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.”

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