De­sign­ing gar­den for en­dan­gered plant

North Harbour News - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - AMY BAKER

It likes chaos, might eas­ily be mis­taken for a weed and is so en­dan­gered, it’s been dubbed ‘Hob­sonville’s kakapo’.

Epi­lo­bium hir­tigerum is right on Hob­sonville Point’s doorstep, and a group of stu­dents from the sec­ondary school is de­sign­ing a gar­den to pro­tect it.

Year 12 stu­dents Gus Clel­land, Aubrie Mitchell and Kane Tipene have been work­ing on the de­sign since mid-2016 as part of their school’s project learn­ing - real world projects in­volv­ing the com­mu­nity.

Epi­lo­bium - or ‘epi’ as it’s known - is a na­tive herba­ceous wil­lowherb and needs dis­turbed ground to grow.

It’s crit­i­cally threat­ened and is so rare that not much is known about it.

Large clus­ters of the plant were dis­cov­ered at a site near a nurs­ery at Scott Point in 2008. Sev­eral years later Auck­land Coun­cil be­gan ac­tively try­ing to re­store the patch.

Gus, Aubrie and Kane all worked on de­signs for a gar­den as a part of a larger class ac­tiv­ity, how­ever, picked it up again for their per­sonal learn­ing project in 2016 and ‘‘started from scratch’’.

The stu­dents say their de­sign has changed a lot, with less con­crete and more na­ture, let­ting the plants act as the park’s base.

‘‘It kind of changed from be­ing a struc­tured park with dif­fer­ent ar­eas, to it be­ing more of a freeflow­ing ex­pe­ri­ence,’’ Gus says.

The stu­dents also needed to al­low enough open space for dig­gers to en­ter the gar­den to ‘scrape’ away other plants en­croach­ing on room needed for the epi­lo­bium to ger­mi­nate suc­cess­fully.

They’ve tracked their progress so far with Auck­land Coun­cil’s bio­di­ver­sity ad­vi­sor, in­fra­struc­ture and en­vi­ron­men­tal ser­vices Chris Ferkins, who says their work shows a high level of skill, es­pe­cially work­ing in an area with­out clear def­i­ni­tions, which also car­ries the rem­nants hu­man ac­tiv­ity.

The group have spo­ken at the Up­per Har­bour Lo­cal Board’s com­mu­nity fo­rum and will try to raise fur­ther aware­ness about plant with an ex­hi­bi­tion at the ‘Come Fly With Me’ fes­ti­val in April. of

Com­mu­nity con­sul­ta­tion on the fu­ture of the park will take place later in the year, where the stu­dents will be able to show their ideas. Two for­mer Unitec stu­dents have also been do­ing re­search into epi­lo­bium to find out how it best grows and which species com­ple­ment it.

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