Conservation Volunteers

November 2013

A farmer is conserving historic sites on their farm with the help of volunteers

Robyn and Paul Gedye’s 36ha property is called Bluff Farm, and it is owned by their Te Ia Trust. They have a 1km boundary with the Waikato River, and the property also has two historic sites, one is the Bluff Stockade, the other a pa site. They are restoring the property to its natural state of kahikatea forest with the help of conservation volunteers.

The Te Ia Landing, which is on the next door property was used in the 1860’s for people landing boats to go to the Bluff Stockade.

The Gedye’s property was one large paddock when they moved here in 1996. It had no internal fences and had never been surveyed. They started putting fences in because their stock were starting to knock the bush around, however in the previous 80 years the land had never been over-stocked.

There are some stands of really nice established kahikatea which are more than 120 years old. Two thirds of the trees are 60-80 years old.

In 2002 they began covenanting blocks with the QEII National Trust and since then, have added to the initial river covenant with a wetland covenant. Now 22 of the 36ha are covenanted. The covenanted area is described as “an acutely threatened land environment” with wetland, kahikatea forest, a bush gully stream and regenerating lowland forest.

Nurseryman Wayne Bennett who specializes in eco-sourcing, collects kahikatea seed here, grows trees and brings them back as large trees for planting. “These trees come from kahikatea on this property, and we are putting them back in. Little trees would just get swamped by the weeds and by the flooding.” Robyn says “Wayne explained that there are very few areas of this size on the river that are protected and which have such a diverse environment. With our help over time the land will turn back to its original condition.”

They have planted one part of the covenant with kahikatea, cabbage trees and flaxes, which are the only species which can survive a flood.

Weeds are a big problem here: willows, tradescantia, yellow iris, woolly nightshade (nearly all gone), Royal fern, Japanese and Himalayan honeysuckle, and pampas which is less of a problem. There are also wilding pines.

Robyn was successful in receiving a $57,000 grant from the Biodiversity Condition Fund to help with three years of weed control and restoration plantings.

DOC says this project will improve the native habitat in the covenant and contribute to Environment Waikato’s Rivercare programme.

But Robyn explains that while she had the grant from the Biodiversity Condition Fund she needed to get people to help her plant the trees. “I contacted the Conservation Volunteer people, and they sent me out people for the day. We’ve had about half a dozen days with volunteers here. Then we had one week-long group, all kids from overseas, and another group is due at the end of May.”

They have helped with weed control, clearing land for planting and doing the planting. Environment Waikato has helped as part of a Rivercare programme.

Apart from Wayne, who collects a diverse range of seeds here, other people including nurseries and educational institutions such as Manakau Tech bring students to collect seeds.

There are several rare and uncommon species here including swamp astelia which is now rare in the wild in Auckland forest swamps.

“We also have two swamp maire and heaps of mature milk trees. Pukatea and taraire also grow here. There are weeds everywhere but it is more of a bush with some weeds than a large patch of weeds with some bush.”

Apart from the covenanted bush areas, they have 2ha of land set aside for growing truffle trees and for mushroom trees.

And with all the bush and trees they don’t have much grazing left, so they run a handful of Lowline Angus cattle and a few alpacas.

Robyn says the work in restoring the riverside property is amazingly satisfying and she loves seeing new trees coming through in areas where they have not regenerated before.