Coastal communities were a theme in the 2014 plant conservation awards, from dunes, to windswept headlands and coastal forest. The Network is pleased to recognise outstanding plant conservation work across the length and breadth of the country and hopes others will be inspired by the achievements of the 2014 winners.
The 2014 winners are:
- Individual involved in plant conservation: Ted Lines (Wellington)
- School Plant Conservation Project: Buller High School (Westport)
- Local Authority Protecting Native Plans: Timaru District Council
- Native Plant Nursery: Forest and Bird Highbury Nursery (Wellington)
- Community Plant Conservation Project: Otatara Landcare Group (Invercargill)
- Lifetime Achievement Award: Robert McGowan (Tauranga)
Over the last 12 years, Ted Lines has been a dedicated and tireless leader of the Oku Reserve Group, which has undertaken the restoration of Oku Street Reserve in Wellington. The reserve is located on a ridge overlooking Cook Strait, which forms the North Island’s southern-most section of the Te Araroa walkway. The Oku Reserve Group is a community volunteer group set up in 2002, after community pressure saved the 8 ha reserve from being levelled for a housing development. The group is made up of about 50 volunteers, mostly from Island Bay, with a core group of about a dozen members.
Virtually from the start, Ted took on the leadership of the group, overseeing the planting, pest and weeding programmes, as well as doing a lot of the work himself, including transforming one of the gullies from blackberry, Cape Ivy and old man’s beard on his own, and spending many hours carrying water up to plants in times of drought. Ted is a retired policeman, who doesn’t come from a plant conservation background. Nevertheless, over the last 12 years, Ted has gained and passed on a tremendous amount of knowledge about plant conservation, cultivation, and restoration.
Ted’s roles include organising the regular community weeding, planting and maintenance days, and coordinating with nurseries and the Wellington City and Regional Councils to supply the plants, and the Council’s pest and weed teams to clear the bigger areas of invasive weeds and oversee trapping in the reserve. Ted has also managed to engage a number of corporate sponsors, including the Honda Tree Fund, ANZ Bank, and Project Crimson.
Oku Reserve occurs in an extremely harsh environment, with salt-laden southerly winds regularly reaching 100 kph, and gale force northwesterly winds, which can dry the moisture out of the soil in a matter of days. Many areas of the reserve have had to be planted more than once, due to drought or plant stocks that weren’t up to the harshness of the environment. Over 20,000 plants have now been planted in the reserve.
To keep an informal volunteer group active and engaged for over 12 years, especially when working in difficult conditions, requires some serious leadership skills. Under Ted’s leadership, the Oku Reserve Group has successfully transformed a steep, rocky, weed-infested headland into a valued community asset and thriving native coastal plant community. This includes a number of species that are locally or nationally threatened such as Aciphylla squarrosa, Euphorbia glauca, Melicytus obovatus, Melicytus crassifolius, Sophora molloyii, and Muehlenbeckia astonii. Birdlife has also increased in the area, and tui, kingfishers, silvereyes, and even a resident morepork/ruru now live and breed in the reserve.
The outstanding achievements of the Oku Reserve Group in such a harsh environment are due in large part to Ted’s excellent leadership skills, knowledge, drive, and commitment, and Ted is a thoroughly deserving recipient of the NZPCN’s Individual Award for 2014.
Buller High School (Westport)
Buller High School has been involved in a native restoration project at Cape Foulwind on the West Coast for the last 16 years. Students and staff at the school have worked closely with the Department of Conservation, and have committed many hours to this project.
Under the leadership of Janet Pottinger, the area has been transformed from grazed exotic pasture into an amazing native walkway. Many thousands of flaxes and other native species have been planted, which has enhanced the natural environment for the benefit of local wildlife as well as visitors to the popular walkway.
Students have also benefited greatly from this experience, and have gained a better understanding of the natural environment that will carry them well into the future. The hard work and dedication of students and staff to such a long-term project is highly deserving of recognition with this year’s NZPCN School Plant Conservation Project award.
The Timaru District Council has done a fantastic job of restoring native sand dune plants at Caroline Bay. With the help of volunteers from the community, the Council has virtually eradicated marram from the site, and replaced it with a variety of native plant species such as pingao, spinifex, and Euphorbia glauca, which are rare both locally and nationally. The Council has also done an excellent job of dissuading the public from trampling the new plantings with fences, interpretation signs, and warning notices. Since the restoration work was undertaken, there have been records of blue penguin nesting in the area, which is probably attributable to both the plantings themselves and the ongoing pest control measures that have been initiated since the restoration took place.
In addition to Caroline Bay, the Council has undertaken a major restoration project at Otipua Beach and the associated Saltwater Creek lagoon margin, where several thousand plants of more than 30 native species have been planted over the past six years.
The Council has also begun efforts to protect and enhance native flora and fauna at Pit Road Reserve, which is an important dry plains grassland remnant surrounding a former gravel pit. Restoration work thus far has included the removal of young planted pine trees, enhancement of lizard habitat (provision of stone piles), and planting with appropriate native species. Sheep-grazing is being carried out on half of the reserve, and in future the Council plans to upgrade the perimeter fence to exclude rabbits and hares.
Restoration of such highly modified dryland habitats is a difficult task, and the Council is to be commended for their important contribution to native plant conservation in the district.
Forest and Bird Wellington Branch Nursery at Highbury
The Forest and Bird Nursery at Highbury is a volunteer-run nursery producing approximately 12,000 eco-sourced native plants annually. The plants are given free to community groups and schools who are undertaking worthy native restoration projects and show an ongoing commitment to look after the plants.
The nursery was originally a backyard nursery starting in about 1992, but has steadily increased in size over the years, and now occupies a series of shade houses next to Zealandia Sanctuary at Highbury. Production was initially based around providing eco-sourced plants for Zealandia (about 7000 plants annually), however over time the focus has moved out of the immediate area and the nursery now supports numerous community groups and Forest and Bird’s own restoration projects throughout the wider Wellington area.
Production at the nursery has gradually increased over the years, ably run by Chris Streatfield and his group of volunteer helpers. Seeds or cuttings are collected by a dedicated group of workers, mostly lead by Gary James. Seed is collected annually from targeted areas, and good records are kept of where seeds are collected, so plants leaving the nursery can be tracked back to where the seed was collected.
The focus of the nursery has been on growing rare and threatened plants of the Wellington region, in order to help put back what has been lost. These include podocarps and other slower-growing forest trees, as well as locally uncommon plants such as matagouri (Discaria toumatou). While not endangered in others parts of the country, in Wellington matagouri is reduced to a few unhealthy specimens left in the wild. Thanks to the dedication of volunteers at the nursery, we now have many more matagouri growing back in the wild. Chris is also experimenting with methods of propagating many other difficult or slow-growing species, such as milktree (Streblus), which has limited seed production in the Wellington region.
The nursery provides many community functions, helping to support schools and community greening groups, and providing advice to Wellington residents on native plants. The volunteers at the Highbury nursery have shown their impressive knowledge, skills and commitment, and have made an outstanding contribution to native plant conservation in the Wellington region.
Otatara Landcare Group is a community volunteer group which has been involved in the restoration of Bushy Point Reserve in Otatara, Invercargill for the last 15 years. The Otatara-Sandy Point area contains the best remaining example of coastal totara and totara-matai sand dune forest in New Zealand. Bushy Point Reserve comprises an intact sequence of vegetation communities from the estuary edge through lowland podocarp-broadleaf forest to the nationally-rare totara dune forest, and in 2008 the reserve was included in the Ramsar registered Awarua Wetland complex.
The Otatara Landcare Group has a 30 year lease from the Department of Conservation to manage and restore the 14 ha reserve. Volunteers come from across the region for planting days, some even crossing over from Stewart Island. Over 280 people turned up at a recent planting day.
Since 2000, the Group has made some impressive achievements:
• Approximately 25,000 eco-sourced native trees have been planted.
• Over 3 km of walking tracks have been maintained.
• A pond has been created to provide habitat for wetland species.
• Over 10,000 volunteer hours have been recorded.
The group has been supported by the Living Legends conservation trust and been awarded funding for the next three years, in recognition of the gains the group is making. Sustainable Coastlands and the Southland Community Nursery (previous NZPCN Plant Conservation Award winners) also support the Otatara Landcare Group in its efforts.
This is a long-term project that requires determination and good management to see it through, and the Otatara Landcare Group has shown an ongoing commitment to restoring the vegetation and reducing the pests and weeds in this reserve.
Otatara Landcare Group has clearly made an outstanding contribution towards restoration of Bushy Point Reserve and we are pleased to recognise their achievements with the Community Plant Conservation Award for 2014.
Lifetime achievement: Rob McGowan
He has been involved for more than 20 years in teaching, researching and assisting Māori to re-engage in traditional uses of New Zealand native plants, particularly for medicine. He is the author of “Rongoā Māori – a practical guide to traditional Māori Medicine” published in 2009.
Rob is a regular presenter on Māori Television’s Kiwi Maara and Maara Kai programs, where he shares his vast knowledge of rongoā with the New Zealand public.
Rob has drawn attention to the link between the loss of native biodiversity and traditional Māori knowledge, and the impacts of the loss of native plants for the continuation of rongoa Māori practice. In particular, he has highlighted the importance of using appropriate eco-sourced plants in restoration plantings, for both cultural and ecological reasons.
Rob is one of the founders of Tane’s Tree Trust, a non-profit charity established more than 10 years ago, which encourages landowners to plant and sustainably manage native trees for multiple uses. He remains an active Trustee.
Rob is also the Amo Aratu for Ngā Whenua Rāhui, a contestable fund established in 1991 to provide funding for the protection of indigenous ecosystems on Māori land. His role primarily involves providing support to Māori landowners in restoration projects.
Rob has also provided input into aspects of intellectual property issues relating to the Waitangi Tribunal’s Wai 262 report and served as a rongoā Māori advisor to many Government committees, Māori tribal authorities, and rongoā Māori-related research and education initiatives.
He is the current Chair of the Kaimai-Mamaku Catchments Forum, which is involved in ensuring the Tauranga Harbour and Waihou catchments are sustainably managed.
Although Rob has been involved in many worthy conservation initiatives, it is his long-term dedication to rongoā Māori, in particular his emphasis on the importance of eco-sourcing, that makes him a well-deserved recipient of the New Zealand Plant Conservation Network’s highest honour, its ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’.