The Fairfield community is on a mission to restore the Kukutāruhe gully and has already planted more than 20,000 trees along this area which also contributes to Hamilton City Council's Nature in the City programme.
HCC's Nature in the City programme aims to increase native vegetation in Hamilton from 2 per cent to 10 per cent by 2050 and the Fairfield Project, as the community-led initiative is called, has already taken some steps to help achieve this goal.
Chair of Kukutaaruhe Education Trust, Vic Arcus, says: "We estimate those [20,000] trees are now pulling 94 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year, and they'll continue to do so for 50 years."
The Fairfield Project started in 2013 when Fairfield College had about 12 hectares of land they didn't need, and an idea to sell it for some extra funding for the school.
Arcus says: "There was a community meeting to discuss that proposal and at that meeting, a new idea was put forward – what if we kept the land and turned it into an environmental education centre, that would have way more than just a financial benefit?"
At the heart of the project are the core principles of education, restoration and community building. The project hosts community planting days and regular working bees and has a relationship with more than 20 other schools in the area.
All Year 9 students at Fairfield College and Waikato Diocesan School for Girls replant a section of the Kukutāruhe gully as part of a science project.
"The idea is that this becomes a place where kids from all these schools can come to take part in the restoration and have an educational experience," Arcus says.
The stream that runs through the gully is home to native species including the longfin eel and giant kōpuku. Both are endemic to New Zealand and categorised as 'at risk – declining'.
"NIWA has been studying the giant kōpuku for years, and have made some pretty amazing discoveries about them, right here in this stream."
The Fairfield Project also has a community garden, where anyone can make a plot. The local Tongan community, for example, has banded together to cultivate a huge patch of kūmara.
"We have people from all different walks of life coming together and sharing stories, sharing knowledge, and getting to know each other. It's wonderful to see."
For HCC, groups like the Fairfield Project are critical to reaching the 10 per cent native vegetation cover.
Senior manager of the Nature in the City programme, Luke Archbold, says: "These organisations, with their passion and expertise, are an essential part of restoring nature in Kirikiriroa. We are currently in talks with the Fairfield Project about how council's Nature in the City programme can best support them."