Mount Huruiki is the highest point on the eastern coast of Northland. It offers a commanding view seawards over Whangaruru, Helena and Mimiwhangata Bays and the Poor Knights Islands, and westward towards the Kaipara Harbour. It forms the easternmost edge of the Kaipara catchment and water that falls on the mountain flows almost coast to coast across Northland. The land below at Helena Bay has been bought by Russian steel billionaire Alexander Abramov as a private retreat. Within easy sight is the Puhipuhi plateau, where Evolution Mining is controversially exploring for gold and silver. On the lower slopes there once grew part of the largest kauri forest in Northland, long since logged and burned.
Huruiki is of great cultural significance to the Ngāpuhi hapū, Ngāti Hau and Ngāti Wai. Until 1961, it formed part of land held under Māori title by shareholders of Ngāti Hau. That year the land was transferred to general title and sold, like in so many other cases, to pay arrears of council rates. It was bought and farmed as Huruiki Station by a Pākehā farmer.
The land has twice been on the market since then. Both times, Brandon Edwards, a descendant of the original owners, whose family had lived on the land for generations, sought to buy it back. The second time, fifty years after the original alienation, he succeeded, having meanwhile pursued a career as an investment banker in Hong Kong and London. He and his marketing executive wife Kiri, also from the North, moved back home with their three children to run it.
Brandon and Kiri's vision is to develop the 350 ha property into a sustainable farm and regenerated native bush. At present it is about 65 per cent pasture, 35 per cent native. They aim to make this 50/50, and they have earmarked 70 ha for restoration. For them, kaitiakitanga is the top priority.
A total of 8000 trees were planted on three hectares on the mountain in June-July 2016, with 3000 sourced from the Reconnecting Northland programme and Ngāti Hau's Akerama marae nursery and 5000 provided by Trees That Count.
Brandon and Kiri have reopened the land and the mountain to their Ngāti Hau whānau, and the planting was done together with the people from Akerama and Whakapara marae. Every month Whakapara has a two day noho wānanga on language and culture, and the planting provided an opportunity for participants to take part in the planting and hear stories about the area from kaumātua Te Raa Nehua. Children from Whangaruru Primary School have also made the journey up the mountain to learn about its history and to see the new beehives that will be sustained by mānuka and other native trees.