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2023 recap at Waiu Wetland

In 2023, a total of 9 regular A Rocha working bees went ahead at Waiu Park. These were supplemented by some extra efforts for specific tasks like removing the huge summer grass growth in January. The May and September working bees were cancelled because of rain, and during winter, our current area certainly lived up to its ‘wetland’ designation. From about 20 volunteers, the average turnout was 9 each month. As a result of several articles in the Wainui News we now have some new members from the Wainuiomata side of the hill. Thanks to Frank Neill for his regular reports in the local newspaper.

March working bee

In the Autumn, the first task was releasing plants from the prolific growth of grass and reeds over the summer. Near the damp strip by the older trees, fast growing clumps of reeds threatened to overwhelm the multiple seedlings of coprosma robusta and manuka coming through. To prepare for planting, we cleared as much blackberry as possible up towards the path, leaving just a thin strip along the South West-boundary beside the BMX track. Drake, the youngest member of our team, has a knack of finding and extracting buried car parts including tyres, upholstery, door panels and even engine blocks, from the days when Waiu was used as a tip. Some of the largest items will probably be too difficult to shift, and may have to be reburied and planted over.

Clearing blackberry
Drake and Andrew removing a buried car door

In June and July, about 350 plants went into the ground. Over the years we have kept to a similar mix of carex, toetoe, harakeke, manuka, cordyline australis and pittosporum. We have received great support from Hutt City Council through Jonathan Bussell, who continues to do a great job distributing plants to restoration groups in the absence of a replacement council Reserves Ranger. In September, Jonathan also gave us first choice of some extra plants, which included 33 kahikatea. These were appropriately spaced throughout the site.

Jessie planting harakeke
August – New planting up by the boundary

Unfortunately, over the winter, it was obvious that deer had been roaming down from the hills, nibbling on young plants and leaving their droppings. This problem has also been noticed by Forest & Bird teams in the park. Also, In the last couple of months, the reeds have multiplied and present a challenge for next year.

In December, Hutt City Mayor Campbell Barry held a reception to thank all the conservation groups in the city for their efforts. He remarked that as a boy he lived near Waiu Park and remembers playing on some of the abandoned car bodies we are now discovering!

December working bee

It has been great to have the picnic table for morning teas this year. Thanks again to Kapiti Anglican Parish for their donation to make this possible. Special thanks to Penelope and Jean for providing morning tea. This is a time enjoyed by all of us. Most of all, thank you to all our loyal volunteers who have given their time and energy to this project in 2023. It is a privilege to be involved with you on this restoration journey.

Richard Rhoades

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Planting at Makara

In 2020 Joan and Bruce bought a block of land in the Makara Valley with the intention of living a more sustainable lifestyle and of restoring habitat. In November that year about thirty members and friends from A Rocha’s Wellington local group met for their end-of-year gathering at Joan and Bruce’s Makara block to have a picnic and look over the potential restoration sites and discuss possible approaches and planting options.

A few years after the initial gathering and planning, fellow A Rocha members were back to help Bruce and Joan with planting this month. The group were to work on the wetland area with about 750 plants needing to be planted on either side of Makara Stream and in the paddock on the eastern side.

Volunteers from A Rocha’s Wellington local group

After a briefing by Bruce who showed us the planting plan and reminded us not to plant trees under the power lines or on the right of way, we walked down to the wetland paddock.

We began by planting a line of plants beside the Makara Stream where it flowed alongside Bruce and Joan’s access drive. This was to help stabilise the stream bank which was being undercut by the water. The group put wetland plants such as flax, toetoe and sedges along the stream to help stabilise the bank and provide habitat for fish and eels. Some plants were easier to plant while standing  in the stream.

Planting alongside the stream

Then we went across the drive in the paddock and we continued to plant on both sides of the stream and further up the paddock. Meanwhile Bruce was busy wheelbarrowing loads of plants onto the site and distributing them to the areas where they were to be planted.

Bruce and Joan had done a lot of work preparing for this planting day. New fencing had to go in between their paddock and the neighbour’s land to exclude the neighbour’s sheep. The sheep had not been excluded for long so the grass was still short and a lot of circles sprayed where plants were to go — this made for easier planting.

Some volunteers planted trees further up in the area where they hope will rewet naturally. Bruce had hoped to rewet the marshy area but is not allowed to change the hydrology of the area without consent. Applying for the consent proved to be a long and expensive project so they are leaving the hydrology as it is and hoping that, over time, the trees and other plants being planted here will help to slow the runoff and rewet the land naturally.

We stopped at lunchtime for barbequed sausages, beautiful baked potatoes made by Joan and various other contributions from different people.

After lunch some of the group had to leave but several returned to the site and continued for another couple of hours. On our way we checked out the eels under the bridge.

A couple of days later Joan reported, “Thank you for such an amazing planting day. Thanks so much for the great photos too. God certainly blessed us with a lovely day in the ‘Awatuna’ wetland as my sister called it after the place where Mum’s family lived on the West Coast and the tuna watching close by. Can’t believe we did that much with such a small team of ten. We’re still going flat out putting on protectors as the pukeko are invading and they can destroy the plants. We didn’t know they were that bad, but they are like sheep in their destructive powers towards young flax and cabbage trees. Got a lot done but still a mountain in the lounge to put out and still got some swamp maire to go in. We’re really enjoying being down there and having a cuppa by the stream.”

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New educational signage at Tirohanga

By Selwyn Yeoman

A Rocha Dunedin gathered at Tirohanga Camp on Saturday July 22nd for the first time this winter. 21 people participated in total. There were a number of newcomers brought by friends, which is always encouraging. Also encouraging is that everybody really enjoyed themselves!

About 40 more trees were planted. Fewer than usual, but we’d not made a funding application to Trees That Count for this season. We had a very conversational lunch together, enhanced by home made vegetable soup and other baking suitable for a winter day; Rev Michael Holdaway, a recent arrival in Dunedin and newcomer to our projects led a really fitting liturgy connecting into Matariki; and we began siting our recently completed signage of a selection of native trees. These were funded by the Presbyterian Synod of Otago and Southland, and the illustrations were prepared by Sandra Morris, a highly regarded nature writer and artist recently awarded an ONZM for her work. The plates are absolutely magnificent. An added feature is the inclusion of QR codes so that walkers with a phone can immediately access much more information from the New Zealand Plant Conservation Network site.

We plan to be back at Tirohanga in September for a family fun day. Our usual conservation work is not very child friendly – lugging trees and spades up hills in long wet grass! But we hope to plan a picnic event that will introduce younger members to the bush walk, set up some more of our signs, explore the stream and its creatures, plant in some more easily accessible places, experiment with some art work, play some games, and perhaps have some other fun as well.

The full team at Kopua square

Collaborations at Kopua

Reported by Helen Bathurst, A Rocha’s Wellington Local Group.

Seven members from A Rocha’s Wellington local group travelled to Kopua Monastery to engage in restoration work this year from 30 March to 2 April. Four members arrived on Thursday evening which enabled them to have a good start on restoration work after Mass on Friday morning. The rest arrived on Friday to join in the restoration efforts on Saturday.

COVID had meant that A Rocha’s Wellington local group members could not come to Kopua and stay in the guest house in 2022. So on Friday, we began by going down to the A Rocha block and assessing the situation after the gap of 2 years. We found that the previously planted trees were growing well and that there was not much to be done. We planted nine trees in some gaps after clearing some spots for them. These trees had been rescued from tracks in 2021 and had been taken home, nurtured by Irene and Helen and brought back to Kopua. Other tasks included seeking blackberry control, plants releasing, scrub cutting, preparing for new trees to be planted, tidying up the tracks, and cutting up wood. Between us we had put in 20 hours of work on the Friday.

A Rocha’s Wellington Local Group had committed Saturday to supporting the Kopua Cistercian Associates who had organised their working bee to coincide with our stay at Kopua with the idea of the groups getting to know each other better and to join in work together. Also joining us was Lou Hagger, the Tararua Regional Representative of the Queen Elizabeth II National Trust.

After Mass on Friday the A Rocha team met with the Kopua Cistercian Associates in the carpark. After introductions all round and an opening karakia, Mike Stone from the Associates handed round some papers with a proposed plan of action for the day.

On Saturday, the A Rocha and Kopua whānau worked hard – releasing plants around the wetland, weeding around the Stations of the Cross, tidying up walkway signs, removing dead trees and stacking them to provide wildlife habitat, potting native trees on walkways, and also doing 5-minute bird counts.

Totara seedlings to be rescued

Tiny totara seedlings growing under their parent tree were rescued and potted. Helen from A Rocha and Stephen Close from the Associates both took home these seedings to nurture them. The idea is that these seedlings can be used to plant a totara grove in Kopua in the future. Helen now has 44 tiny totara trees in her nursery and several more very tiny totara in intensive care.

Helen’s totara nursery

Pene, an A Rocha member from the Kāpiti subgroup, set up four 5-minute bird counting sites, marking them with red ribbons and white plastic disks (marked A-D). She then conducted two counts at each site, one set on Saturday and one on Sunday. Pene records her findings electronically using the eBird app on her phone – this means that the data is available to the whole scientific community to use for analysis.

Site A is at the back of the cemetery: ‘Behind Cemetery’ (40.07409° S, 176.27562° E)
Site B is overlooking the pond from St Peters Way: ‘Pond Overlook’ (40.04305° S, 176.16343° E)
Site C is at the lookout over the river near Stations of the Cross station XIII: ‘River lookout’ (40.07531° S, 176.27306° E)
Site D is on a log in the mature forest about 75m from the river: ‘Forest log’ (40.04211° S, 176.16163° E)

Site C for the 5-minute bird count

Pene counted 119 birds in the first set of counts (on Saturday), and 128 birds in the second set (on Sunday). An overview of the birds seen/heard is below:

Australasian Harrier 1
Australian Magpie 24
Bellbird 4
Chaffinch 7
Eurasian Blackbird 10
European Starling 67
Goldfinch 11
Grey Warbler 9
House Sparrow 45
New Zealand Fantail 13
New Zealand Pigeon 1
Paradise Shelduck 4
Red Junglefowl (domestic chicken) 1
Silvereye 25
Spur-winged Plover 3
Tui 43

Celebrating A Rocha’s 10-years of involvement at Kopua

The Associates and the A Rocha team had tea breaks and lunch together. These were valuable times of getting to know one another better and talking about restoration work at Kopua and how we can work together. As it was 10 years since A Rocha had started working at Kopua, Irene brought a cake for everyone to share and celebrate the efforts of many A Rocha members over the years. Both Lou Hagger and Mike Stone were interested to find out about A Rocha’s 10-year involvement at Kopua and the information will be used to support funding applications and the effort to get the area covenanted and protected with the QE2 Trust.

As well as all the work we did, there was also opportunity to join the monks in their daily round of prayer, to hear the deer roaring and to enjoy the beauties of creation. We hope that our collaborations and partnership with the Kopua Cistercian Associates continue into the future.

The combined A Rocha and Cistercian Associates team

Sarah Woodfield at Oakley Creek working bee

Integrating personal finances, faith and environmental commitment

Sarah Woodfield at Oakley Creek working bee

Sarah Woodfield is one of the leaders at A Rocha’s Auckland Local Group and also an Eco Church kaihāpai for her church, Cityside Baptist Church in Auckland. This 40-minute podcast about good money management is an interview with Sarah about her approach to her personal finances, and how she integrates that with her faith and her environmental commitment. It is an insightful invitation to be thoughtful about how we save and what we spend, to express our values through our money. What does it take to become more financially independent, while also taking care of God’s creation?

Podcast: ‘Cooking the Books with Frances Cook’
Oakley Creek Flooding (bridge)

Te Auaunga/Oakley Creek and Auckland Flooding

Reported by Sarah Woodfield and Beulah Wood, from A Rocha’s Auckland local group

A Rocha volunteers started working with Friends of Oakley Creek in 2008 as our first Auckland project for the local group.  Over the years, we have planted many trees, shrubs, grasses and flaxes along the river bank, and up some steep banks.

The flooding events in late January 2023 poured more water than ever before along the waterways in Auckland, and the water over our creek rose higher than in any previous storm (about 4 meters above normal).  While the built structures (bridges and walkways) took a lot of damage, there was relatively minimal damage to the plants and other vegetation.  Creeks such as this one are part of the stormwater management system.   They are expected to flood in this kind of situation, and the species we plant are appropriate for this environment.

Te Auaunga is about 6km long and is fed by groundwater starting at the Hillsborough Road ridge, travelling westwards across the Auckland isthmus, and its catchment is 40% roads and buildings.  While it has flooded in previous storms, this was particularly spectacular. In one case, the water broke some young trees, and carried a 4-metre bridge balustrade that detached from its moorings over the top of the next bridge before dropping it on the opposite bank. In another area the bridge came away from the bank, but as it was chained to its support, there wasn’t any further damage, and it should be an easier job to re-establish the crossing.

We from A Rocha feel grateful that much of our planting survived, and certainly contributed to maintaining the structural integrity of the stream banks. We believe we are doing work God would have us do, minding the place God gave to humans to live in.

Unfortunately, with the loss of or damage to a number of the bridges, trees down, slips / slumps and logs across the path, Auckland Council has officially closed the walkway in the lower catchment until further notice.

In the grassy foreground of this shot, look carefully and note the recently planted young saplings which withstood, thankfully, the rush of water across the grass. Across the stream, earlier planted trees and a cabbage tree held strong and perhaps held the bank together.

This shows steps down to the stream and, in the upper centre of the shot, a detached bridge. The far side of the stream is where A Rocha volunteers first started planting in 2008.  Some trees fell but many stood strong, appearing to help hold the bank.

This shows one of the bridges, damaged, but held by a chain to stop it washing away and doing more damage (likely a design feature in expectation of flooding events).  To the left of the bridge is the 2008 A Rocha  planting showing vegetation bowed but still intact.

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Working Bee Volunteer Experience 101

Story contributed by Hana Leofo. Hana is a Venn Fellow who did her work placement with A Rocha for about 8 weeks during March to May this year.
Photos provided by Beulah Wood, Nick Mayne, and Sarah Woodfield from A Rocha’s Auckland local group.

 

As a first-time A Rocha volunteer, my introduction to the Auckland group was an enjoyable one! I had not participated in any restoration projects or ecological working bees before and so was a little apprehensive around what to expect or even if I had any skills to offer.

On Saturday 12 March, I headed along to Unsworth Heights Reserve, a location the Auckland local group has been regularly involved in maintaining and restoring for a number of years now. The plan for the morning was to release the native plants (wharariki, mānuka, karamū and māpou) in the 60 square-metre area adjacent to the Barbados Drive entrance using cardboard and mulch.

I was greeted at the reserve entrance by the cheery team of volunteers who were already making quick work of the large piles of cardboard and mulch present. After a round of introductions, I was directed to a stack of cardboard and guided to remove the plastic tape from each box. There was an air of joviality as we progressed through the piles and a chance to connect and share stories with each other while peeling tape.

Once all the volunteers who were expected had arrived, we congregated and the Unsworth Heights Reserve volunteer lead, Nick Mayne, welcomed and briefed us on the agenda for the morning.

Following the briefing, I resumed de-plasticising the cardboard, while others started laying the prepared cardboard around the plants. The team worked like a well-oiled machine and once the cardboard piles were diminished and appropriately laid, we began piling the mulch atop the cardboard layer.

With buckets, shovels, and wheelbarrows, we moved the mulch to the planted area and as the hours passed, it was extremely satisfying to see the mountainous pile shrink in response. The gentle hum of conversation as we worked made the time pass quickly and before we knew it, the pile was finished! As I stood back and surveyed the area, my slightly achy arms were well-rewarded with the sight of freshly laid mulch and the plants standing tall in their newly released surroundings.

Hana in action.

I would like to thank the A Rocha Auckland local group for welcoming me into the team and I look forward to the next time! And if you’ve been thinking whether or not you should join a restoration working bee, do come along! It’s a lot of fun!

The finished work!