Award-winning Wi Pere farm recovering from Cyclone Gabrielle

An award-winning whenua Māori farm slammed by four-meter-high waves of cyclone debris will recover in a third of the time thanks to Government support.

Published: Rāmere, 29 Mahuru, 2023 | Friday, 29 September 2023

Wi Pere Finishing Farm, adjacent to the Waipaoa awa about 20 kilometres north of Gisborne, had over half of its 870 hectares inundated with sediment and debris when the Waipaoa stop bank broke in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle in February 2023.

The flood drowned stock, wiped out fences and plantings, and damaged the 200,000-cubic-meter storage dam used for stock and crop irrigation.

Te Puni Kōkiri is supporting the recovery of the 2022 and 2023 Ahuwhenua Award-winning farm by enabling Government funding to assist the clean-up.

Wi Pere Trust board chair Alan Haronga (Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki, Rongowhakaata, Ngāi Tāmanuhiri, Whakatōhea and Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairoa) said the Trust was grateful for the support, which should cut recovery time from three years to one.

“This has a good feel flow-on effect for our sheep and beef and horticulture staff to see an acceleration in recovery - particularly after the trauma of going through the floods, seeing the devastation caused and having to work in the cold, wet and uncomfortable conditions afterwards for many, many weeks,” Alan said.

The assistance at Wi Pere aides the removal of debris, the integration of silt back into the whenua, and the installation of drainage systems across its six land blocks in Te Tairāwhiti.

Some of the affected area includes the Wi Pere Farm fattening flats where stock graze for fattening. Rather than remove all the sediment and debris at a greater cost, the Trust has opted to sow grass atop of much of the sediment. This fertile whenua is now slowly resembling its former green self.

The Government support comes as part of a $30 million fund managed by Te Puni Kōkiri that supports whenua Māori owners affected by Cyclone Gabrielle with the vital clean-up of sediment and debris in the Tairāwhiti and the Hawke’s Bay regions.

Becoming productive again will mean the Trust can continue to deliver benefits for whenua, whānau, communities and the wider environment, Alan said.

“Our tipuna, Wi Pere’s vision for the Wi Pere Trust, when it was constituted on 14 April 1899, was the retention and development of land in Māori ownership and control.

“Today’s trustees continue our tīpuna’s legacy, and the assistance from Te Puni Kokiri means we become productive earlier to continue our journey for the next 100 years.”

Te Puni Kōkiri is also managing $2 million of a $10.15 million Government fund for supporting whenua owners to manage woody debris in catchments. This fund is now fully subscribed. Visit the Te Puni Kōkiri website to read about the progress of the two investments including funded projects.


Photo: Wi Pere Finishing Farm after Cyclone Gabrielle.