News: A gift to the future

15 June 2022

South Wairarapa District Council is proud to be associated with the Tonganui Corridor project, which is restoring South Wairarapa pasture land back to native bush.

Much of the district’s original bush was converted to farm land, and the four-year project’s ambition is to recreate a green “corridor” from Aorangi Forest Park to the Remutaka Ranges.

It will do this by linking patches of existing bush with new plantings, and the help of private land owners.

The project is in its third year and by the end of this season, it’s estimated that 170,000 trees will have been planted.

Some will take a century to reach maturity. However, the end result should be a forest of totara, kahikatea and rata along with many other species at different heights and hues.

While many groups are involved, Aorangi Restoration Trust is in charge of the project’s delivery, and its chairman Clive Paton says it will be beneficial in many ways.

For the landowners, it’s often land that is of no pastoral value to them, and the trees will help offset their carbon footprint.

“There is also predator control that is going in with the trees so that’s helping with Predator Free NZ, and just enhancing the countryside and creating places for birds, and linking us to Wellington, in the long term.”

The restoration trust shares the cost of the plants with landowners, and implements the planting. Project manager Robert Burgess said a lot of properties already had bush remnants fenced off “and then the planting is additional to that”.

There were “lots of dots to join up, but when you stand back and see the big picture, you start to see a corridor emerging… It’ll be a significant amount of forest.”

As its contribution this year, the Council will plant out 3.5ha of land opposite Kohunui Marae, with trees bought from the marae’s newly established nursery.

This adds to 4.5ha of Council land planted out last year in the wake of some pine felling.

Others involved in the corridor include Greater Wellington Regional Council, OMV, Kohunui Marae, Ngati Hinewaka, Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa, Rangitane o Wairarapa, Friends of Onoke Spit, Wairarapa Pūkaha to Kawakawa Alliance and DOC.

Paton hopes that the trust will get an extension of funding so that the full vision of the corridor can be completed.

“We have about 38 different plantings across the valley and if we can keep that up, in 10 years’ time things will be starting to look a bit different down there.”

Paton himself has been involved in bush restoration for many years. It started when he began collecting rata seed for land he owned on the edge of the Aorangi Ranges but needed money for fencing, which Project Crimson, a native tree planting charity, provided.

A winemaker, Paton later named one of his leading wines Crimson, as a fundraiser.

Project Crimson went on to set up Trees That Count, an avenue for corporates and individuals to buy trees for willing planters.

Paton is heartened by what he’s seeing. “There is more and more momentum happening in the general population and more and more money coming in for tree planting through various sources. And the farmers, I’ve been impressed with how they’ve taken it on board and they’re making use of it.

“The critical thing was having some leading farmers come on board and that always helps with people thinking, maybe we should be doing this too.”

If you would like to get involved, a community planting day is scheduled for July 29 at Palliser Ridge, planting out some of the 6000 trees given to the trust as part of the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations.

To find out more, contact

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