Climate-friendly, high-value crops for the whānau of Omaio

Omaio whanau

Sustainable and efficient water and land resource management and use in the Omaio land-development catchment

The whānau and landowners of Omaio have for many generations been sustained by ancestral lands, forests, rivers and the moana, all of which bear tīpuna names.

The coastal lands of Omaio hold some of the most productive soils – those deep, loamy Te Kaha soils – in New Zealand. Coupled with warm temperatures, relatively even rainfall and frost-free days, Omaio has ideal growing conditions for high-value horticulture crops like kiwifruit. Currently, however, these lands are utilised for low-value maize. Maize growers provide no employment for whānau and contribute nothing to growing the local economy.

Research has already established that shifting from low to high-value crops could generate significant income, create a hundred local jobs for whānau and 500 jobs across the wider district. Nevertheless, recent extreme weather events and longer, dryer summers mean that the whānau of Omaio (represented through Te Rau Aroha Charitable Trust) need to better understand their future climate, before investing in climate dependent crops.

A range of climate change impacts may affect the viability of particular crops – for example, sea-level rise resulting in salt-water intrusion, the likelihood of insufficient winter chilling or of strong winds, and the availability of water to support crop irrigation.

This project aims to provide the community of Omaio with the tools and training to monitor essential climate and hydrology data, as well as irrigation management tools, so they can better consider and respond to changing climatic conditions. Our project will also run individual and group workshops to inform decision making around the use of water both for community purposes and for both commercial applications.

This is one of three priority projects identified by the Iwi Leaders Forum. We’re also engaging closely with regional council and large horticultural companies to ensure the project is both viable and that its research findings are broadly shared. This project seeks to integrate the best science and research about climate, climate change and land use planning, in order to grow a local economy in Omaio that is environmentally, economically and culturally sustainable.

Project contact: Marino Tahi, NIWA
Project budget: $250,000
Project duration: January 2018 – June 2019

This project in the media:
Climate scientists guide Māori growers Waatea News
Deep South Challenge project to explore climate-resilient crops for East Coast settlement Radio NZ
Kiwifruit project excites eastern BoP Māori Radio NZ

This short video describes the efforts of the Omaio community to develop and implement durable development plans owned by and led by the community.


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Latest news and updates

The Deep South Challenge awards funding to investigate climate-resilient, high-value crops for the whānau of Omaio

The whānau of Omaio in the Bay of Plenty have joined forces with NIWA researchers to explore the viability of climate-resilient, high-value crops for the rohe. The group has won a $250,000 research grant under the Vision Mātauranga programme of the Deep South National Science Challenge to better understand Omaio’s changing climate and how it might support the community to create a local economy based around a high-value product like kiwi fruit.

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