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Best possible landscape-scale conservation outcomes for Te Tauihu

The Kotahitanga mō te Taiao Alliance (KMTT) is changing the way conservation is done in New Zealand through an innovative collaboration between iwi, central and local government working across 3.4 million hectares of land and ocean in Te Tau Ihu.

Rātā Foundation, granted global conservation organisation The Nature Conservancy (TNC) $754,007 to support the delivery of the KMTT strategy. The grant supports the TNC and KMTT to deliver the best possible conservation outcomes for people and nature in the Te Tauihu region.

Acknowledging that conservation can go faster alone, but further together, 15 partners came together to form KMTT, currently the largest collaborative team working in conservation in Aotearoa.

The grant enables TNC to support the environmental objectives of KMTT – a collaborative group of iwi, the Department of Conservation, and all councils in Te Tauihu and the West Coast. TNC will provide strategic support such as improved planning, incentivized land-use changes, and greater coordination of community conservation projects.

"All KMTT partners are working to each other's strengths in their region. The work of the Alliance aligns with the Rātā aim to create a world where people care for each other and the environment so future generations can thrive," Rātā Foundation Chief Executive Leighton Evans says.

KMTT has targeted its landscape-scale work to the 3.5 million hectares across the top of the South Island, home to precious natives and rare and endangered species found nowhere else in the world.

Kotahitanga mō te Taiao means collective action for our nature, says KMTT Co-Chair and DOC Director, Partnerships Martin Rodd.

"Across our iwi, council, and DOC members, we collaborate with community, business, and philanthropy to achieve outcomes for people and nature on a scale that no one entity could achieve alone," Mr Rodd says.

For example, KMTT is restoring critical areas within regional catchments, from the mountains to the sea, to build resilience to climate change.

"Projects of this scale require considerable planning. Rātā strategic investment in capacity and capability building supports us in completing this planning and investing directly in quick wins that accelerate our momentum.

"It enables us to prepare major investment-ready funding proposals that will help restore our natural world for current and future generations," Mr Rodd says.

"Mātauranga Māori and iwi aspirations and priorities are integral to the Alliance. The collaboration from all partners is already making a difference in tackling our challenging environmental issues," says Ngāti Tama ki te Taihu Trust General Manager and KMTT Co-Chair Hemi Sundgren.

"Some of our early results are phenomenal as we think big and lead the change together – iwi, councils, DOC, and TNC. We are gaining great momentum, which is needed, and others are partnering with us as they see the effectiveness of our new way of working together."

"Iwi would like to be engaged at the earliest possible process. That allows us to be on the front foot for any potential issues or challenges and provide continuous solutions. The co-design process enables us to input and inform, foundationally and at a very early stage, the key values that we see as essential to our environment and ecology," says Mr Sundgren.

"We are committed to Te Kotahitanga, whereby we collectively look at activities and programmes that set the foundation and legacy for future generations. I think that's the biggest challenge. But at the same time, that is our biggest opportunity. We must work together," he says.

Rātā has focused strategic funding in its northern region on initiatives that will have a landscape-scale impact on enhancing the natural environment and emphasize capacity building to strengthen the effectiveness of community organizations, Mr Evans says.

"TNC's mahi fulfills both these efforts," he says.

TNC, a global conservation organization, brings considerable international expertise and capacity to drive conservation outcomes and sustainable land use as the backbone organization for Kotahitanga mō te Taiao. It has global experience working with indigenous communities on landscape-scale conservation projects. 

"The Nature Conservancy is proactively working with the KMTT iwi partners to enable meaningful leadership and participation. It has supported engagement at the first of our major wānanga/workshops. We look forward to the outcomes of our work reflecting the important values of our iwi partners as a result," says Debs Martin, KMTT Programme Manager for The Nature Conservancy – New Zealand.

Spatial mapping, community and iwi engagement, and development of Te Tauihu-wide success measures are other components of TNC's support for KMTT, which are covered by the grant.

The crucial aspects of the project are TNC's support for building capacity for community organizations and on-the-ground outcomes such as its significant weed control project - Restoring and Protecting Flora. Prioritizing high-impact weed control programmes to protect ecologically significant sites has been identified across Te Tauihu.  

This includes a goal for 14,000 seedlings to be planted for weed suppression at 3 hectares of priority sites over the next few years.