Research Project

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

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.

This project in the media: