A Milestone year ahead for Te Ara Kākāriki
Craig spoke of the journey of Te Ara Kākāriki and reflected on the trust achievements in 2019 including the planting of 20,000 native seedlings with the help of 1,700 volunteers. , He acknowledged the contribution of many to achieving Te Ara Kākāriki’s vision to create a native Greenway, linking the Canterbury foothills to the sea, TeWaihora/Lake Ellesmere and Banks Peninsula.
2020 is an exciting year for Te Ara Kākāriki with two significant milestones about to be achieved during the upcoming planting season. The trust will plant their 100,000th native seedling and 100th Greendot. To celebrate the occasion, they will will plant 2,020 eco-sourced totara seedlings with the help of the community and through the Canterbury Plantouts and Kids Discovery plantout days. A row of 400 totara seedlings lined the front of the room behind Craig as he addressed guests with some of the seedlings available to be taken home at the end of the night to be added to guests existing native plantings.
Department of Conservation’s Nicola Toki, currently in the role of Director of Operations, Eastern South Island gave a presentation that lived up to the promise of the intriguing title of “Future Proof and Nature Rich”. The audience were treated to a thoroughly engaging, often humorous and very thought-provoking talk. Nicola challenged the audience around the disconnect between our identity and reality with a large proportion of the population believing our biodiversity is in good shape; we call ourselves Kiwis with a strong connection to nature (our identity) and yet our native flora and fauna are in decline (the reality). Nicola pointed out that “nature is talking, and we are not listening”.
The tragedy of shifting baselines and the extinction of experience was discussed. The impacts on each new generation are profound, with young children today seeing monocultures where once there was biodiversity. Sadly, a British example showed 83% of children were not able to recognise a bumble bee! Nicola’s favourite quote from David Attenborough poignantly captures the impacts of shifting baselines “no one will protect what they don’t care about, and nobody will care about what they have never experienced”.
Nicola turned to the impacts of COVID 19, “an eye opener on all fronts”. It is important that we take the silver lining from the COVID experience, for the good of the environment and our general well-being. Nicola dared the audience to slow down, to focus on “human being rather than human doing”, spend more time with family and appreciating nature. A more thoughtful approach to travel with the use of working from home and on-line platforms, to facilitate collaboration, leading to significant savings in carbon emissions.
Nicola spoke of the hope she has for the future, siting the great work in many communities with predator trapping programmes. Our thinking in the conservation space needs to shift from species to landscapes, a bigger picture involving a range of elements including legal, advocacy, Treaty and other Partnership, community engagement and science. Nicola spoke of the need to “work together, find space to amplify our outcomes from collaboration rather than competition”.
The evening concluded with a celebration of the great work being carried out by landowners. The Diana Isaac Cup was presented by Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust’s (ICWT) Catherine Ott. The cup is presented every other year by ICWT and Te Ara Kākāriki, acknowledging landowner’s restoration efforts, weaving native plants into the working lands of the Selwyn District. For 2020 there are dual recipients of the cup and prize as both owners have produced equally outstanding restoration projects on their properties, providing valuable contributions to local biodiversity. Tony and Mary Edwards have put considerable time into their complex and challenging site in Hororata, working hard to remove exotics and weeds, a job which is ongoing. Susan Hall and Kevin Dunn of Kirwee, are dedicated, knowledgeable and keen to keep learning and planting despite some biological challenges. Their Greendot consists of over 8,000 native plants and is in an area, otherwise barren of native plantings.
The passion of those who attended for the vision of Te Ara Kākāriki was palpable and the sight of many from the audience leaving cradling a totara to plant as part of Te Ara Kākāriki’s totara 2020 celebration to mark their 100,000 plant was heart-warming and concluded an excellent evening.