Community funds more than 19,000 plants for Waiwhakareke

From left to right: Hamilton City Council Community Planting Coordinator Gerard Kelly, Environment Committee Deputy Chair Sarah Thomson, Wintec Kaumatua Tame Pokaia, Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate, Dr Kiri Wallace of the University of Waikato, Tui 2000 President Lynne Garnham and the Council’s General Manager Community, Lance Vervoort, at the 2020 Arbor Day commemorative planting at Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park.

Volunteers and Hamilton City Council staff will be busy wielding their spades again this winter with more than 19,000 natives plants to be planted at Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park.

Tui 2000 Inc., a Hamilton community group formed in 1989 to attract tui back to the city, provided funding for the plants, which were grown from seeds gathered locally.

In 2017, the group received $400,000 over four years from Waikato Regional Council and the Waikato Catchment Ecological Enhancement Trust for the plants. All up, Tui 2000 has raised more than $1 million for the Waiwhakareke project since 2005.

This year’s plants would normally have been planted by volunteers and school children in an annual event marking Arbor Day that attracts thousands of supporters. Arbor Day is traditionally celebrated in New Zealand on 5 June.

But Arbor Day at Waiwhakareke could not take place due to COVID-19 restrictions on mass gatherings. A small ceremony was held instead and I was privileged to attend along with Deputy Chair of the Council’s Environment Committee, Sarah Thomson, Maangai Maaori representative Norm Hill and representatives from key partners in the Waiwhakareke project, including Tui 2000, the University of Waikato and Wintec.

The Council will hold community plantings at Waiwhakareke on 11 and 12 June with a maximum of 100 participants each day. Members of the public keen to take part in a planting session can contact the Council at parksopenspaces@hcc.govt.nz.

Tui 2000 is a founding partner of the Waiwhakareke project, along with the Council, the University of Waikato, Wintec and Waikato Regional Council. A Tui 2000 sub-group, Friends of Waiwhakareke, helps to coordinate planting, weeding and species monitoring in the park.

Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park is a 65.5 hectare “urban island” on the outskirts of Hamilton. Established in 2004, it is gradually being reconstructed from farmland to a pre-European state. Waiwhakareke is owned and managed by Hamilton City Council and is the city’s flagship biodiversity project.

The park opened to the public in November 2019 after the Council installed a track around the lake and wetlands, a public toilet and viewing platforms.  Around half of the park remains to be planted.  The development of Waiwhakareke is overseen by an advisory group led by renowned ecological restoration expert Professor Bruce Clarkson, the University of Waikato’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research.


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