The Te Ara Kakariki Greenway Canterbury Trust.Why and how did the Trust commence? By Ian Spellerberg, June, 2017.
For anyone looking back on how Te Ara Kakariki Greenway Canterbury came about, it is
useful perhaps to put the events into the context of what was happening at the time,
particularly in terms of conservation.
The year was 2004. The last ten years had seen a global increase in research and scholarship about conservation of wildlife in fragmented landscapes (Hansson et al. 1995; Jongman et al., 2004). Here in New Zealand, the same discussions were taking place. In 2000, Colin Meurk and Simon Swaffield published their ‘milestone’ paper A Landscape Ecological Framework for Indigenous Regeneration in Rural New Zealand-Aotearoa. That was followed in 2002 by the timely publication from the Parliamentary Commissioner (with strong reference to Meurk and Swaffield) Weaving Resilience into our working lands: recommendations for the future roles of native plants.
Regionally, the plight of the indigenous biota of the Canterbury plains had long caused
considerable concern. Whereas there were several well-established conservation agencies
focussed on the uplands and areas such as Banks Peninsula, there was at that time no large scale ecological or conservation programme for the lowlands of Canterbury. In 2004 that was about to change, largely because of Colin Meurk’s contribution to the forthcoming
revised edition of The Natural History of Canterbury. It was during 1994 that a review of The Native Plants of the Canterbury Plains was prepared by the then Master of Landscape
Architecture student (Lincoln University), Katie Williams. She was supervised by Jorge
Santos and Ian Spellerberg with valuable inputs from local experts such as Nick Head and
Colin Meurk. The research was published in 2005 by the Department of Conservation as a
memorial booklet in memory of Katherine Carmen (1967-2003).
The depleted nature of the lowlands (in terms of indigenous biota) of the Canterbury Plains was emphasized by both Katie Williams and Colin Meurk who wrote “less than 0.5 percent of the plains still support native vegetation”. The Christchurch City Council added to that by reporting “the loss of these native plant communities has reached a point where habitats for our native wildlife have been reduced to a level where they are now insufficient for continued survival.”
Time for more action! It was July of 2004. Jason Arnold (Resource Management Policy
Planner at Selwyn District Council (SDC)) and Ian Spellerberg (Director of the Isaac Centre for Nature Conservation, Lincoln University) had been having informal discussions about ‘wildlife or green corridors. Ian had undertaken research on the ecology of wildlife corridors in fragmented landscapes while in England. Here in New Zealand he had continued that research with particular reference to the ‘greenways’. The concept of greenways was becoming very popular and one definition was “Greenways are networks of land that are planned and managed for multiple purposes including ecological, recreational, cultural, aesthetic, or other purposes compatible with the concept of sustainable land use (Fabos & Ahern, 1996, Greenways: the Beginning of an International Movement, pp. 131-155).
There was a possibility that ‘greenways’ could have been included in the Selwyn District
Plan. On 1 st July 2004, Jason Arnold, Ian Spellerberg and Dion Douglas (SDC Planning
Manager) met to discuss ‘indigenous biodiversity conservation and protection. The overall
theme of that meeting was ‘The Mountains to the Coast …..’. A starting point was “a
biodiversity awareness day under the banner of native plants in the landscape”. The
following were a few of the ideas thought (at that meeting) to be useful to awareness
All plants used by the SDC to be indigenous (Council Policy).
A link from the coast to the mountains by way of green corridors.
A flagship project such as ‘the return of the bellbird’ to the Plains.
It was thought at that time, “that these goals were ambitious but over the next 50 years the
SDC and its community will make significant inroads into not only halting the decline of
biodiversity but also enhance areas and restore devoid areas”. The meeting ended with the
recommendation that there be “a strong link between the SDC and the Isaac Centre for
The tasks ahead included “a pictorial definition, a project description, a list of interested
parties, and letters of support”.
During the rest of July, several other people were brought into the discussion about what, at that time, was referred to as ‘Mountains to the Sea/natives –Selwyn’. Initially there were Roger May (Silvics Ltd./NZFFA), Craig Pauling (Ngai Tahu), Shelley Washington (NZ Landcare Trust) and Frances Schmechel (NZ Landcare Trust),
On 3 rd of August 2004, Ian wrote to Jason suggesting the following as a basis for discussion at a next meeting (18 th August): ‘Native Plantings from Mountains to Sea: a native greenway across Canterbury’. Jason replied by saying “A great start, and I particularly like the research aspect and the potential to provide tangible benefits – social, environmental and cultural”.
At the meeting on 18 th August the following were present. Jason Arnold, Roger May Craig
Pauling, Frances Schmechel, Ian Spellerberg, Shelly Washington. At that meeting, people
from 22 ‘key’ organizations were recorded with the aim of consulting with them about
‘Mountains to the Sea’. Also, there was a ‘white-board’ exercise to try and identify in more
detail what the project (Mountains to the Sea) was all about and what were the
Many meetings were to follow in 2004 and the task of hosting the meetings was shared as was the chair person. Not only were there to be many more meetings of the ‘Mountains to Sea Group’ but there many other meetings in parallel with representatives from stakeholder groups.
The next ‘Mountains to Sea Group’ meeting took place on 26th August 2004. Present were Jason Arnold, Roger May, Craig Pauling, Mike Peters, Frances Schmechel, and Ian Spellerberg. At that meeting there was discussion about the physical boundaries for the project and the need to identify existing restoration projects. It was recognised that it would be practically impossible to embrace the whole of Canterbury. Ian suggested that in the sense of a greenway, the area of land between the main rivers (Waimakariri and Rakaia) could provide an easily identifiable geographical area. That area was of course the same as for the Selwyn District Council.
Two further meetings took place in September. Topics included developing a document for stake holders, funding for a coordinator, develop both a map and a document, and of course mechanisms to advocate for biodiversity on the Plains. There was also discussion about whether or not Te Ara Kakariki o Waitaha Greenway Canterbury could become an ICON for Environment Canterbury.
On October 13th 2004, the ‘Mountains to the Sea’ group hosted Ray Maw from Environment Canterbury to outline the Environment Canterbury Biodiversity Strategy that was to be a guiding document rather than a regulatory document. Actions before the next meeting included more meetings with potential interested parties.
On 17th November 2004, there were reports back from meetings with interested parties. There was agreement that there should be two concept documents; one for landowners and one internal use by the ‘core group’. Ian reported on Katherine Carman Memorial Project being undertaken by Katie Williams (supervised by Jorges Santos and Ian). Most importantly there was by now the acceptance that the ‘project’ needed to become a formal entity such as a trust or an affiliated society.
2005: The first of what were to be monthly meetings in 2005 took place on 23rd March. Much of the time was now being taken up with consultation. A project plan was well underway and MOUs were finalized. The Isaac Centre for Nature Conservation (ICNC) offered a temporary ‘home’ for Te Ara Kakariki Greenway Canterbury until an alternative arrangement could be made or the need for trust status could be justified. ICNC also offered secretarial support (Ruth Guthrie). By August, a Project Summary Document had been agreed by the ‘core group’ and was being used in consultation with other groups. The title for the Project had now become Te Ara Kakariki Greenway Canterbury: a wildlife network across the Plains. By October there was discussion about a launch of the Project along with a launch of The Native Plants of the Canterbury Plains.
The Launch. November 18th 2005. This was to be a major milestone for Te Ara Kakariki: Greenway Canterbury. The late Diana Isaac graciously hosted the launch at her private residence at Peacock Springs in the grounds of Isaac Construction. Lady Isaac was a long standing supporter of the project and continued to give her support in years to come. In attendance with Lady Isaac was Anita McNaught, a freelance journalist and television presenter. The launch of Te Ara Kakariki: Greenway Canterbury and the book The Native Plants of the Canterbury Plains was extremely well attended. The event was a very memorable end to a very busy year but there was more work to do, in particular promoting the project and seeking trust status.
2006: The first meeting took place on 7th February and thereafter there was a meeting planned for every month of the year! Consultation was a major activity. Not only did this take place with local and regional groups but also with people invited from further afield. For example, Dr. Morgan Williams, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, met with the ‘core group’ on 3rd March 2006. Other consuming activities included discussions about applying for financial support and also the writing and design of information packs including a brochure.
Guest contributors at the meeting helped to identify additional benefits of the project beyond the benefits to biological diversity. Examples included weaving resilience within the lowlands, water conservation, mitigation of wind erosion, and carbon sinks). The ‘core group’ repeatedly reassessed what the project was all about and often there were complex (but helpful) conceptual diagrams left on the whiteboard.
By August 2006 there were ‘serious’ discussions about establishing a Trust. The DEED was duly completed and signed by Jason, Craig, Frances, Ian and Shelley. It was formally accepted on 30th October 2006.
On the 18th May 2007 Te Ara Kakariki Greenway Canterbury was established as a Trust
Hansson, L., Fahrig, L. and Merriam, G. (edt). 1995. Mosaic Landscapes and Ecological Processes. Chapman & Hall, London.
Jongman, R. & Pungetti, G. 2004. Ecological Networks and Greenways – concept, design and implementation. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Meurk, C. & Swaffield, S.R. 2000. A landscape ecological framework for indigenous regeneration in rural New Zealand- Aotearoa. City and Urban Planning, 50, 129-144.
Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. 2002. Weaving Resilience into our Working lands: recommendations for the future role of native plants. PCE, Wellington.
Williams, K. 2004. Native Plant Communities of the Canterbury Plains. Department of Conservation, Christchurch.
Anon. 2007. Unique and Special Flora and Fauna of the Canterbury Plains. Record of an event organised by the NZ Landcare Trust and Selwyn District Council held at the Nit Point Gallery, West Melton, Canterbury. 13th February 2007.
Environment Canterbury. 2003. Establishing shelter in Canterbury with Nature Conservation in Mind. Environment Canterbury, Christchurch.
Spellerberg, I. Te Ara Kakariki Greenway Canterbury – joining the dots. Forest & Bird, May 2008, 31-34.
Spellerberg, I. 2009. Native Plants Sure to Thrive. Perspective, The Press, Christchurch, 16 September, 2009.
Spellerberg, I., Arnold, J., Austin, M. & Schoenwetter, T. 2007. The role of native plants and native plant communities on the Canterbury Plains and their Contribution to Sustainable Development. ICNC, Lincoln University.