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Published: 2007-05-24 00:00:00

The Coromandel Peninsula is about to get greener. Literally.

Environment Waikato is trucking 24,000 native plants, which will be used for local conservation projects, into the area this week.

“We are working with farmers on numerous soil conservation projects on the peninsula, many of which involve tree planting,” Environment Waikato land management officer Emily O’Donnell said.

“By purchasing native plants in bulk on behalf of land owners, we can get them good quality trees for very competitive prices, giving them excellent value for money.”

This is the second year Environment Waikato has run the plant offer.

“Forty per cent of the entire region’s order is coming to the Coromandel, so local people can be really proud of their efforts,” Ms O’Donnell said.

“Last year we did 18,000 plants and this year we’ve done 6000 more – that’s a 25 per cent increase – it’s fantastic.”

Most of the plants have been grown from seeds sourced from the Coromandel ecologic region. They will arrive at Environment Waikato’s Whenuakite depot by Friday, ready to be picked up by land owners between May 28 and June 2.

Environment Waikato’s Coromandel councillor Arthur Hinds encouraged peninsula residents who were interested in starting a soil conservation project to call Emily O’Donnell on (07) 866 0172.

“There are so many benefits to planting trees,” he said. “They help to prevent erosion, improve water quality, reduce flood risks and improve biodiversity, as well as adding aesthetic value to your farm.

“If you are interested in getting involved, please do get in touch with us and find out how we can help.”

Native trees boost habitat for rare duck

New Zealand’s rarest mainland duck species is set to benefit from Environment Waikato’s native plant order.

Three and a half thousand plants purchased through Environment Waikato will boost a pateke (brown teal) habitat restoration project in Port Charles.

Led by the Department of Conservation, the project involves six local land owners, including Paul and Daveena Barlow, whose property lies between Port Charles Rd and Port Charles harbour.

“Pateke are not only threatened, they are the fourth rarest duck species in the world,” Environment Waikato land management officer Emily O’Donnell said.

“Their numbers have reduced drastically through habitat loss and predation by cats, dogs, stoats and other animals and they have come very close to extinction.”

The Barlows have already done extensive restoration work in collaboration with Environment Waikato and DOC, fencing and planting five hectares they have put into covenant.

“The whole area would have been a natural flood plain and wetland in pre-European times, but has since been drained and converted to pasture,” Mr Barlow said.

“We’ve reversed that process and turned part of it back into wetland. We can hear the old farmers, who spent their lives converting it to pasture, turning in their graves!”

The Barlows were required to develop a conservation lot when they subdivided their property. However, they have gone well beyond the call of duty, investing hundreds of hours in planting and maintaining thousands of native trees, controlling weeds, mowing access corridors for the pateke and creating ponds for them.

“It’s a pretty labour intensive operation but we do it because we want to do it,” Mr Barlow said.

“The property looks lovely and it improves the value of the land – so it’s not all altruism – but you see these little things swimming around and it’s very rewarding. The ducks use the Tangiaro River and ponds we’ve created as a flock site and last time we were down there we counted about 60 birds.”

DOC programme manager Jason Roxburgh said the breeding success and survival rates of pateke at Port Charles were the best in the country, thanks to the work the Barlows, other land owners and DOC were doing together on private land.

“There are a number of groups working on habitat restoration and pest control in Port Charles and the results have been dramatic,” he said.

“Pest numbers have plummeted and we’re seeing an increase of all sorts of birds, including the banded rail, which were hardly seen until pest control began.”

The Department of Conservation is now considering introducing birds that have been extinct on the mainland for many years into the Moehau-Port Charles area, including the whio (blue duck), kokako, whitehead and North Island robin.