Case Study: Chatham Islands

Case Study: Chatham Islands

The Chatham Islands, or Rekohu (Misty Sun), are an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean and part of New Zealand.

The Moriori are the indigenous peoples of Rekohu and are thought to have migrated there at about the same time as the Maori arrived in New Zealand, about 1500AD.

The Moriori were virtually wiped out as a race by invading Taranaki Maori in 1835, resulting in their culture and language becoming all but extinct.

Aims of the project

Our aim is to bring societal, ecological, and economic health back to the islands, working closely with Maui Solomon, who has dedicated his life to the revival of the islands and the Moriori culture.

Ata Regenerative are proud to work alongside the Hokotehi Moriori Trust in helping to regenerate the land, society, and culture of Rekohu.

The Challenge

Before human settlement about 80% of Rekohu was covered with sedges, rushes, ferns, and swamp grasses, with a thick canopy of long, thin-leaved tarahinau and pouteretere shrub.

Around the coasts, where sand has mixed with peat, were predominantly kopi with strong growth of akeake the tree daisy. Forests in more sheltered or wetter settings included variants of karamu and matipo.

After the arrival of Māori and Europeans, fires were used to clear land for grazing. This burnt holes across the peat bogs and destroyed most of the forests.

Grazing further damaged stands of trees and compacted and damaged soils. Tarahinau are still common in the southern part of Rekohu, but most of the land is bare of trees and much of the island is covered with bracken fern and increasingly in gorse.

The Solution

Using our regenerative design framework, we will work with local farmers and the community in general, to nurse the land back to health, resulting in a sustainable practice for future generations.

We want to grow the health of the whenua, while supporting greater health of the tangata for the Trust and Rekohu.


The process starts with an evaluation of the land, followed by the designing of a working structure on which to proceed.

Once the program work has been decided upon, we then continue to monitor and evaluate the project using real-time feedback loops that allow us to adjust the process as needed.

By using the holistic trifecta of Planned Grazing, Land Planning and Financial Planning, we can not only transform the land, but the way of thinking and working by the local community to ensure a sustainable, regenerative, and economically successful farming practice.


While it’s too early to show with confidence the changes we are making, our regenerative approach to the Chatham Islands isn’t new.

It is based on centuries of indigenous learning and living systems science.  We have been using the same process here in New Zealand with great success, improving farming land, bringing economic results to the community, and helping to ensure environmental health for future generations.

By working alongside the Hokotehi Moriori Trust in helping to regenerate the land, society, and culture of Rekohu, we can ensure success, supporting one another, allowing everyone to thrive, including the land.


Dr Hugh Jellie

Dr Hugh Jellie is the founder of Ata Regenerative and has spent 17 years researching farming systems and regenerative agriculture around the world. He now helps farmers, organisations and individuals change to deliver improved environmental, social, financial and health outcomes.