The Te Kākano Aotearoa Trust is celebrating ten years of getting their hands in the dirt. Volunteers, supporters and community members came out to a celebratory barbeque hosted at Bullock Creek Wetland last Saturday to honour the hard work of everyone involved in the past decade of plantings and upkeep of the Trust's habitat restoration nursery within Central Otago. A commemorative tree was planted for the occasion.
The Trust is a Wanaka community-based native plant nursery near Mt Aspiring Road that specialises in propagating plants of local origin to the Upper Clutha region and uses these plants for localised habitat restoration.
In collaboration with fellow Te Kākano Trustees, Rippon Vineyard winemaker Nick Mills helped originate the idea of the nursery to allow New Zealand communities take ownership of and connect with their own public land; volunteers continue to engage with their mission through the weekly work of cultivating plants, toiling the earth and planting native varieties throughout the region.
Support from the Sargood Bequest allowed the Trust to establish a 1200sqm nursery by the shores of Lake Wanaka on land donated by John and Jill Blennerhassett. With permission from the Department of Conservation, Te Kākano collects seeds from local areas and grows them at the nursery and, once matured, they are planted at varied habitat restoration projects. So far, a total of 44 species of native plants have been propagated, all which are sourced from local genetic stock. The nursery has established around 25,000 native plants spread across 20 sites on public land totalling about 80ha since it began.
Te Kākano translates to "the seed," and Mills said the hope was that the nursery could extend the habitat restoration efforts along the entire length of the Clutha Mata-Au River.
When reflecting upon the lifetime of the Trust, Mills shared memorable highlights with the Wanaka Sun. "Remembering all of the smiles and rosy cheeks on kids (and parents) faces and now seeing many of those same trees that have grown sometimes triple the height of those who planted them. Also, drifting the seed down the river and helping like-minded people [other native replanting groups] like Mokihi [Trust] in Cromwell and Haehaeata [National Heritage Trust] in Clyde get up and cranking."
Funding for the work is received from a varied base each year and the Board of Trustees ensures that the Trust is operated sustainably with funds received.
The 2018 planting season is over with more than 4000 plantings; however, volunteers can still participate in hands-on nursery sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings.
"Come up with an idea of how you could get involved and get in touch with us. We're looking to help Te Kākano belong to the ever-broadening base of the Upper Clutha community. So people should feel comfortable contributing volunteer time and/or financial support in the way they feel is possible for them," said Mills.
When asked what is ahead for the Trust, Mills said thanks to a recent donation of more land from the Blennerhassett family, there is an opportunity to expand the nursery and earthworks are already underway. A small community space will be included in the site.
Te Kākano's work was recognised nationally as a finalist for the Cawthron Institute 2018 New Zealand River Awards. All entries were "magnificent examples of individuals, communities, organisations, and businesses doing something positive for local waterways."