Water and Conservation at Manaaki Mai

May 8, 2021 | Conservation

I am definitely no expert but…. 

I thought I might share what I learn on our journey as Kaitiaki (guardians) of Manaaki Mai as Paul and I work to restore, conserve, and regenerate our property to a state similar to how Maori may have found it all those years ago.

I am basically a city girl. I was not raised on a farm; and I know that I have struggled over the last few years to get my head around storage tanks, header tanks, pumps and digging drainage and water diversion channels in the heavy rain. [However, even I know that it has been an incredibly dry summer over here at Manaaki Mai, in Purau on Banks Peninsula. Aotearoa.

The trees have been suffering, even in the ancient bush areas where despite being cool underneath the canopy; as the summer has progressed and through into Autumn, trees and the undergrowth are still showing signs of stress. It is a long walk up the hill to find even the smallest sign of water.

The land surrounding Manaaki Mai which is grazed; is so dry that it is now grey! There is no sign of grass and the land is showing worrying signs of potential slips if we do get any substantial, sustained rain in the near future. 

The contrast of grazed land above Manaaki Mai

Fortunately for us, with the sheep now gone for more than 2 years, the ground cover is green underneath and little tree, and shrub seedlings are sitting there ready to pop up at the first sign of rain.

However, if global warming is really happening, how are we going to manage to maintain what we have and be able to continue to regenerate our native bush areas.

Over the winter of 2019, the Waituturi stream which flows through Manaaki Mai, into Purau stream ran for almost 6 months. At times, the flow was so significant that I became nervous crossing the ford which was raging and almost 3m across at peak flow. There were water falls and we could hear the very full stream racing past our house day and night. We even closed our Rustic Retreat accommodation for 2 months because the river levels became too unpredictable to ensure guests could cross safely.

This winter, 2020, the Waituturi stream flowed for only 1 month, and, according to NIWA, the winter of 2021 is going to be dryer than usual and warmer than usual.

So… what can we do?

Here at Manaaki Mai, we are conserving, reusing and repurposing as much water as we can, mulching around our plants, protecting the stream margins with extra plantings over the winter and praying for rain!

Conserving water at Manaaki Mai, looks like: 

  • Buckets in the shower to collect the water while it is heating. We use this to flush the loo or water plants. 
  • Rinsing dishes in the sink and re using this water to rinse other dishes, then water plants
  • Timers in the guest showers (and buckets too!) plus signs asking guests to be considerate in their water use.
  • Timers on all garden watering or hand watering to ensure nothing is wasted.
  • Collecting water from every surface on which it falls.

These seem simple, but we have made some real savings implementing these basic principles.

Mulching at Manaaki Mai looks like:

  • Everything we prune, chop down, weed, or cultivate that isn’t either edible or burnable, is chipped, chopped and/or stacked around our trees and plants. We then collect seaweed, horse pooh, sheep pooh, worm castings and worm wees and this year we are even trying daggy wool. 

I said I wasn’t any kind of expert but I’m willing to give it a try and I’ll let you know if it works!

Protecting the stream margins at Manaaki Mai looks like:

  • Planting when we are able to water the seedlings to ensure they have a good chance. Choice is important of both the site and the plant. So far, we have been lucky protecting our seedlings from rabbits and other pests as Olive (our Border Terrier) does her best to see everything off the property.
  • Managing pathways through regenerating bush to protect naturally sprouting seedlings
  • Removing willows from our stream

Fortunately, we do not have stock – otherwise we would be fencing our streams too.

We all know that water is precious and many of us take access to this precious commodity too lightly. We need to protect our environment, and this includes our water.

The wider goal we are contributing to is the Whaka Ora Lyttelton Healthy Harbour and this is for improved water quality without sediment when it does flow to the harbour.

‘Manaaki Whenua, Manaaki Tangata, Haere Whakamua


Care for the land, care for the people and look to the future.

Andrea and Paul Dahl are Kaitiaki (guardians) of Manaaki Mai and their aim is to restore, conserve, and regenerate their property to a state similar to how Maori may have found it all those years ago.