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.
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.
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)
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
Eurasian Blackbird 10
European Starling 67
Grey Warbler 9
House Sparrow 45
New Zealand Fantail 13
New Zealand Pigeon 1
Paradise Shelduck 4
Red Junglefowl (domestic chicken) 1
Spur-winged Plover 3
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.