About 10ha of farmland near Timaru, which is home to Māori rock art sites, is set to be restored by Ngāi Tahu.
Ngāi Tahu Rock Art Trust has already begun improving the property, which is home to limestone caves and 14 rock art sites, in a bid to return the land to its original form and encourage native birds back into the area.
Trust curator Amanda Symon said they wanted to help people gain a better understanding of the Māori history of the district.
"[We're] trying to bring back some of those natural values in and around the rock art so that people can get a better understanding ... of the people that created the art."
The work, which has just started, involves pest control, planting of nearly 50,000 native plants including harakeke flax, and the removal of non-native species such as gorse.
Ms Symon said the river systems in the district were once busy highways for Māori who would travel through the area gathering mahinga kai, food and natural resources, while stopping in the limestone caves, which acted as a place to shelter and create rock art.
One of the best-known examples in the area - on the roof of one low-hanging cave - was a 4m depiction of three taniwha with their tails interlocked, while other drawings of moa and other extinct species were thought to have been created more than 500 years ago.
Rock art guide Wes Home said the various works could have been created for a number of reasons.
"Some of them look like they're talking about what [food and resources] you can gather in the area, and then others may be [telling stories] of different times and places."
Ms Symon said they were taonga significant to Ngāi Tahu, particularly in Te Runanga o Arowhenua.
She said unlike other aspects of Māori art, such as carving and flax weaving, many New Zealanders were not aware of rock art.
"Which is one of the main issues in the protection and management of the sites ... so, it's really important in communities where there are a high density of [rock art] sites, to increase community knowledge.
"If people know about the sites and their importance then they can be actively involved in their protection and care," she said.
Ms Symon said the interest in and understanding of Māori rock art had increased in recent years - about 20,000 school children and 800 international visitors have toured the site.
The restoration work was expected to take about 10 years to be fully completed.