Ten years of native planting

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The seeds of a discussion 10 years ago about habitat restoration and community connection have spread across Central Otago, Rippon Vineyard winemaker Nick Mills, of Wanaka, says.

A conversation between Mr Mills and Gerald Davies, of Wanaka, began the establishment of Te Kakano Trust, which celebrates 10 years of its native plant nursery on November 17.

The nursery near Mt Aspiring Rd had established around 24,000 native plants over 20 sites totalling about 80ha since it began.

The community-based nursery in Wanaka was started because of a desire for locals to “get their hands in the dirt”, Mr Mills said.

A growing number of volunteers had spent many hours cultivating plants, digging holes and planting native varieties on public land across the region.

“It wasn’t necessarily conservation for conservation’s sake, it was an idea to get the community to take ownership and have an engagement with their own public lands.”

At the time, charitable trust the Sargood Bequest was looking to become more “hands-on and have a bigger impact on singular projects.”

Mr Mills, who is one of the trustees, asked Mr Davies to pitch an idea to the trust, to “seed the idea” of a habitat restoration nursery.

The trust granted a “sizeable donation” towards creating the nursery, and land was donated by Dr John and Mrs Jill Blennerhassett, of Wanaka.

Ten years of native habitat planting 1Over the course of the 10 years the aim was for “organic growth”, drawing in community engagement as it grew, Mr Mills said.

Part of the project was making it a transposable model, encouraging groups to set up community nurseries.

Te Kakano means “the seed”, and the hope was the nursery could not only help habitat restoration in Wanaka, but also along the entire length of the Clutha Mata-Au River, Mr Mills says.

“There was a resource base here that was possible to seed this idea and then float that idea – that seed – down the river, and hopefully help it germinate further down the river, all the way to the ocean, and help create this river parkway.”

One of the highlights for Mr Mills was the help Te Kakano had been able to give to other native replanting groups, such as the Jean Malpas Community Nursery in the Wakatipu Basin, Mohiki Trust in Cromwell and Haehaeata Natural Heritage Trust in Clyde.

“Hopefully we can carry on doing that over time little bit by little bit all the way to the ocean.”

A celebration is planned on Saturday from 5pm at the Bullock Creek wetlands, by the Fish and Game hatchery on Stone St.