RE­TURN­ING Kawakawa to the Bay

Element - - Community - By Gavin Healy

Trees for Sur­vival, a hands-on en­vi­ron­men­tal ed­u­ca­tional pro­gramme, not only grows vi­tal trees, but also the lives of those that plant them.

When my par­ents-in-law sug­gested that we un­der­take a project on their farm at Kawakawa Bay, to save a puriri for­est rem­nant from the stock’s re­lent­less ap­petite, I jumped at the chance. While in­ves­ti­gat­ing the best way to ap­proach the project we dis­cov­ered a gem, a char­ity called Trees for Sur­vival (TFS). Nine thou­sand trees later, mem­bers of the char­ity have be­come friends, the bush is re­ju­ve­nat­ing rapidly and a bird species rare to the area is flour­ish­ing.

In the true kiwi style of keep­ing a low pro­file and get­ting stuckin, TFS has planted an as­ton­ish­ing 1,000,000 na­tive trees over the last 20 years. Over 150 schools have been grow­ing na­tive trees in spe­cially de­signed grow­ing units supplied by TFS and plant­ing them out on land prone to slips. This is a worth­while strat­egy as 30 per cent of New Zealand’s farm­land has ero­sion prob­lems which causes sub­stan­tial water pol­lu­tion is­sues na­tion­wide. The new trees help con­trol soil ero­sion, safe­guard water qual­ity and in­crease bio­di­ver­sity; a mil­lion trees also ab­sorb a sub­stan­tial amount of car­bon diox­ide in the at­mos­phere. Most im­por­tantly, TFS in­volves kids in hands-on hor­ti­cul­tural and en­vi­ron­men­tal ed­u­ca­tion that con­nects them with the land.

TFS has a pos­i­tive ef­fect on all those in­volved, as we heard from the par­tic­i­pants from St Kentigern Col­lege plant­ing at the farm this year. Some of the stu­dents had never planted a tree be­fore but by the end of the day were con­sid­er­ing join­ing the school’s En­vi­ron­men­tal Coun­cil.

For pupil An­gus Bewes, TFS had in­spired him to have a fu­ture in hor­ti­cul­ture. A bud­ding young ecol­o­gist from year 8, Ni­cola Weir had sur­veyed her school in re­la­tion to species ex­tinc­tion and con­cluded that TFS was re­ally im­por­tant “as it makes the kids re­alise how pre­cious trees are for our ecosys­tems.”

Later that evening, with plant­ing con­cluded, I re­turned to the bush rem­nant. The first year the bush canopy had looked vis­i­bly stressed and the for­est floor was cov­ered in mud, dung and flies. Three years on the canopy is lush and green, puriri seedlings reach up from the for­est floor and heal­ing kawakawa – which the Bay was named af­ter - has re­turned to clus­ter the sides of a healthy stream. The birds have also re­turned; na­tive pi­geon (Kereru) and the very rare North Is­land weka are in the area. As I walked through the un­der­story of kawakawa the heavy flight of Kereru was re­placed by haunt­ing weka call.

Top: Don Roa, National Man­ager from Trees for Sur­vival and stu­dents Aimee Forbes-brown (left)

and Ale­sha Ha­zle­man from St Kentigern. Above: Ni­cola Wil­liams has com­pleted re­search at her school about species ex­tinc­tion. Right: An­gus Bews plant­ing at

Kawakawa Bay. Pho­tos: Ted Baghurst

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