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Realising the potential of genomics for swamp maire replanting in the Rangitāne rohe

The swamp maire (Syzygium maire), a nationally critically threatened tree, is the subject of active restoration in the Manawatū region, especially along the new Te Ahu a Turanga (Manawatū Tararua highway).

The population genetics of the plant are being studied, but iwi need greater capability and capacity in the use of genomics, and the mātauranga of swamp maire, to enable implementation of genomics knowledge to guide forest restoration.

As iwi and other Māori groups across Aotearoa reaffirm and expand their work as kaitiaki of taonga species, there is growing demand for skills and data that supports Māori aspirations.

This project enables the participation of Rangitāne o Manawatū in the Aotearoa science system, facilitated by researchers at Plant & Food Research and Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington.

Rangitāne o Manawatū will gain access to a broad range of scientific expertise to aid in developing innovative, mātauranga Māori led kaitiakitanga of swamp maire, and implementing genomics-based solutions to facilitate sustainable forest ecosystems.

In return, Rangitāne o Manawatū will support scientists in gaining an authentic understanding of mātauranga and kaitiakitanga. Populations of the swamp maire are small and fragmented, typically surrounded by farmland.

Where remnants do exist, they are often unable to regenerate due to drainage of habitat and, more recently, the arrival of myrtle rust in Aotearoa, a significant fungal pathogen. With fewer than 12 mature trees of swamp maire within the rohe, the lack of genetic diversity may hinder the establishment of a naturally sustainable forest population through the replanting programme alone.

Genomic knowledge will enhance conservation and restoration strategies through prioritisation of populations for protection, seed-preservation, propagule sourcing and the development of restoration strategies to facilitate genetic adaptation.

The project will increase understanding of the species genetic diversity, its capacity for adaptation, and inform the ability to select and propagate plant material. Together with habitat suitability mapping, this information will be built into an integrated restoration model for the Manawatū, allowing finer scale identification of suitable planting locations and genetic material within the rohe.

Protocols for implementing the genomics knowledge into the restoration of a plant species will be developed by Rangitāne o Manawatū as a model, with the creation of a video to document this journey, allowing others to visualise and share this experience.


  • Enhanced Māori capability to implement genomics solutions for restoration of a threatened (nationally critical) long-lived plant species.
  • Iwi partnerships with academic and research institutes that offer powerful opportunity to grow Māori careers in plant conservation, and drive success.
  • Strengthening traditional iwi and community relationships with taonga.
  • Empowering and exercising kaitiakitanga and maintaining and enhancing the mauri of swamp maire.


  • Paul Horton (Rangitāne o Manawatū) - Co-lead researcher
  • Keith Funnell (Plant & Food Research) - Co-lead researcher
  • Colan Balkwill (Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington) - Co-lead researcher
  • Debbie Te Puni (Rangitāne o Manawatū) - Project coordinator
  • Kia Ora FM 89.8 (Rangitāne o Manawatū) - Media Hub