Imagine this. You’re walking through the forest in the lower Ruamāhanga valley, somewhere near Wairarapa Moana. It’s 1821. Your ears are tuned to the calls of kōkako, kākāriki, kererū and whio.
Kākā, kiwi, kārearea, and tīeke thrive here too.
The sun dapples through the stands of kahikatea and pukatea, picking out the tiny tawa seedlings heading toward the light. The water in the river is teeming with life and the forest ecosystem is thriving, from its tiniest fungi to its dense canopy.
Now imagine this – that 100 years from now, your descendants can have exactly this same experience.
The Aorangi Restoration Trust, with the support of Project Crimson, is working to bring this vision to life. With buy-in from landowners and iwi, they have already begun establishing native forest corridors across Tonganui, the Big South. In the long term, they aim to have functioning native forest, alongside farmland, stretching from the Aorangi forest park behind Cape Palliser, across the valley floor to the Wairarapa Moana and the foothills of the Remutaka Ranges.
“The plan is to just do a bit at a time,” says Bob Burgess, Project Manager at Aorangi Trust. “To piece together a corridor, our task is to connect with as many landowners as possible, work with them to achieve their plans as well as our aim for forest corridors, provide them with whatever’s needed to make this happen, and then get in there to clear, fence, plant, and monitor.”
Clive Paton (ART Chair), Trevor Thompson (QEII National Trust), and Aaron Donges (ART Operations Manager) at a site visit.
The 4-year agreement with Project Crimson, which supports initiatives to plant native trees, sees the Trust supporting the fencing-off of at least 100 hectares and planting these with native trees. Yet it’s clear that many farmers are already taking steps in the same direction as the Trust.
“Farmers are working on their farm plans with the Greater Wellington Regional Council, and what we are doing is lending a hand. We have a fairly good idea of what used to grow where, and we have a specialist group of volunteers who can advise on the best match of plants to the site conditions (soil type, drainage, slope, aspect). The combinations of plants selected may be different for each farmer and each piece of land.”
“The exciting thing is, that we’re not the only ones working in this area of course,” says Bob. “There are a lot of community care groups doing a lot of different projects in this part of the Wairarapa and we’re keen to connect with them through the Wairarapa Pūkaha to Kawakawa Alliance. Because we’re set up as a charitable trust, it’s easy for others to tie in with what we’re doing, and we are keen to support their work too.
This benefits everyone involved. What Clive Paton, (Aorangi Restoration Trust Chairperson) said in our planning document, really sums this up:
“The value of reconnecting the small fragmented native habitats across Tonganui is to provide people with a deep connection to this place and ensure our grandchildren and future generations will see and can enjoy what once flourished here.”