Bringing back the birds to the Hauraki Plains

Students at Netherton Primary have initiated a vision to ‘bring back the birds’ to the Hauraki Plains. A milestone was realized this year when children planted out the first of the native trees that they had grown themselves in kahikatea remnant on a local farm.

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Over five years ago, children were learning about ‘Te Ngahere’ and observed there were no native birds present at the school. They researched and invited a ranger from the Department of Conservation to give advice on how to bring back the birds. They discovered the kahikatea forest remnants on the Plains are the remains of a giant forest which once covered the entire area. They learnt that by securing these remnants through fencing and under-planting they would be able to provide habitat for birds which would also act as ‘bird islands’ for them to fly between.

They created an action plan to achieve this, learning that these stands were dying because of stock grazing under their canopy and there was no second generation forest to take their place. A meeting was held inviting local farmers to be part of the project. A partnership was also formed with Waikato Regional Council (WRC) who were happy to be part of providing some trees and to work with farmers to support them in fencing off existing stands of trees.

Last year WRC supplied around 700 trees and the children helped plant them. Meanwhile the school became part of the Trees for Survival Programme with funding from the Fonterra Grassroots Fund. This would allow them to grow their own native trees with a purpose built plant growing unit.

The Trees for Survival plant growing unit was set up in 2015 and the children had grown a mix of approx 500 manuka, harakeke, kahikatea, karamu and carex. This year the seedlings were ready to be planted out under a kahikatea remnant on Peter Corlett’s nearby farm, creating a precious understory of natives for the existing giants. Netherton Principal Tracey Adams sees it as “a great way to give back to the community” and intends for the ‘Kahikatea Project’ to be sustained long into the future. Mr Corlett said “It’s a great idea … it’s important what we do in our life… in years to come these kids will drive past this with their kids and know they have done something good”.

Netherton children hope by then, the birds will have made it back to their little school on the Hauraki Plains.

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