An Aramoho man battling to revegetate a hillside with native plants has a new weedy enemy - Japanese honeysuckle.

"I'm having a bloody big fight," he said.

Retired mechanical engineer Rob Butcher lives on 6ha of steep hillside in Roberts Ave. He's been planting and tending trees there for 16 years - with lots of discouraging set backs.

His aim is to conserve native plants, especially toro, miro and tanekaha. Harakeke (flax) is helping hold the soil in place.


He's had problems with feral goats, stock coming through broken fences, old man's beard, field horsetail and slips.

"I have got a weird dream that we can save the kiwi. I see this as a way that in somewhere like Whanganui we could fence off boundaries with conventional electric fences, to keep dogs and cats out. Then groups of people like me could rear half a dozen kiwi or so."

The kiwi could be released when predators were under better control nationwide, he said.

He's found a shooter to keep the goats at bay, and Horizons Regional Council has nearly wiped out the old man's beard (Clematis vitalba). He has 10 sheep that keep some weeds down.

He didn't take much notice of the honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), until recently. Then he saw it smothering trees in a paddock he had shut up, and cascading over a fence from a neighbour's property.

"Old man's beard is a doddle compared to this stuff, because you can cut it and dob it with poison. This honeysuckle has feeders going out everywhere."

He's becoming convinced the roots of the honeysuckle vine reach down into cracks in the papa subsoil, splitting them open and causing slips. Then the vines' attachment to the larger trees above brings those down too, in a chain reaction.

At times life threatening slips have cleared away whole patches of forest, and blocked his drive and the road below.


It's an everyday battle for Mr Butcher, who is carrying on with it.