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Tonganui Corridores

December 23, 2020 December 2020 No Comments

Clive Paton Aorangi Trust Chair, Trevor Thompson QE11 National Trust and Aaron Donges Aorangi Trust operations Manager.

An impressive project

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 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.”

“For the farmers, it’s not about “giving up” a bit of their farmland. Most of the farmers we’ve spoken to are well aware that by being part of this, they are actually making their land more biologically diverse, more resilient, more able to cope with the expected climate challenges. 

We’re not looking at creating native forest on a landowner’s most productive areas of land. A lot of the areas that farmers may contemplate planting, are what was eloquently described to me as “shitty gullies” by one landowner.”

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. As well as providing shade and shelter, the forest corridors will reduce nutrient runoff from farms and improve the water quality of streams and rivers. 

Another exciting aspect of the project is the establishment of a native plant nursery at Kohunui Marae near Pirinoa, which will eventually become a specialist nursery for the area and the major plant supplier for final plantings, in 2023. By this stage, the Trust aims to have planted over 100,000 trees.

. 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.”

Learn more about the Aorangi Restoration Trust on their website > www.aorangitrust.org.nz

The Aorangi Restoration Trust is just one of the many local groups working within the Wairarapa Pūkaha to Kawakawa Alliance network. Learn more about WaiP2K at > www.waip2k.org.nz

By Ali Mackisack

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