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In preparation for the pouring of foundations, a lot of work has been put in by our local team; Saul, Moata, Darryl, Poutewha, Hone, Bonnie, Graham and the team from GRB Construction.
 
Over the past couple of weeks, Firth has delivered concrete to site for foundations and floor slabs under the Tribal Office, Store and Café buildings at Te Tii. The two and a half hour trip to Ruatāhuna from Rotorua took ALL of Firth’s local trucks out of their usual circulation.
 
Concrete_trucks
 
To pull off this event without hiccups has taken a significant amount of coordination, but the impact of reaching this milestone is worth it. 
 
“The foundation is a big deal for us, it reflects the community’s aspirations for change and the change has to begin from the ground up. More importantly, seeing the work commence signals that we are no longer just talking - this is going to happen.”
Iharaira (Max) Temara - Tūhoe Manawarū Tribal General Manager.
 
The community is making the most of every opportunity with the build taking place in the centre of the village. The senior math class from Te Wharekura o Huiarau came out of the classroom to exercise their area and volume skills with our team. They worked out how much concrete it would take to finish one of the floors and how many trucks would be needed to deliver it.
 
Math_class
 
Ruatāhuna tamariki came down to place their hands in the concrete as it dried. Their handprints won’t be visible once the carpet is down, but the mark they’ve made will be captured for all time.
 
Kids_handprints
 
Firth and Tūhoe first made their mark together on the build of Te Kura Whare. Tūhoe use Firth because they are willing to prove why their product is the best option for the environment. They source their materials from within New Zealand wherever possible and don’t allow harmful ingredients within their mix. This is important given that concrete often comes into contact with the whenua.
 
Because Tūhoe demand the best products for the environment, the butterfly effect on New Zealand’s construction industry is huge. Firth’s Bernice Cumming tells us;
 
“The influence of the project going ahead in Ruatāhuna is important. Some of Firth’s regional plants still use imported cement because of the amount of building going on in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Tauranga which is sucking the local cement supply from the country.  Now, because of the Ruatāhuna project and the frequency of Tūhoe projects requiring this sustainable focus, the Rotorua and Whakatane plants have changed their mix to reflect this.”
 
Concrete_placing
 
The locally sourced cement she’s talking about comes from Golden Bay Cement – they’re the only cement company who use entirely New Zealand sourced ingredients. In addition to this, they’re currently planning a new fuel mix including shredded tyres to reduce their reliance on coal in their manufacturing facility.
 
Around New Zealand, around five million tyres go to waste every year. The piles stack up and contaminants are picked up in the water as they deteriorate. The contaminants make their way to aquifers, rivers and lakes and make life difficult for ika. By introducing shredded tyres to their fuel mix, Golden Bay Cement will not only be helping the contaminant issue, they’ll also be reducing their carbon emissions by 13,000 tonnes; the equivalent of around 6,000 cars!
 
When setting a solid foundation, it’s important how you go about it and what materials you choose to connect with the whenua.
 
Handprints
 
Our foundations bind us to Te Urewera, to a proud past and to a bright future forever Te Kohanga o Tūhoe.

 

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In preparation for the pouring of foundations, a lot of work has been put in by our local team; Saul, Moata, Darryl, Poutewha, Hone, Bonnie, Graham and the team from GRB Construction.   Over the past couple of weeks, Firth has delivered concrete to site for foundations and floor slabs under the Tribal Office, Store and Café buildings at Te Tii. The two and a half hour trip to Ruatāhuna from Rotorua took ALL of...

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It’s always an exciting moment when you can say ‘we’re out of the ground’, meaning you’ve gotten through the bulk of earthworks, ground conditions are ticked off and you’re into foundations of the building. 
 
This moment is even more satisfying when your site has been hit by not one, but two cyclones; when the main access road has been closed due to slips and washouts; and when the soil under the building was found to be less stable than you first thought.
 
Because of these circumstances, earthworks have taken longer than was planned. The earth was dug out to the level required under the café, store and office buildings creating what started to look like a swimming pool. At this point, the engineer tested ground conditions and found that the bearing capacity of the soil was much less stable than anticipated. To picture less than ideal bearing capacity, imagine that the building is a glass of water and the ground beneath it is a fresh, wet cow pat. 
 
This obviously needed to be made stronger. After considering multiple options, it was decided the best way forward was to bring in pumice to create a more solid platform.
 
Given the state of the roads, we were only able to deliver two loads of pumice a day – but at long last, around 1500m3 and 960 tonnes later the pumice platform was ready for foundations to be set up.
 
Pumice Platform_1
 
Pumice platform_2
 
The team on site is ready for the first large concrete pour for the floor slab of the Tribal Office building. This was scheduled to take place on Saturday, but the current rain has beaten us again! The pour takes ALL OF FIRTH’S TRUCKS from Rotorua out of circulation for the day so they're coming at their next available date, this Thursday 29th June.
 
The team has set up shutters which the concrete will be poured into (much like a cake tin) and laid a damp proof membrane which stops moisture rising from the ground into the floor. They've set up reinforcing steel which makes the concrete floor slab even stronger. This was inspected and approved by the engineer this morning.
 
Reo_1
 
While the floor is drying, people are invited to come and place a handprint in the concrete at 1230pm on Thursday 29th June. The concrete will be covered up, so the handprints will be like a time capsule and a memory of those living in the area at the time.
 
Reo_2
 
A silver lining from the cyclone delays is that while the great-pumice-move was taking place, the team on site was able to divert their attention to construction of the chalets, which wasn’t planned to start this early in the piece. Four chalets of varying sizes are nestled into the bush at the back edge of site. 
 
The team cleared only low shrubbery and trees necessary to locate the buildings with minimal impact on the ecosystem in the bush. This also means that the bush creates privacy for those staying in the chalets. Firewood was cut up and delivered to those who needed it most locally.
 
Because the chalets are smaller than the other buildings, they’re supported on simple timber piles with concrete footings. This photo shows one of the chalets timber piles and the view that will be experienced by those who stay there.
 
Chalet_1
 
While some of the team are preparing for the concrete pour for the Tribal Office Building, others are preparing the pumice platform under the Store and Café building, shown in the photo below. The team will repeat the same process on the second floor slab and before we know it, we’ll be able to see how all of the buildings are located!
 
 
Tribal_1
 
Let us know what else you’d like to hear about in the comments below!
 

 

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It’s always an exciting moment when you can say ‘we’re out of the ground’, meaning you’ve gotten through the bulk of earthworks, ground conditions are ticked off and you’re into foundations of the building.    This moment is even more satisfying when your site has been hit by not one, but two cyclones; when the main access road has been closed due to slips and washouts; and when...

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earthworks

The team is moving roughly 500 trucks of soil from Te Tii across the road to create an improved ground layout. This will make for better vehicle and walking access to the new buildings, good stormwater management and useable outdoor spaces. GRB Construction provides leadership and machinery on site, and is joined by eager locals to do the mahi.

When grass is stripped from the top layer of site, rainwater could run through the exposed soil, become dirty and contaminate the neighboring stream. To stop this happening, the team has created mulched earth bunds as a first line of defense and then a silt fence and layer of coconut cloth to filter the water before it enters the stream.

After Cyclone Debbie some of the team was flown in to be at their machinery on site and help clear the road. They then continued on with earthworks and the site is now cut down to subgrade level under the two main buildings. The soil has been saturated and isn’t providing a solid enough base for foundations to start but we’re looking way over this hump now. It’s likely we’ll either dewater the soil or import pumice. While this decision is being made, the team continues shaping the earth and awaits the beginning of the buildings.

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Moving the Earth

7 May 2017

The team is moving roughly 500 trucks of soil from Te Tii across the road to create an improved ground layout. This will make for better vehicle and walking access to the new buildings, good stormwater management and useable outdoor spaces. GRB Construction provides leadership and machinery on site, and is joined by eager locals to do the mahi. When grass is stripped from the top layer of site, rainwater could run through the exposed soil,...

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Road access to the Urewera township of Ruatahuna has finally been restored after being cut off for more than a week. Ruatahuna was one of several Bay of Plenty towns completely cut off by slips and flooding caused by Cyclone Debbie, and yesterday it was the last to have its roads reopened.

Whakatāne district mayor Tony Bonne said the roads were still fragile and a lot of work was still needed to get them back to full use.

Residents of Ruatahuna also had to cope without power over the last week.

Radio NZ

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Road access to the Urewera township of Ruatahuna has finally been restored after being cut off for more than a week. Ruatahuna was one of several Bay of Plenty towns completely cut off by slips and flooding caused by Cyclone Debbie, and yesterday it was the last to have its roads reopened. Whakatāne district mayor Tony Bonne said the roads were still fragile and a lot of work was still needed to get them back to full use. Residents of...

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Winding its way through dense forest laced with hidden waterfalls, the Whanganui River is the largest navigable river in Aotearoa, the Māori word for New Zealand. With the passage of the Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Bill in March, the river became the first water system in the world to be recognized as a rights-bearing entity, holding legal “personhood” status. One implication of the agreement is that the Whanganui River is no longer property of New Zealand’s Crown government — the river now owns itself.
 
photo of Whanganui River
Photo by Kathrin & Stefan Marks
In March, the Whanganui River in New Zealand became the first water body in the world to receive legal personhood status.
 
Five days after the Te Awa Tupua Bill, the High Court of Uttarakhand at Naintal, in northern India, issued a ruling declaring that both the Ganga and Yumana rivers are also “legal persons/living persons.” But what does it mean for a river, or an ecosystem to hold rights? The answer may vary from place to place. 
 
The growing global movement for Rights of Nature — or the Rights of Mother Earth as some cultures prefer — seeks to define legal rights for ecosystems to exist, flourish, and regenerate their natural capacities. These laws challenge the status of nature as mere property to be owned and dominated by humans, and provide a legal framework for an ethical and spiritual relationship to the Earth. While recognizing legal rights of nature doesn’t stop development wholesale, it can stop the kind of development that interferes with the existence and vitality of ecosystems. In the last decade, four countries and dozens of US communities have passed laws recognizing “legal standing” for ecosystems.
 
In many cases, legal recognition for the rights of ecosystems reinforces long-held cultural and spiritual beliefs. For the Māori of Aotearoa, like many Indigenous cultures worldwide, there is no separation between humans and everything else. When the Europeans first arrived in the seventeenth century, there was no word for property in the Māori language. Their relationship with the Earth was one of care and responsibility. “Māori cosmology understands we are part of the universe,” said Gerrard Albert, lead negotiator for the Whanganui River iwi (tribe). “The mountains and rivers are our ancestors. Our cultural identity as a people is inseparable from the river — it is more than water and sand, it is a living spiritual being.”  
 
Indeed, the Whanganui iwi are known as the River People, who often say, “Ko au te awa. Ko te awa ko au” translated as “I am the river. The river is me.”
 
Their struggle to protect the river began 150 years ago, when the New Zealand Crown government first began to break treaty promises, violate cultural practices, dam, pollute, and otherwise degrade the river. “Beginning in the 1870s, our iwi began to petition the Crown government over our concerns for the river,” Sheena Maru, iwi project manager for Whanganui River Trust, the governance group for the Whanganui River Treaty Settlement, said. “Determining who owned the bed of the river became the longest running court case in Crown history. In the end, what we were fighting for was Te Awa Tupua, the living spiritual indivisible whole of the river that includes the iwi, all people, and life from the mountain to the sea.”
 
In Aotearoa, the Whanganui River is not the first ecosystem to be recognized in this way. In 2014 the Tūhoe iwi negotiated with the Crown Government to pass the Te Urewera Act, which effectively recognized the “personhood” for Te Urewera, a forested region and former a national park in the heart of Tūhoe traditional territory.
 
Like the Whanganui iwi, what the Tūhoe wanted was to be truly reconnected with the land that is the very source of their cultural identity. Tamati Kruger, chief negotiator of the Tūhoe’s groundbreaking Te Urewera settlement said, “When negotiations began, the Crown had no intention of giving away title to the park. They thought it would be enough to offer us some money and a few seats on the park board.” Knowing the Crown would not cede ownership to the Tūhoe, Tamati’s team suggested that nobody retain ownership of the park land — rather, the land would own itself. This change shifted more than just governance of the former national park — it was also seen as a step toward sovereignty for the Tuhoe people whose identity is inseparable from the land.
 
The Whanganui River and Te Urewera settlements, two truly revolutionary agreements between the Māori and the Crown government, recognize mountains, national parks, and watersheds can be better protected by prioritizing human responsibilities to the whole than they can through regulations that seek to dismantle and segregate fisheries from the riverbeds, for example. Under both settlements, future decisions about projects and development in the areas will be made by a council of two appointees — one Crown and one Māori. “Those appointed to act on [the Whanganui River’s] behalf will have legal obligation to uphold and protect the river's values and health and wellbeing,” Gerard Albert told the media at a press conference following the passage of the Te Awa Tupia Bill.
 
These settlements also include a formal apology from the New Zealand Crown government for historic crimes against the iwi and the ecosystems, and a large redress fund to facilitate new management of the Te Urewera mountain range and the Whanganui River. They also include funds for community education and cultural revitalization that benefit both the pakeha (European New Zealander) and iwi populations.
 
“The Settlement is for the entire community, this is still an idea to be grasped,” explained Hayden Turoa, Te Mana o Te Awa program manager for the Whanganui River Trust Board. “Anybody can apply for funds [through the settlement]. It is about breaking down barriers and bringing the rest of the community into this spiritual understanding.” Along the Whanganui, there are already plans for these funds, including educating and bringing pakeha residents into the Maori worldview in a way that allows everyone to be spiritually and holistically connected to the river, and to learn new ways to care for the ecosystem.
 
From his office overlooking the port city of Wellington, Paul Beverley, a partner at the law firm of Buddle Findlay and a member of the core Crown negotiation team for both the Te Urewera and Te Awa Tupua bills, explained that the Crown was eager not only to pass the agreements, but also to take the next steps for implementation. “The Crown is committed to working alongside Whanganui iwi to ensure the success of this settlement for Te Awa Tupua and for all — not just the Maori.” 
 
Asked whether the pakeha populations, local government, or the Crown were nervous about the implications of ceding property claims, Beverley said, “What has been put in place is a very forward looking framework. I think we’re going to see a springboard for this type of thing. People are already taking next steps voluntarily.”
 
The Maori and the Crown see these new protections as good for business, and ultimately good for the economy. “This legislation recognizes the deep spiritual connection between the Whanganui iwi and its ancestral river and creates a strong platform for the future of the Whanganui River,” Beverley said.  
 
Recognizing the rights of the Whanganui River means that no matter who the actor, corporation, or individual, the law now sees a harm to the river the same way as it would a harm to the tribe or a person. As Cabot Davis, legal director for the nonprofit Movement Rights, added: “It’s not about being anti-business. The thing that is beautiful about it is just how differently decisions will now be made. Conflicts among people who want to ‘use’ the water or land will now have to take everyone else’s needs into account — first and foremost are the needs of the [river] system. Commerce and nature can coexist in a healthy way.”
 
Half a world away in India, it’s not yet clear what legal personhood means for the Ganges and Yumana rivers, but activists think additional protections will ultimately be necessary. The country struggles with high levels of water pollution flowing freely from homes and industry, though water in India is considered sacred. Nowhere more so than the Ganges river, or the Ganga, which provides about 40 percent of India’s water, though the entire watershed is breaking down under the intense strains of use and abuse.
 
The widespread Save Ganga movement in India follows the Gandhian model for peaceful change. A powerful component of that broad coalition is the National Ganga Rights Movement, founded by the Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, who opined, “We breathe the same air that our ancestors did, drink the same water, and are connected to one another by the web of life.” Four years ago, the movement began working with the US-based Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), toward passage of a national Ganges Rights Act, currently under consideration by the Modi administration. This act would provide further protections for the river.
 
“The High Court’s ruling declaring legal personhood for the Ganges is a critical step forward,” Mari Margil, head of CELDF’s International Center for the Rights of Nature, said. “As the court said, national legislation which would recognize fundamental rights of the Ganges and the people of India to a healthy, thriving river ecosystem is ultimately necessary.”
 
Treating ecosystems as property has brought humanity to the brink of climate and ecological collapse at break-neck speed. By contrast, rights-based laws recognize planetary limits and seek to transform human laws to conform with Natural Law. Beyond law, this movement seeks a culture shift away from the mindset that modern Earth is merely a resource available for reckless human use, toward the understanding that the Earth is a living entity governing all life upon it, with inherent rights that can, and should, be protected.
 
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Winding its way through dense forest laced with hidden waterfalls, the Whanganui River is the largest navigable river in Aotearoa, the Māori word for New Zealand. With the passage of the Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Bill in March, the river became the first water system in the world to be recognized as a rights-bearing entity, holding legal “personhood” status. One implication of the agreement is that the...

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Department of Conservation turned 30 on April 1 and Malcolm Smith, a community ranger based in Wairoa, reflected on the past three decades. DoC was formed by merging conservation aspects of the Forest Service, Department of Lands and Survey and the Wildlife Service in 1987.

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Department of Conservation turned 30 on April 1 and Malcolm Smith, a community ranger based in Wairoa, reflected on the past three decades. DoC was formed by merging conservation aspects of the Forest Service, Department of Lands and Survey and the Wildlife Service in...

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