🌴 ‘Take Action for Nature’ – Conservation Week 2023

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      Tony Gazley

      You’ve planted a ‘Penguin Forest’

      The comment from one of my work colleagues after she heard about the volunteer work I had done over the weekend in the Catlins was, ‘you’ve planted a ‘Penguin Forest.’ Every year DOC in partnership with Forest & Bird organise a tree planting weekend in the Catlins and I saw this advertised on the Volunteer Section of the DOC website earlier this year. I had been planning a mid-winter holiday around that time so thought it would be cool to combine both so I could do something useful on my holiday.

      I flew down to Dunedin on Thursday and had a fun two days exploring Dunedin on foot and by bike before meeting at the DOC office on Friday night.

      The Conservation Week Catlan tree planters for 2023

      On Saturday morning we headed off from our accommodation at Tautuku Cabins to Te Rere Reserve where we were joined by other volunteers from Forest & Bird, SIT and Southland Tramping Club. We planted around 400 native trees (Kahikatea, Totara and Makomako to name a few). We planted these among the flax bushes that had specifically been planted as they provide necessary shelter to the young trees in this windswept coastal environment. As the native trees grow, they will eventually supersede the flax. The wind sure did live up to its reputation that day and we had to put on many layers to keep warm!

      The hope is that eventually this bush will start to regenerate and provide a safe haven for the resident Hoiho (yellow-eyed penguins) to nest among (‘a penguin forest’) as well as provide a home to the other resident native birdies.

      A happy little tree

      After planting all the trees we worked on removing the protective guards from the previous year’s trees and did some weeding around them. It was heartening to see these thriving and at the end of the day we took a tour around the reserve which gave us the opportunity to see some regenerating forest that was testament to all the volunteer work over the years.

      Tying a cover around a newly planted tree

      We finished the day with a short walk at Tautuku Estuary to spot fern birds fluttering around before heading back to the cabins for a fun evening of playing the card game Spoons followed by a few games of Bananagrams. 

      On Sunday morning we headed back towards Balclutha to Otanomomo Scientific Reserve where we got stuck in clearing a lot of weeds including prickly blackberries so we could make way for some more native tree planting. Otanomomo Scientific Reserve is an important remnant of coastal podocarp forest that Forest & Bird are working hard to preserve as weeds are threatening to overtake it but slowly the battle is being won and we planted another 100 trees that day. We could see the results of the previous year’s efforts starting to come through which is promising—as was the noisy bird song.

      A completed area of new plantings

      There are so many ways you can get involved in conservation volunteerism, within our club and the wider outdoors community. The Department of Conservation estimates that around 200,000 New Zealanders give their time to conservation projects each year. Every little bit counts and we all can contribute in a meaningful way. I’ve certainly had some fun experiences volunteering on Kapiti Island and with the Takahē Recovery Programme.

      It is this volunteerism that is crucial to the sustainability of our precious backcountry whether it is the protection of the flora and fauna or our unique background hut network. I found it inspiring to be surrounded by a group of enthusiastic conservation-minded people for the weekend and especially encouraged that they were all young people like me wanting to make a difference.

      Date: 19 August – 20 August 2023

      Location: Catlins – Te Rere Reserve and Otanomomo Reserve

      Author: Sarah Fisher

      More photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/wZ42dxnS8UTxg35f7

    • #74881 Reply

      Great story 👍 we need lots more Sarahs

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