Far North Holdings Ltd and Bay of Islands hapu Ngati Manu signed a memorandum of understanding at Karetu Marae on February 27, and last week the two parties met formally for the first time, at Opua, with the focus on improving the water quality of the Taumarere River.
Ngati Manu spokesman Arapeta Hamilton said the river was one of the most severely polluted in the country, and the hapu's environmental arm, Te Kahui Kaitiaki o Ngati Manu mo te Awa Tapu o Taumarere, and Far North Holdings Ltd would be working together, with local and regional authorities and various other sector groups, to develop strategies that would help improve the water quality.
The group would also be embarking on a series of educational programmes, including establishing a native tree nursery for riparian planting at Karetu Marae, a fencing programme, wananga to educate taiohi about rivers and surrounding waterways and practical, hands-on clean up days.
A Taumarere River Festival involving the local children would be organised for early next year.
Mr Hamilton said the urgent need to find strategies to improve the river was revealed over New Year, when his great-aunt and her family camped on its banks. Swimming in the river for a couple of days had left her mokopuna covered in rashes and boils, with their hair smelling "terrible."
The whanau had stopped them from swimming in the main river and directed them to a tributary, the Tirohanga Stream.
"I am pleased to report that Ngati Manu has been able to recruit on to Te Kahui Kaitiaki o Ngati Manu some of the brightest young hearts and minds in the hapu," he added.
"They are keen to get started and achieve positive outcomes, focus on practical on-the-ground action and clean up our river."
The elected members were Mr Hamilton, Dr Krushil Watene, graduating marine biologist Peter Van Kampen, scientist Ebony Wikaira-Prime, youth worker Te Kauri Macpherson, and "passionate Ngati Manu taiohi" Shane Tane.
"We need to start now, otherwise the next generation will be left with nothing but a cesspool of pollution in the future, and that is not the legacy we want to leave for our mokopuna," he said.
"Cleaning up the Taumarere River is of utmost importance to us, as we want to restore life and vitality back into our awa to sustain our future generations, not just environmentally but culturally and spiritually as well."