Friends of Rangikapiti have celebrated what John Haines described as a richly satisfying season of planting, but the "gold" was the involvement of young people at every planting day, including home-school families with children aged from four to 14 who helped on two occasions.
Last month's final planting day of the season was led and completed by children from Mangonui School.
"I like to think that every time a child plants a tree, nature plants a seed in the child to eventually awaken in them the urge to be a kaitiaki for this beautiful land," John said.
"One word could describe the planting of autumn and winter at Rangikapiti in 2019 — diversity: diversity of plants, diversity of ecological zones, diversity of the people involved," he added.
"In May we started on the sides of the only permanent stream in the reserve. We chose plants that suited the damp conditions of the site, including but not limited to kauri, kahikatea, pukatea and more. We were assisted by 18- to 24-year-old students from of Ngāti Kahu youth services. These young people took ownership of their mahi and were a pleasure to work with."
He could not describe their kaupapa better than Sasha Saies did in response to John's request for more detail on these "bright young people" back in early June: 'The group you met at Rangikapiti Pā are participants of the Oranga Tangata programme, which is run by Ngāti Kahu Social and Health Services. They are all Work and Income clients, aged 18 to 24, looking to make positive changes towards work-readiness.
'They not only learn job search skills and gain employment experience, but the programme is focused on wider community engagement. Through kaupapa like these our students have engaged with organisations they would not usually have the chance to be involved with, such as DoC, local kaumātua/kuia groups, OTC, the Moko Foundation and many more.
'Through these diverse experiences our students have discovered career pathways they never knew existed. We currently have a number of students undergoing youth mentor training, two aspiring police officers and one who has decided to study building as a trade. The have also learned a lot about our local area, the landmarks, native plants and customs/beliefs.'
Friends of Rangikapiti were proud to have contributed to the richness of experience of the aspiring young people; "May they long prosper in their lives and in the work I am sure they will find," John said.
Some of those same young adults joined the major planting day of the season in June, in three ecological zones. The first was a continuation of last year's successful incursion into an open saddle beyond the reserve's pā. Kowhai featured heavily in the planting, as did milk tree (turepo), akeake, cabbage trees and a broad diversity of other plants and trees.
"Our experiment of the previous year demonstrated the ability of ngaio to provide quick cover for other plantings, and we continued with that approach this time around," he added.
"The condition and size of some of the trees provided by the Shadehouse in Kerikeri was outstanding. Some kōwhai were nearly 2m tall, yet this volunteer-driven nursery only charges $2 a plant, effectively subsidising more expensive plants acquired elsewhere.
"The home-schoolers mentioned earlier helped in the saddle planting, and then moved on to another wetter area where the planting of kauri and kāhikatea supplemented the nikau planted there the year before. There were only three nikau in the entire reserve before we got started planting in earnest three years ago.
"Some fit adult volunteers got stuck into planting a steep north-facing slope that the weekly weeding group had for some time been steadily clearing of acacia, tobacco weed, asparagus scandans, gorse and lantana. Flax, cabbage trees, wharangi and kowhai featured heavily in this planting.
"In early July and again in August we planted an entrance area to the reserve on what we call Kohekohe Point, just above the eastern curve of Cooper's Beach. Kōwhai, hebe, toro, houhere, tōtara, tawapou, native broom and two kinds of flaxes dominated the planting.
"The next step is to upgrade the muddy track meandering up through our planting, with the intention of transforming this formerly weedy, difficult-to-find track into a beautiful and welcoming entrance into the reserve from the beach.
"People may have noticed that kowhai played a singularly significant part in the planting of 2019. This will continue in future years, as we endeavour to plant natives that will attract and provide sustenance for a growing population of native birds, not to mention providing beauty for the increasing numbers of people regularly visiting the reserve. Our trapping and ongoing track improvements also contribute to these outcomes.
"All in all, roughly 1400 plants were planted by volunteers between the ages four and 87 in 2019, bringing the total number of plants to approximately 4000 in the last three years. No small accomplishment for a relatively sparsely populated area."