Life on Earth would be unrecognisable without trees given that they help to produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide, influence climate and rainfall, are vital for biodiversity, and provide food and raw materials for shelter and medicine as well as many everyday objects.
Once a year we celebrate them with international Arbor Day (this week), which we've been observing in New Zealand since 1977. But tree planting - and appreciation - doesn't have to be reserved for one day a year.
At the Department of Conservation's website you'll find links to numerous conservation groups that help restore forests, manage tracks, huts and historic places, and help with wildlife recovery and preservation. A number of these organise regular planting days where you can don your wet weather gear (if needed), swing a spade and plant a tree - or 10. doc.govt.nz
Nearly all of the Hauraki Gulf islands have a dedicated conservation group.
Tiritiri Matangi Island wildlife sanctuary, one of the oldest and most successful, is the model for others. Between 1984 and 1994, a small army of Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi volunteers planted between 250,000 and 300,000 trees, helped eradicate pests and introduced rare species to the island. Now it's one of the few places in New Zealand where visitors can be among so many rare creatures including birds, insects and reptiles. If you or your family were part of those early Tiritiri Spade Brigades, you can join tomorrow's 25th Anniversary Celebration.
The newest project, Rotoroa Island, is being transformed into a wildlife sanctuary by a trust working with Auckland Zoo. More than 20 native animal species will be introduced to the island during the next decade and, to get ready, two planting days are planned this winter with island ecologist Jo Ritchie. The plantings include three to four hours of planting and then time to enjoy the surroundings. Spades and gloves will be provided, but bring lunch and a drink as there is no shop on the island.
In a place near you
Auckland Council also supports planting days across the region.
In the north, 20,000 trees will be planted at Tawharanui Regional Park and another 10,000 at Shakespeare Regional Park. You'll need to wear solid enclosed boots or shoes and weather-appropriate clothing as you'll probably end up splattered in mud and with a sore digging arm. But you'll be satisfied with a job well done and the fact you're helping these stunning parks blossom further.
The Tawharanui Open Sanctuary Society Inc (TOSSI) and Shakespeare Open Sanctuary Society Inc (SOSSI) each work with regional parks staff on the planting.
Tawharanui Regional Park, Sundays, July 6, August 3 from 9 am tossi.org.nz
Shakespeare Regional Park, Sundays, June 15, 22, July 20, 10am-1pm sossi.org.nz
The Weiti WildLink project, a Hibiscus and Bays Local Board initiative, aims to improve Silverdale's Weiti River environment and nurture a green corridor where wildlife can thrive and everyone can go to enjoy.
More than 13,000 native plants and trees, carefully selected and grown, are now big enough to be planted on the river edges to help prevent erosion and provide a better home for native fish, birds and other wildlife and adding to the North-West Wildlink, a green corridor linking the Waitakere Ranges in the west with the Hauraki Gulf Islands in the east.
The project includes building a basic gravel track to enable walking access between Titan Place and Tavern Rd. Eventually the Fairhaven Walk between Silverdale and Arkles Bay will create a more scenic kayak route from Stillwater to the historic settlement of Silverdale.
The local board partners with Conservation Volunteers New Zealand, which, as its name suggests, managse volunteers to work on environment and heritage projects.
Join four more community planting days this winter: Saturday, June 21; Saturday, July 21; Sunday, August 3 and Sunday, August 31, from 10am-1pm. To register, call0800 567686 or email info@conservation conservationvolunteers.co.nz volunteers.co.nz
Down south, two of Auckland's newest regional parks, Waitawa and Whakatiwai, are hosting planting days. You'll get to check out the parks as well as make a personal and positive contribution to their growth digging in those 20,000 trees.
Park rangers will be on site showing you how to give the trees the best chance of survival - and that's something which may help you in your own garden.
Best of all, you'll have had a hand in creating a legacy for the city - like those Tiritiri Matangi helpers did 25 years ago. Bring your own spade and gloves.
Waitawa Regional Park, Clevedon-Kawakawa Rd, east of Clevedon. Tomorrow, Sundays June 8 and 29, 10am-noon.
Whakatiwai Regional Park, East Coast Rd (3km north of Kaiaua). Sunday, June 22, 10am-noon.
Papakura is home to the Papakura Children's Forest in Red Hill.
Parents and whanau of children born in the Papakura district in the past year can commemorate the child's birth by planting a tree here.
This year is the 29th annual planting at the forest, so some families are now planting trees for a second generation of children.
You must register to take part. Sunday, June 22 from 10am-noon.
Register at Papakura Local Board offices, ph (09) 295 1300 email email@example.com
Nature Space is running a weeding and planting day at the Awhitu Peninsula. Started in Wellington, but now nationwide, the group provides the latest information on ecological restoration programmes around the country and links conservation groups and potential volunteers. lists a range of projects, Awhitu Peninsula, Wednesday, June 25; 9.30am-noon. naturespace.org.nz
On the Glendowie side of the Tamaki estuary, the 25ha coastal Tahuna Torea is one of Auckland's hidden gems. This sand bank in the Tamaki Estuary has already had 30 years of restoration and tree planting of the bush and wetlands, but the council says the reserve is still a work in progress as it becomes a home for wildlife as well as human visitors. Once you're in the network of tracks it's hard to imagine you are only minutes from industrial Panmure.
This year, organisers hope to beat last year's Volunteer Planting Day total of 15,000 native trees and plants. Again, bring your own spade and gloves.
Today, 1.30pm-4pm. Meet at main carpark, end of West Tamaki Rd. Search "tahuna torea" on ecoevents.org.nz
A tree near you
Of all the things trees are great for, climbing is right up there, too, and in New Zealand, our tree climbers are champions. The men's and women's International Tree Climbing Champions, Scott Forrest (yes, that really is his name) and Nicky Ward-Allen, are Kiwis. Tree climbing events usually involve five activities and are organised by the NZ Arboricultural Association and Husqvarna at regional and national level.
This year, there are four regional competitions (Auckland was in March) and the winners of those qualify for the National Tree Climbing Championships in Rotorua in October. The winners of the NTCC can set their sights extra high and represent New Zealand at the International Tree Climbing Championships in the US next year. nzarb.org.nz