Reforestation trust marks big milestone

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By GUY WILLIAMS

The Wakatipu Reforestation Trust will celebrate a major milestone this weekend when its 50,000th native plant goes into the ground.

The moment will come tomorrow morning at Whitechapel Reserve, near Arrow Junction, where the trust’s holding the first of four planting days this autumn.

Operations manager Karen O’Donahoo says the trust and its volunteers have been planting natives throughout the Wakatipu Basin since 2015, and the milestone demonstrates that “from little things, big things grow”.

‘‘We’re restoring biodiversity to areas of public land that were not so long ago neglected and infested with invasive weeds,’’ O’Donahoo says.

‘‘Weeds don’t feed our native birds.’’

The trust provides an opportunity for people to feel they can make a difference.

‘‘We have volunteers who attended our very first planting days.

‘‘Through the seasons they’re witnessing the thriving growth of natives at our planting sites, and they have every reason to feel proud of what they’ve achieved,’’ she says.

O’Donahoo’s hoping for a turnout like last year’s autumn planting day at the reserve, when more than 100 volunteers showed up.

Six years ago, the reserve was a jumble of mine tailings, infested with broom and other weeds, she says.

Since then, the trust has held two planting days a year there, putting in just over 10,000 plants over about a hectare.

Another 1500 will go in this Saturday.

The area would once have been a ‘‘kowhai-rich, grey shrublands valley floor ecosystem’’ providing food and habitat for an array of insects, lizards and birds, she says.

The native planting has already brought about a ‘‘significant trans formation’’.

This Saturday’s event, which runs from 9am to noon, includes a morning tea shout by Hilton Kawarau Village, and a barbecue lunch at which No Trace Events will have family-friendly music pumping and a bubble machine running for the kids, along with ‘‘loads’’ of spot prizes to give away.

Planting days will be held at other sites over the next three Saturdays: Bush Creek, Arrowtown, on April 17; the south end of Lake Hayes on April 24; and Slopehill Road on May 1.

Meantime, the Wakatipu Wilding Conifer Control Group’s also holding a working bee on Queenstown Hill this Saturday, from 9.30am till about 12.30pm, meeting at the Basket of
Dreams.

guy.williams@scene.co.nz