About 35 people turned up on a showery Saturday morning and planted 1000 trees beside a reservoir dam in less than an hour, Rangitīkei District Council parks assistant Ben Woolston said.

People were "keen as" to get involved in the Matariki Tu Rākau project – planting a native forest around Marton's two dams to honour past and present members of the New Zealand Defence Force. Attendees included several Returned and Services Association members.

Rangitīkei Mayor Andy Watson, Marton RSA president Alan Buckendahl and environmental parks assistant Woolston all made brief speeches. A plaque was unveiled, and will be mounted on a post at the spot.

There were a couple of showers, Woolston said, but nobody got completely soaked and the hot drinks and sausages after the planting went down well.

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Money for the plants was provided by Te Uru Rākau (Forestry New Zealand) and the event was sponsored by Marton New World and Marton Mitre 10.

All the new plants had weed mat placed around them, and barriers to protect them from grazing animals. The dams now also have a predator trapping programme.

"We want to encourage our native birds to kick back into life out there," Woolston said.

The July 20 planting was done on the eastern side of the lower reservoir dam in Tutaenui Rd. There are about 12,000 trees left to plant across the whole site and all of them have to be in the ground by the end of August.

Woolston's team is planting there most days, and there will be more community action as well, he said.

"Those days are a big help for this project, and an awesome opportunity for the community to come out and see what's going on out here."