Firewood to more than 100 whānau

More than 100 low-income Northland whānau have received free firewood as part of an innovative programme to safely process trees blown over in Cyclone Gabrielle or threatening to fall in its wake.

The $6.5 million Ngā Manga Atawhai project has processed more than 2100 cubic metres of wood and 193 trees in a project bringing together councils, electricity providers, roading entities, and multiple government agencies to remove dangerous trees near roads, powerlines, and waterways.

The Northland Regional Council removed trees from 70 locations across 25 rivers around Northland and much of the on-the-ground work focusses on processing some of these.

Key to the programme has been the prior work of Enhanced Task Force Green (ETFG) with ETFG one of the largest projects run as part of the Cyclone Gabrielle Regional Recovery with 12 kaimahi (workers) from the Far North to the southern Kaipara.

Over the past 13 months, ETFG assisted a total of 120 farmers, clearing fences, making repairs, and carrying out post-cyclone clean-up – but the majority of the work was dealing with hundreds of trees on properties that were blown over in the cyclone, or were threatening to fall.

Te Roroa led the on-the-ground delivery of ETFG and now leads Ngā Manga Atawhai, to make the most of the fallen trees.

Man wearing safety gear cutting wood with a chainsaw.

Kaimahi Harley Birch chops up trees for firewood at Nichols Road, Mamaranui.

The majority of the wood involved in these projects doesn’t go to waste; it’s processed and provided to low-income whānau as firewood to warm their homes. (Recipients of the free wood are identified through referrals from the community, Te Ha and Te Whatu Ora’s Manawa Ora Healthy Homes Initiative.)

The ETFG component - funded by the Ministry of Social Development - officially came to a close recently, with a debrief and ‘lessons learned’ meeting late last month, and a whakawātea (formal closing) on-site north of Dargaville on Friday, 03 May.

The whakawātea featured mihi (speeches) of acknowledgement to the kaimahi by Te Roroa and Northland Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM), presenting specially-carved taonga made of local kauri wood.

The taonga were blessed by Northland CDEM’s Iwi Engagement Advisor, Papanui Polamalu, and presented to the kaimahi by Kiritapu Demant, project manager at Te Roroa.

Woman placing kauri pendant over man's head.

Te Roroa’s Kiritapu Demant presents kaimahi Hunter Shortcliffe with a kauri taonga in recognition of his work with Enhanced Task Force Green.

As ETFG closes, the Ngā Manga Atawhai programme continues to go strong, supporting five ETFG kaimahi to now transition to work on the project.

The work is set to run indefinitely, allowing them to use the skills and training they have gained to continue to build Northland’s resilience.