Over hundreds of years of continuous habitation and interaction, Rongowhakaata have formed a relationship with Te Wherowhero Lagoon.

From the time of the Horouta waka, Hinehakirirangi and her party navigated a passage through Wherowhero Lagoon to the Karaua stream, passing Puketapu maunga heading to Manawaru where the first kumara in Te Tairawhiti were successfully planted.

The lagoon is located to the north of Te Kuri and runs along the eastern coast where it meets the Waipaoa River.

The lagoon is an area where both Rongowhakaata and Ngai Tamanuhiri iwi have mana whenua and mana moana.

It is open to the sea at its southern end and is partly estuarine (fresh water from the land meets and mixes with saltwater from the sea).

Estuaries are one of the most productive ecosystems on the earth and are especially rich in animal life.

Te Wherowhero is our taonga.

The natural state of the lagoon has been altered over time as a result of human activities.

Human-induced modification of the land and waterways has resulted in habitat degradation, both of the land and sea.

The land surrounding Te Wherowhero Lagoon has been highly modified as a result of an intensive cattle-grazing regime over the last 160 years, which has severely impacted upon the water quality of the lagoon and its neighbouring coastal environment.

Farmland has encroached into many parts, natural vegetation has been removed, and parts of the lagoon have been used to dump rubbish.

Despite the adverse effects, Te Wherowhero Lagoon still has high biodiversity and ecosystem services for Rongowhakaata, Ngai Tamanuhiri and the wider community.

The lagoon is a nationally recognised wetland/estuarine lagoon, 160-hectares in size.

It is a kainga that provides feeding and habitat for over 34 species of coastal waders and shore birds. These include:

• Kuaka (bar-tailed godwit). Kuaka arrive at Te Wherowhero every year in September after an eight or nine day flight from Alaska.

• Ngutu Parore (wrybill). These small endemic birds migrate from the South Island braided rivers annually to winter at Te Wherowhero.

• Tuturiwhatu (NZ dotterel). Te Wherowhero is an important breeding habitat for this highly threatened species, they nest every year around August and September.

One of the biggest threats tuturiwhatu face at Te Wherowhero is human disturbance.

Off-road vehicles and careless feet destroy their nests on the beach.

Uncontrolled dogs running through the nesting areas can crush eggs, disturb nesting adults, and kill chicks.

Respecting Te Wherowhero as a home to our taonga species is something the kaitiaki cherish.

For Rongowhakaata, Te Wherowhero is a primary source of sustenance.

It is a garden, a seamless extension of land-based cultivation.

It is home to many types of flora and fauna and an important kapata kai (food basket) for the hapu of Rongowhakaata and Ngai Tamanuhiri.

It has had its share of destruction, but resilience will ensure it flourishes for the next generation.

SOURCE FROM: The Gisborne Herald te-wherowhero-a-cherished-taonga