It began with removing weeds and restoring native plant species, but the Friends of Rangikapiti want to go much further.

The dream is to reintroduce native birds and build on the tiny resident kiwi population — and the Friends are getting some encouragement.

John Haines said he was weeding and exploring at the reserve above Mangonui recently, and discovered that he was wrong in believing there were no mature nikau.

"I discovered a small grove of 8m trees and masses of seedlings under and around them," he said.

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"When we plant, we introduce trees and bushes that become the seed sources for the entire reserve. We don't need to plant everywhere. All we need to do is create thriving clusters of plants, which become the parents of progeny dispersed by birds and wind.

"Sometimes this happens more quickly than you might imagine. Late last winter we planted two poroporo, a fast-growing medicinal shrub in the solanum family (think tomatoes and potatoes). Yesterday I was weeding near these two poroporo, which are now full of bright, ripe orange fruit. Inside half an hour I watched two waxeyes and then a blackbird eating these fruit. I'm curious where these birds will plant the next generation of poroporo."