Planting programme moves forward

After eighteen months on the job, members of the Whakaora Te Waihora planting team are enthusiastic about progress to date – and about planting plans for the year ahead. The team has planted in excess of 140,000 plants over 70 key sites around focus catchments since they first started restoration planting in the spring of 2012; and by autumn, they hope to have another 50,000 plants in the ground with a further 45,000 planted during spring 2014.

Planting
Workstream Team Leader Andy Spanton says that since they began, the team has developed a good team of contractors, who are doing great work in the field.

“We’re building a lot of knowledge and capacity around what we do and how we do it, responding to challenges and incorporating feedback along the way,” says Andy.

“Our focus on site selection keeps improving all the time and we’ve earmarked around thirty new planting sites to work on this autumn. This year is about building on what we’ve already achieved; and we continue to work with landowners and agencies including Selwyn District Council, Christchurch City Council and the Department of Conservation , so we all get the wins together.”

Andy sites one example – the Willesden farm in the Kaituna Valley – where Whakaora Te Waihora planting teams have worked with the Thomas family (landowners) Christchurch City Council and DOC, to put over 10,000 plants into Kaituna river riparian margins on the farm.

planting

“Brent Thomas is very proactive and an excellent example of what can be achieved when people work together. In most cases we’ve found farmers around the lake to be very responsive to our planting plans. They can see the tide turning and we offer them a very good arrangement whereby we supply the plants, do all the planting and we then maintain the plants for two years. In some cases farmers do the fencing, or we go to areas that are already fenced.”

In addition to at least 4,000 plants planted along a 700-metre length of the Little River Rail Trail between Ahuriri Lagoon and Motukarara, to provide shelter and enhance the cyclists’ experience, significant planting has been undertaken in the Huritini/Halswell catchment.

“This is a big catchment and is part of Environment Canterbury’s drainage district, so we’re not only focusing on the main stem of the Halswell River, we’re also planting up drains and waterways. We’ve currently completed up to 25kilometres of planting.”

Wetland planting is also happening on two significant sites in the Ahuriri Lagoon area between Tai Tapu and Motukarara. Wetland species being bedding in there include harakeke (flax), tī kōuka (cabbage tree), toetoe, native sedges and, where possible podocarps such as totara and kahikatea.

“We expect the eco-cultural values of these wetland sites to improve as the plants grow and develop. This includes a developing biodiversity and mahinga kai availability. That re-naturalisation is already occurring in some areas, particularly in in-stream habitats, where bird and insect numbers are increasing.
“And of course we’ll be monitoring that activity – plus the survival rates of our plantings. That’s very important. We aim for 90 per cent survival throughout the focus catchments and I believe we’re hitting those aims. Having said that, we have had some tough conditions to contend with, such as the January 2013 drought and then the 2013 floods in the Halswell district.

Andy says the 20-metre wide planting strips offer increased protection for the plants against weather and pests.

“That’s the gold standard for restoration planting and we’re now finding that as the plants become more resilient, they’re starting to provide their own seed source. Once they reach three to four years old, they start seeding the floor below. Ahuriri Lagoon is an example of that and we’re hoping to see that natural propagation flourish soon.

“We are dealing with some climatic extremes but our plants have been standing up very well and as a result, we’re building some very resilient plant communities. I like to think the plants look like they’ve come home and they’re thriving.”