What’s it like working on one of New Zealand’s largest initiatives to restore biodiversity to the landscape? Community Ranger Lauren Buchholz shares the story behind some memorable scenes from Hawke’s Bay’s Cape to City project.
The return of the toutouwai/North Island robin
On a cool July evening, a small group entered the canopy of Hundred Acre Bush on the Maraetotara Plateau. We assembled around two cardboard vet carrier boxes and placed them carefully on the ground. A ruffling of feathers emanated from the boxes, but stopped as one of our group – Trevor Taurima, kaumātua of Maungaharuru-Tangitū – began to offer a karakia.
Even the vet boxes’ temporary avian captives seemed to understand the solemnity of the moment. Toutouwai (North Island robins), a gift from Cape to City’s sister project Poutiri Ao ō Tāne, were returning to the plateau for the first time in half a century.
Te Reo filled the air as we bowed our heads. ‘Tū mai ngā manu,’ said Trevor, spreading his arms wide over the boxes: Let the birds flourish! With that, the first of the boxes was pried open. I clicked the shutter of my camera as a dark streak whooshed by, moving almost too fast to see. It was only when I pushed the playback button that I realised I had captured the shot of the first robin flying to freedom in Hundred Acre Bush.
Plantings without borders
An extremely dry winter threatened to cancel community plantings in Hawke’s Bay this year. The skies finally darkened with the first big storm near the end of July, and the Clifton County Cricket Club’s postponed planting day was given the green light.
Although this was the fourth event for the Club, it held special significance for our project as the first official community event associated with Cape to City.
Over 80 volunteers from around Hawke’s Bay and abroad convened to help plant 1,300 flaxes, kowhai, and other native species on property adjacent to the Club.
Many of the volunteers were government representatives from southeast Asia who were attending a programme at Napier’s Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT).
I stopped to talk with EIT activities coordinator Vivienne Pearse and Domingos Goncalvés of Timor-Leste. Domingos was keen to have his picture taken with the tree he had just planted – his first one of the day. As I clicked away, he beamed and said proudly, ‘This is a present from my country’.
Bugging out at Hohepa School
Not having grown up in New Zealand, I didn’t know what to expect when Cape to City visited one of Hawke’s Bay’s schools with ‘the Bugman’, Ruud Kleinpaste.
Ruud is every bit as exuberant in real life as he comes across in media, and his enthusiasm for handling weta, catching spiders, and digging through the school’s compost heap for all manner of critters was infectious.
We have some very dedicated staff who oversee the growing education programme for Cape to City, and we’re lucky to have Ruud working alongside them as our project ambassador.
After Ruud set us to work searching for invertebrates, I helped a couple of students and their teacher Steve Pemberton dig for worms in the school garden.
I snagged a shot of the action as one of the students held out his discovery and Steve used a magnifying glass to take a closer look.
Cape to City is a ground-breaking initiative whose vision is to see ‘native species thrive where we live, work and play’. It was launched in 2015 following the success of its 8,800 ha sister project Poutiri Ao ō Tāne (located in northern Hawke’s Bay).