga with local employment and training schemes.
"Essentially, Reconnecting Northland is all about connecting people with the land, and using that connection as a vehicle for positive environmental and social transformation," Nathan said.
"Working with, and within, communities is key to achieving this transformation in our region, and this is at the very heart of our mission," he said.
Recent additions to the team included ecologist Andrea Booth, Anaru Toia (programme manager and systems analyst), Julie Eaddy (training and learning development co-ordinator), project manager Te Maapi Simich-Pene, programme administrator Rachel Taylor, fundraising specialist Zoe Etcheverry, and communications adviser John Lazenby.
They join Nathan, who had led the organisation since May 2016, systems and support manager Sian Leith, and connectivity activator Celia Witehira, who had collaborated on a range of initiatives designed to protect and preserve Northland's habitats, waterways and wildlife, from Kaipara to the Far North.
"Our newly-expanded team offers a vibrant mix of diversity, passion and experience, and together we can look forward to taking connectivity conservation to the next level. We are working hard to open pathways that will restore the wellbeing of our whenua and people at landscape scale," Nathan said.
While the Reconnecting Northland initiative was unique to New Zealand, the concept of connectivity conservation was thriving via similar global enterprises, particularly in Africa, the US and Australia.
"Connectivity conservation recognises that habitats and species function best as part of a large interconnected network, including people," he said.
"By living in harmony with the natural world around us, we in turn protect our own future. This was well understood by my ancestors, and indeed all indigenous cultures the world over."
Reconnecting Northland was in a special position, through which it could combine its independent status and regional strategic focus to navigate among iwi, hapū, marae, community groups, landowners and agencies to help enable and scale up Northland's ecological efforts.
Described as a "bold and extremely visionary initiative", Reconnecting Northland won the Green Ribbon Award for philanthropy and partnership, in conjunction with WWF New Zealand and the NZ Landcare Trust, in 2016.
Based at The Orchard, in Whangārei, it also had two staff members based in the mid and Far North, while the team regularly travels throughout the region.