Kaitiaki Whenua Ranger Wayne Capper. PHOTO: Vicki Zieltjes

Kaitiaki Whenua Ranger Wayne Capper (Taranaki Iwi, Te Atiawa, Ngāti Ruanui, Ngā Ruahine) is loving everything about his role, created as a partnership between the Department of Conservation (DOC) and Te Kāhui o Taranaki Trust.

Wayne is working alongside the DOC Visitor Assets team as he manages the upkeep of 29 cultural sites returned to the iwi as part of its 2015 Treaty of Waitangi settlement.

These properties lie within the rohe of Taranaki Iwi between Oeo in South Taranaki and New Plymouth’s Ngā Motu/Sugar Loaf Islands, part of the Taranaki Mounga Project area.

The partnership is the first of this nature between iwi and DOC. Since starting the role in February 2019, Wayne has immersed himself at DOC to gain knowledge of its work. He has also ensured the ongoing protection of taonga sites and shared his learnings with hapū members, Te Kāhui o Taranaki Board and staff.

“I’m enjoying learning from DOC staff and am also planning ahead to uphold the mana and mauri of our 29 sites,” says Wayne.

He has also been working alongside the Taranaki Mounga team who are striving for He Kawa Ora – to bring Koro Taranaki back to life, a philosophy close to Wayne’s heart.

“If our Mounga is healthy, then so is our ngahere, our awa, our people,” says Wayne. “Everything comes from him. The awa is the lifeblood that provides life and food. We must continue to look after him.”

Te Kāhui o Taranaki Iwi Tumuwhakarito CEO Wharehoka Wano is pleased with how well Wayne is working and is looking forward to the future.

“For Taranaki Iwi, it is about building capacity so we are able to care not just for these 29 sites that have been under DOC stewardship but also our wider Taranaki Iwi environment – our maunga, awa, moana, whenua me te rangi,” says Wharehoka.

“Wayne’s training with DOC will prove invaluable as we build our own on-the-ground kaitiaki team to monitor the state of our taiao, of our environment. Wayne’s enthusiasm has been infectious and we are so pleased to have him on the team.”