RETURNING Kawakawa to the Bay
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