A $2.5 million Government cash injection for Te Arawa to ensure the protection of the city's waterways has been described as "huge for the region".
Conservation and Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage announced the Government's new $1.3 billion Jobs for Nature fund at Ohinemutu yesterday.The funding would be used for a new local environmental programme called Mauri Tu Mauri Ora Te Arawa and was set to create 40 jobs in the region.
It was developed over lockdown to create job opportunities through the advancement of environmental projects.
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick, who previously held a Government environmental portfolio, described it as a "bucket load of money" and "huge for the region".
"I haven't seen anything like this before."
The funding would go towards wetland restoration, catfish and aquatic weed control, pest eradication, monitoring water takes and discharges, as well as getting the people in nature-based jobs.
Sage said she had selected the region for the funding as it had been one of the worst-hit by the Covid-19 fallout but also for the work local iwi were already doing to protect its waterways.
She was particularly impressed with the local Te Arawa initiative Catfish Killas that aimed to eradicate the introduced species from its lakes.
"Caring for Te Taiao is at the centre of who you are as people."
She said it showed how Te Arawa addressed a "major problem" to "restore the health of awa".
The iwi, along with local councils and community organisations, was already taking a collaborative approach in a number of environmental projects.
"This pūtea will help to advance that."
It was hoped this would provide a blueprint for other regional collaborations in the future.
"These investments are a win-win for jobs and the mauri of lakes, wetlands and forests in the Te Arawa rohe," Sage said.
Environment manager for Te Arawa Lakes Trust Nicki Douglas said the environment could sometimes suffer at the hands of the economy.
And the relationship Māori had with the environment was "fundamental to who we are as people", she said.
After years of work to secure funding for key iwi projects that aimed to improve the city's waterways, wetlands and forests - she said she was warmed by the Government's "faith in us to deliver this package".
Allowing their people to work in this area was vital and she said they had a lot to bring to the table in terms of traditional practices of revitalisation.
Kaumātua Sir Toby Curtis was touched by how Sage addressed his people in te reo saying that she "had honoured us more than the money you've given us".
He said Rotorua was far from immune from the impact of Covid-19 and the funding would help in the overall recovery from the crisis.
They were a resilient bunch, he said, and would always adapt to the changing environment. But any partnerships that created work at this time were welcomed.
"We have 260 whānau who need work."
He said the generosity of Sage would allow them to "continue the dream".
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said being able to invest a "bucket load of money" in a project that benefitted the environment and was culturally diverse was something she had never seen anything like before.
She said it was "huge for the region" and a "fantastic thing to see".
It had been 17 years in the making, she said.
Labour MP for Waiariki Tamati Coffey said it was "significant" and he was thrilled with the elation of Nicki [Douglas] after all her work to secure the funding.