Air force operation set up to protect native bush patch
The Royal New Zealand Air Force has got in behind recent attempts to look after Gate Pa Bush. Most folk are unaware that there is a tiny patch of important native bush, about three hectares in size on a terrace above the Rangitikei River at Ohakea.
Embedded in the air force base, it is not open to the public (at least casually), so it is up to the air force to take care of it.
This is a minute remnant (about 0.01 per cent) of a dryland totara forest that, according to Alan Esler, extended about a 100 years ago, in a great swathe from the base across the plains to Rongotea. A similar patch (also tiny) of terrace totara forest can be found in Linton. Called Wedde Wood, this is quite a lot damper than Gate Pa, being close to the hills.
Gate Pa Bush is quite dry, with totara to about 70cm in diameter (aged perhaps between 300-800 years), emergent kowhai and matai trees, as well as hinau and kaikomako, and a range of shrubs.
It is fairly open underneath, probably because of its dryness, and has hardly any ferns. This extreme dryness makes it vulnerable to disturbance, with the hope that the air force can protect it from future alien influences.
Luckily, Cameron Burton from Spotless, the base environment management team, has taken the lead, with keen input from air force
‘‘Cameron has divided the bush into 30 metre x 30metre grid squares, and invited groups of locals to adopt a square or two.’’’
personnel. Cameron has formed a team of bush guardians, who have set up Operation Greenleaf – with rigour and professionalism, Cameron has divided the bush into 30 metre x 30 metre grid squares, and invited groups of locals to adopt a square or two. Many of these now have keen care-givers who are tending to the weeds (especially Tradescantia or wandering willy), cleaning up the debris and measuring and recording the trees, all in quite a martially competitive spirit.
Recently the restoration project had an official opening by base commander Nick Olney, and Gate Pa Bush now has a brighter future. With the considerable and ongoing efforts of the air force, this little patch of bush will be with us always.
Alison Pickett, Cameron Burton and Robert Martelletti practice tree-hugging in Gate Pa Bush, part of Ohakea Air Force base.