Enabling communities to restore and protect their natural ecosystems

The Ōkārito Plant Project aims to enable local communities to restore and protect their natural ecosystems in South Westland through native planting. 

“Our team cares deeply about Te Tai Poutini (the West Coast) and is passionate about the natural environment in which we work,” Janelle Shaw, Ngāi Tahu Holdings General Manager – Westland Tourism, says.

“Restoring the indigenous habitat for future generations aligns with the Ngāi Tahu tribal vision ‘mō tātou, ā, mō kā uri ā muri ake nei – for us and our children after us’,” she says.

Through the Ōkārito Plant Project, Franz Josef Glacier Guides and other Glacier Country tourism operators have teamed up with agricultural businesses in South Westland and the Ōkārito Plant Nursery to implement local planting projects to regenerate forests, waterways and wetlands, enhance biodiversity and create wildlife corridors.

“Development West Coast and Landcare have also supported the project and helped drive it forward,” Shaw says.

“The end goal for the Ōkārito Plant Project is to create sustainable employment for the Ōkārito Plant Nursery and a circular, self-sustaining system of regenerative tourism in the region,” she says.

The concept behind the regenerative tourism model is that tourism should add value in more than an economic sense by actively enriching local communities and helping to protect and restore the environment. 

So far planting sites have been established at Lake Matheson, Fox Glacier and Whataroa. Up to eight people from the Franz Josef Glacier Guides team can be working on the project at any one time, for example when conditions are unsuitable for accessing the glacier.

“After all of the hard mahi that has gone into the planting, it is important that the planted areas are regularly maintained to remove weeds and protective coverings from around the plants and check on plant health,” Shaw says.

“The whenua we work in every day is a signpost of climate change,” she says. 

“Being involved in planting projects offers the team an important opportunity to help mitigate the effects of climate change as well as educate others about the impacts they are seeing out on the glacier.”

Find out more about the project.