In 1993 the New Zealand Government returned a 20 ha block of land at Matakataki-a-Kupe/Cape Palliser to Ngati Hinewaka. The land, located in the centre of a 1250 ha block owned by whanau of Ngati Hinewaka, had been taken by the Crown in 1897 to use as a site for the Cape Palliser lighthouse. Its return provided the incentive for Ngati Hinewaka to develop a plan to manage this remaining piece of their ancestral lands. Shortly after the return of the land, Ngati Hinewaka covenanted three blocks that together protect 800 ha of wild, rocky coastal habitat, regenerating bush and the remains of pa sites and middens that provide evidence of some of the earliest human habitation in New Zealand.
High steep coastal hills behind the covenant make passage to its interior difficult, and the wild southerly storms that batter the coastline and the region’s dry summers make this a hostile place for plants and animals. Yet numerous rare species have made this place their home. Fur seals laze on the rocks, geckos and skinks dart about the bush, and at certain times of the year koaro (climbing galaxias/Galaxias brevipinnis) can be seen climbing steep waterfalls while giant kokapu (Galaxias argenteus) swim in lower lying pools.
The Trust, Greater Wellington Regional Council, the local branch of Forest and Bird, Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre and the Norfolk Road Native Nursery have joined forces to support the owners’ restoration efforts. An historic karaka grove and rengarenga lily site have been enhanced with plantings of rare coastal plants, protected with a specially constructed rabbit-proof fence. A lizard habitat has been created, and pests and weeds are being tackled. As regeneration progresses a new version of the original coastal forest, lost for the most part on the Wairarapa’s east coast, is beginning to emerge.