Te Ara Kākāriki is on a mission to increase biodiversity throughout Canterbury. To do this, they are working with landowners to create a corridor of linked areas of native plantings that reaches from the mountains to the sea. We recently caught up with Te Ara Kākāriki Trust Coordinator Letitia Lum to find out how Jobs For Nature funding has helped them get one step closer to bringing birdsong back to the Canterbury Plains.
Te Ara Kākāriki was formed after a group of concerned ecologists and scientists realised something had to be done about the declining biodiversity of the Canterbury Plains. It had been found that less than 1% of the Plains still supported native vegetation, so rather than waiting for the Council or anyone else to do something about it, they just decided to get started themselves. In 2009, the Trust got together with a bunch of volunteers and willing landowners, and successfully planted their first 1,000 plants.
One of the early founders of the trust was Dr Colin Meurk, whose research found that planting greendots (small native forests of hundreds or thousands of plants) at 1km spacings would improve biodiversity and allow native birds to travel between them. Further research identified the Waikirikiri Selwyn river as the best area for a greenway, so we have focused on the areas on either side, bordered by the Canterbury Foothills out to Te Waihora Lake Ellesmere and Banks Peninsula.
We’re hopeful that everyone from farmers to lifestyle blockers can have a greendot on their property, or at least be within a few kilometres of one that they can visit regularly.
We also have an educational program with Selwyn schools, where we take the students to a planting at a public site nearby their school. The aim is for them to build a connection with the site so that they return, and also learn about water health, invertebrates and the whole ecosystem. It’s a really cool program to help get our future landowners knowledgeable and loving our native bush.
What progress have you made?
So far we have a total of 133 greendots, and are coming up to planting our 200,000th plant! It took us about 11 years to plant our 100,000th plant, but now thanks to Jobs For Nature (JFN) funding, we have been able to reach the next 100,000 plant milestone in only three years.
We also have a tour every year where we visit one of our older green dots. Recently, one landowner was saying that they didn’t realise how much of a positive impact having a greendot near their house would have on their mental health. Others have excitedly rung us to say that they’ve had tūī visiting their Selwyn properties, which they had not seen before. We’re expecting these sightings to happen more and more often as more plantings becoming established.
What difference has Jobs for Nature funding made?
Before JFN funding was announced, the trust had discussed planting some larger sites to provide more valuable native habitat, so when the opportunity came up we were ready! Our annual planting output has increased from almost 20,000 plants per year to 45,000 plants per year. Most importantly, we have met some amazing people through our JFN employment. We’ve had great teams who have worked really hard, and we’ve been able to share our passion about native biodiversity so that they can take it with them to future employment.
We have two large JFN planting sites – Te Pae O Ahuriri (3.5ha) beside the Little River Rail Trail in Lincoln, and Ōkakaraiti (6ha) in Springfield. Both of these spots are open to the public, and it has been rewarding to see both locals and visitors appreciating our hard work.
We’ve learnt over the years that our planting and maintenance projects are quite seasonal, so we needed to add another area to provide work at times when conditions prevented us from working in Lincoln or Springfield.
Tai Tapu became that place. At the base of the Port Hills, it’s a bit more sheltered and there’s a lot of water around there, so we’re able to plant most of the year. We’re assisting 18 landowners in the area with native planting, and it provides some really good connections to the Port Hills where there are already natural native stands.
JFN funding has enabled us to create these significant sites that are going to provide incredible bird and wildlife habitat, as well as being places of recreation and learning for our communities. We just couldn’t have achieved on this scale without the support of JFN allowing us to employ our field workers.
Want to help out? You can find out more about the work of the trust, volunteer planting days, and the programme to help Selwyn landowners establish their own greendots on their properties here.