Te Ara Kākāriki educates locals about Native Plants

Sunday 15th April 2018

A young ecology student, Tim Logan had the opportunity to showcase his native restoration planting at the first of four sites at an annual Plantout Tour last Sunday. The tour is organized each year by Te Ara Kākāriki (TAK) Greenway Canterbury Trust to educate and motivate local people and community groups to revegetate areas in Selwyn back to Native Habitat.

Tim’s West Melton restoration site of about 2,000 native plants provided an inspiring backdrop to the morning tour. As a high school student back in 2012, he convinced his parents to set aside a portion of the family’s lifestyle block for native revegetation. Since then they have planted about 400 native plants each year with the help of volunteers. Tim is now studying ecology at the University of Canterbury and is bursting with more enthusiasm and knowledge year by year. He has started collecting seed and nursing his own seedlings.

Tim remarked this morning before the tour started “I’m excited to show Colin Meurk how much the Greendot has developed, it’s been years since he has seen it”. Colin Meurk, Landcare Research Ecologist was a key note speaker for the morning session and spoke to the group about the history of the Canterbury Plains and how over the past 150 years the decline of native remnants due to human activity has resulted in there being only 0.5% of native cover. He explained the science behind TAK’s Greendot vision “research has shown that birds disperse seeds 2.5km from their source, therefore planting Greendots every 5km will ensure a sustainable native landscape” During a walk through his greendot, Tim showed us how the tussocks he planted 5 years ago were now spreading naturally. Visitors were able to view some native trees already high above their heads Native birds are frequent visitors and Tim is hopeful that bellbirds will soon move in permanently. A cheeky fantail flew over as he explained how he hardly waters the site but during the past harsh summer he had needed to.

Before the tour, Mike Bowie, Lincoln University Entomologist disappeared into the Greendot to see what he could find. He then kept the crowd captivated while he spoke of the resident insects and invertebrate living at the site. Among many, he pointed out a funnel web spider nest in a Coprosma and as he spoke a native yellow admiral butterfly flitted by. “Insects and invertebrate provide the greatest diversity in an environment like this and we can encourage this in our own gardens by providing dark spaces, dead wood, leaf litter or even Weta motels” Mike said. He then went on to explain how many insects are dependent on our native plants. For instance, there are ten species who live only on our native Cabbage trees and there is also the Kowhai Moth who only feeds on Kowhai.

The four sites visited across the morning and afternoon tours are part of 57 native greendots planted in conjunction with Te Ara Kākāriki Greenway Trust since 2006. Greendots are patches of native plantings and are part of the Trust’s vision to create a greenway linking Canterbury’s mountains to the sea.

Susan Hall and Kevin Dunn’s property in Kirwee had barely a native plant in sight when they purchased the land, Just three years ago they began planting their native Greendot. It now contains an impressive 5000 plants surrounded by wide winding paths. Guests were quite impressed with how established their Greendot was after such a short time with several commenting this had changed their views of native plants being too slow growing.

With snow-covered mountains in the background Colin explained to the guests how there are several stages of native restoration. The first stage is usually fast growing but is essential as it acts as protection or a nursery for the secondary plantings which may be frost tender or need shelter. The afternoon tour restoration sites in Hororata and Colgate were equally inspiring and were ready for understory planting.

For the TAK team, the tour was a wonderful opportunity to come back to see properties they’ve visited several times for planning and planting and celebrate the success of the projects. Much of the year Trustees are focused on gathering funds from avenues such as the Ministry for the Environment, Selwyn District Council, and Central Plains Water- Environment Management Fund, just to name a few. It really is encouraging to think that six years ago Tim’s place was just an empty paddock and now it is a thriving native environment growing well above our heads, supporting a myriad of insects, invertebrate and visiting birds.

For the 25 guests attending in the morning tour it was a chance to learn from the experts how a restoration site like these ones comes about and how to get involved. Whether that be as a volunteer at a Spring planting day, or as a landowner beginning their own Greendot on their family property, the feeling is that each Greendot is the product of many hands and part of a greater plan – a stepping stone.

If you would like to get involved, there will be volunteer planting events held at several locations during the Spring season or ask us how we can assist with your native planting project at office@kakariki.org.nz

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