Community digs in for plant project

Community effort . . . Coming together for the planting day at the Waihi Gorge are representatives from South Canterbury Toyota, the Department of Conservation, Te Kete Tipuranga o Huirapa Ltd and Carew Peel Forest School. PHOTOS: CONNOR HALEY

A community project two years in the making has finally broken ground.

Conceived by South Canterbury Toyota, a large native-planting effort was held at the Waihi Gorge Department of Conservation (Doc) campsite last week.

Joining Toyota staff were representatives from Doc, Te Kete Tipuranga o Huirapa Ltd (Arowhenua Native Nursery), South Canterbury Rugby and Carew Peel Forest School, who together planted 800 new natives at the popular Woodbury campsite.

Ashburton and South Canterbury Toyota chief executive Mark Patterson said it was great to have finally got to planting day.

‘‘Two years ago, as Toyota, we reached out to Doc wanting a sustainability initiative with the idea of either a walk or a regenerative planting exercise.

‘‘Through various iterations and site visits this is where it has led to. We saw [planting here] was something Doc had wanted to do for a long time and it was regarded as a quick win.

‘‘It’s taken two years but we got there. We’re really thankful for the help of everyone.’’

Budding planters . . . Showing off their planting efforts are Carew Peel Forest School pupils (from left) Harry Woodhouse, 9, Lulu Mowat, 9, Isabella King, 9, Juanita John, 10, and Charlotte Nolan, 10.

Mr Patterson said it was important, as a company, to give back.

‘‘We are a car company and that’s part of the problem — we get classed as a car company but aside from the hybrid models and being toitū [sustainable] accredited, we felt we needed to do something with Doc and help regenerate our local area.

‘‘It’s a huge playground for a lot of our local kids and we felt it was our duty to give back to the community.’’

Doc community ranger Tim Exton said they had been wanting to do a planting at the campsite for quite some time.

‘‘It’s one of our favourite spots and for a lot of people who pass through.

‘‘We’ve always had these little bunds here sitting and doing nothing, so it’s always been prime to have them planted up to add a bit of shelter.

‘‘We’d just never had the opportunity until today.

‘‘We’re very thankful to Mark and the Toyota group for providing funds and a lot of labour. It’s also great to have the school and nursery here as well supporting us in what we do.’’

Teamwork . . . Leading the way on the planting project are (from left) South Canterbury Rugby chief executive Tim Hyde-Smith, Ashburton and South Canterbury Toyota chief executive Mark Patterson, Doc community ranger Tim Exton, Te Kete Tipuranga o Huirapa representative Matt Rudd, Carew Peel Forest School kereru teacher Craig Sedgwick and helper Karen Miles.

He said planting projects were very important.

‘‘We’re creating habitat and space for birds . . . anywhere we can add conservation values is important to us as individuals and as an organisation.’’

Making up the 800 natives planted were a few different types of pittosporum, lancewood, griselinea broadleaf, coprosma, tōtara, kōwhai and just a few cabbage trees so the lawnmower was not constantly out.

Te Kete Tipuranga o Huirapa representative Matt Rudd said planted species were local to the area.

‘‘I don’t think the seeds all came from here but the nursery eco-sources all their seeds and takes cuttings from places too. We grow them all in the nursery in Temuka and then we have a restoration team that comes out to do this type of thing.

‘‘We did the site preparation, sprayed the holes, put together a planting list of species that were already in the area and got everything ready.

‘‘It’s been great to see the labour force that’s turned up.’’

Personal touch . . . Carew Peel Forest School pupils were given some planting guards in advance and spent the weeks before planting day decorating and colouring them in.

He said it was great to have local people coming in to help with the project.

‘‘A lot them live locally and come out and use this site. I bring my family out here and we swim in the river, it’s a nice clean spot that you can still have a dip in.

‘‘Hopefully the kids who have helped out encourage their parents to come out and use the area more now that they have a real investment in it.

‘‘They can say, ‘oh, I planted that one’.’’

The Carew Peel Forest School pupils were also given some planting guards in advance and spent the weeks before planting day decorating and colouring them in.

Mr Exton said it was nice to see people from all different parts of the community come together for the project.

‘‘From a personal point of the view, the more people we have involved in nature helps create a bit of an understanding of what’s happening in the area.

‘‘I think seeing businesses, schools and certainly us as a government department come together as a blend is just really great.’’