Tue, May 31, 2022 12:00 PM

Home schoolers aim to save ancient forest


Matt Brown

A home-schooling collective has secured funding for planting at the Onamalutu campsite, near Renwick.

Flooding and erosion have undermined the native, ancient podocarp forest, and it’s hoped the five-year planting project could help stabilise the remaining trees.

Natural Learners Cooperative coordinator Talia Burton-Walker says about a dozen trees have fallen since last July’s severe flooding.

“We’re trying to preserve it,” she says. “Every little bit helps.”

Talia says she was sitting at the reserve with a friend one day and decided they could fix it.

“We secured funding and away we went.

“There’s a real positive change to support these projects. Getting funding was easy.”

The group of about 12 families, working under the guidance of DOC are planting kowhai, totara, a selection of podocarp and their companion trees.

They aim to plant more than 5000 trees.

“The kids love it,” Talia says.

“It’s not about the amount of work they do – it’s working alongside their family.

“They’re contributing in their own way.”

She says some of the children plant a few trees before losing interest – then they go and enjoy the forest. Other children put in a full day of work.

“When they get an appreciation for the process, they’re more likely to continue,” says Talia.

With the first year of planting complete, Talia hopes their efforts will support the ecosystem in the precious ancient forest.

She says erosion, caused by land use, is changing the course of the river.

“DOC are trying, and struggling, to secure funds to install erosion protection in the Ōhinemahuta River which will stop the rapid loss of the very, very old Kahikatea, Matai and Totara trees which are a treasure for Marlborough. The last remnant of forest of this age in the area.

“You’re looking at about $100,000 to do the ground work – the engineering.

“It would take very little action to fix it.

“They’re giant trees. It’s tragic.”

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