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Lofty aspirations for native regeneration on Te Mata Peak

One of the most iconic landscapes in Hawke’s Bay, Te Mata Peak sits proudly overlooking Havelock North. But those looking closely in recent years will see that the ‘Sleeping Giant’ has had something of a facelift, with the local community initiating a significant native planting programme.

“The current planting project was initiated in 2020, following the harvesting of 12 hectares of aging pine trees in an established part of the Park,” explains Emma Buttle from Te Mata Park Trust. 

“With support from our community and charitable trusts, we also purchased an additional 8.5 hectares of neighbouring land in 2019.” 

The Trust is planting close to 60,000 native species across these two areas, over four years.  

“It’s our objective to promote native revegetation and increased biodiversity across Te Mata Park (and the wider maunga) for enhanced ecosystem health—and for the enjoyment of our community,” explains Emma.

The Park is one of the most popular recreation areas in Hawke’s Bay, and likewise, holds a very special place in the area’s history.

It is part of the land associated with the ancestor Te Rehunga of Ngāti Ngarengare, a sub-tribe of Ngāti Kahungunu. There is evidence of past settlement, including pā sites and other earthworks.

“The peak is of cultural significance to the marae hapū of Heretaunga, who have a wonderfully rich, deep, diverse and sacred relationship with the maunga,” says Emma.

Te Mata Park was gifted to the community in 1927 by the Chambers family.  The intention was to create a recreational reserve and to be protected in perpetuity. 

Now nearly 100 years old, the Park Trust has bold planting plans, extending the bird corridor and building on the wonderful work done by volunteers over the past century.

“We have a wide variety of groups involved in our planting programme, including strong engagement with mana whenua,” says Emma.  

This ranges from supporters, donors through to volunteers and contractors. Volunteers have come from school groups, community organisations, local businesses and families. 

The contractors and plant providers are likewise, all locally based, with a Planting Manager overseeing the programme of work.

“The vision is to restore the ngahere (native vegetation) to reflect the korowai (cloak) which previously enveloped this whenua,” Emma explains.

“We understand that by planting a mixed range of tree species, there are many environmental and conservation benefits. 

It can provide a habitat for birds and bees, protect against pests and environmental hazards, improve water quality and protect soil and land from erosion.  

This is a long-term plan and we want to protect this area for hundreds of years to come.”

The Trust has a busy season in the works for 2022, with a total of 14,000 native plants going in the ground. 

2,000 of these native trees are funded through a unique partnership between Trees That Count and the Department of Conservation, in honour of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s platinum jubilee celebrations.

“We’re immensely grateful for the ongoing support provided through the Trees That Count platform, and also to 1 Billion Trees and our community supporters,” says Emma. 

“It is extremely gratifying to see the impact this work is making on our community—bringing people together for the benefit of the whenua. 

This project is providing jobs for local contractors and strengthening our community.  It is further enhancing biodiversity and it is giving people new areas to explore recreationally, as well as opportunities for education & learning.  

We know it won’t happen overnight, but in 10-15 years time once the trees have grown, it will be a very special place to visit,” Emma says.

Members of the community who wish to help to plant native trees in honour of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations are warmly invited to attend the Te Mata Park Winter Planting Day on June 5. Register to attend at