Rameka Turns Ten

Yup, it’s been 10 years – a decade since Barack Obama was first elected President of the United States, promising an environmental programme of alternative-energy for that world super power; a decade since the polar bear was added to the list of ‘threatened’ species, becoming the first animal to do so due to the effects of global warming; a decade since we formed the Rameka carbon forest.

A polar bear (Ursus maritimus) jumps in the fast ice, north Spitsbergen Island, Norway. Credit: Arturo de Frias Marques

What a fitting time to celebrate with a little spruce-up for the project! Last year, Corina Ward suggested we provide visitors to the area with information on the history of Rameka and background to the project. It was a fantastic idea, and we leapt on it. Interpretation panels would give those visitors an opportunity to understand more about the area they were travelling through. And researching the information to go on those panels gave us a greater appreciation for this well-loved area.

Many thanks for their help in gathering information and photos go to: Cliff Turley, author of Rocks and Hard Places: The Takaka Hill; long-time Golden Bay resident Skeet Barnett; fourth-generation local farmer Dave Edmondson; the Golden Bay museum; interns Alex Delhagen and Orion Dick-Neal (who did the initial research); Paul Kennett (creator of the maps) Jonathan Kennett (for pulling the whole thing together and writing the narrative) and the many, many others who provided valuable feedback on multiple drafts.

Come November this year, new interpretation boards were ready and waiting to go in at each entrance, and some new volunteers were keen to come across from the North Island to help put them in place.

From left: Robbie Fyfe, Dhara Knight, Penny Kennett and Bronnie Wall settle in at the Lorax Lair.

Richard Green, his son Yoshi and friend Charlie Bowker had already prepared some really smart boards to go up at each of the hubs around the project – and had even dug the holes and installed the first one at the top site!

Richard and Yoshi get ready to add the interpretation information at the top board.

The other boards went up at: The Forks:

Richard, Yoshi, Penny and Jonathan Kennett can be thanked for getting this board in the right place at the Forks.

the mill site:

Richard, Yoshi and Jonathan make quick work of the interpretation board added at the Mill Site.

and the bottom of the historic Rameka track:

Dhara Knight keeps an eye on some suspicious-looking characters at the bottom interpretation board … or maybe they’re keeping an eye or six on her!

Each board comprises six panels. The top three are the same for all four boards and include a map, details about the surrounding tracks and information on the Rameka supporters. The three bottom panels are different on each board, providing details that range from the history of sheep farming and timber milling in the area to as much as we could find out about the original track formation in the late 1800s, old maps of the area and a timeline dating back to the 1860s.

So, next time you head through the project, give yourself time to pause and have a gander at the interpretation boards. I suspect you’ll be impressed.

In 2018, many of Barack Obama’s initiatives have been rescinded and the fate of the polar bear continues to teeter as the effects of climate change march on, but here at the Rameka Carbon Forest, thousands of trees have been planted, three primo tracks have been opened, the bird and native plant life is flourishing, and good things are on the up and up.

Golden Bay from the historic Rameka track – a view to inspire the soul

Nicole Benkert reflects on the August tree planting

On Wednesday, 29 August 2018, I went back to work after a long weekend planting trees in Golden Bay as part of project Rameka. In my head, I could still feel the earth between my fingers.

Nicole, Jonathan, Sonja, Bronnie, Kate and Perrine take a well-earned lunch break during the Saturday planting session.

Turns out planting trees with a group of caring, like-minded people doesn’t really feel like work at all. The weather – glorious as it often is in Golden Bay (at least in summer) – helped of course. We planted over 300 trees and still had plenty of spare time to have a look around, play games and share food over long conversations.

The views from the historic Rameka track are to die for …

This was the first time I met Jonathan and Bronwen, the creators of Project Rameka.

Jonathan carries a miro and a rimu to their new homes.
Bronnie pretends to be digging diligently.
Archie, Amy and Ruby take a well-deserved break from the planting to contemplate their efforts.

Over the weekend, I learnt how it all started and came away inspired and in awe. Setting up and running a project like this takes courage, persistence and commitment, and Jonathan and Bronnie do it with a spirit of care, humbleness and community-mindedness. I met two locals involved with the project, Matt and Paul, both of who were knowledgeable and committed to the project – I’m glad I met them.

Matt Shoult shows the team around the project.
Paul Kilgour and Andy Cole discuss the finer points of planting at Rameka during their lunch break on the Sunday planting.

I also gained at least two important insights into tree-planting:

1. Planting makomako (wineberry) creates a canopy and shelter that permits other trees, such as rimu, to grow up underneath

2. The forest will regenerate itself when weeds and pests are kept under control (easy as, I say – thanks, Matt!).

Matt stands next to a rare Melicytus obovatus species that he discovered on the project – a very exciting find!

I hope to be back next year 🙂

Nicole Benkert gets her hands into the earth at Rameka.

Nicole

Another 490 plants in the ground at the Rameka Carbon Forest this August

A jubilant planting group at Rameka in August.
The euphoria of a good planting session finally gets to … some, but not all … the planters at August’s planting session. From left to right: Andrew McLellan, Geoff Plimmer, Ricky Ward, Bronnie Wall, Paul Kilgour, Kate Potter, Ann-Louise Metcalfe, Karyn Burgess, Marie Langley and Martin Langley.

200 flaxes, 200 pittos, 40 rata, 25 griselinia, 25 others were planted in August at a well-attended working bee where locals and people travelling from outside the bay were joined by Robyn, Tom and Martin from QE II Trust.

Andrew McLellan installs the first QEII covenant sign at the top of the project, while QEII rep Tom Stein looks on.

Together we put up our new QEII covenant signs and walked the recently cleared historic track.

Simon Johnson and Paul Kilgour study the breathtaking view from the Historic Rameka Pack Track.

The views from the track are just fabulous, and it was agreed that the locals who cleared the top half are legends!!!  Looking forward to the next working bee at the project on 18/19 November where the aim is make progress on  preparing the track to reach Grade 3 standard.

Protecting the Land for Good

When we raised funds in order to purchase the additional land at Project Rameka, we said to our generous supporters that we would protect that land.

18 months later, the Rameka Forest Restoration Charitable Trust has honoured that commitment by putting 91 ha of Project Rameka under a QEII National Trust Open Space Covenant.

Liz, Bronnie and Jonathan discuss QEII covenant options with rep Tom Stein at the base of the Rameka carbon forest.

A QEII Open Space Covenant protects the land in perpetuity and ensures its current, and future, owners manage the land in a way that protects its natural values.

Negotiating the covenant with the QEII National Trust involved recognising the uniqueness of Project Rameka being a carbon forest that provides riding, running and walking opportunities for the public.

So we and any future owners of the land are required to manage the land by:

  • protecting and enhancing the native flora and fauna
  • enhancing the land as a source of carbon dioxide sequestration
  • allowing non-motorised recreational activity.

Does this mean anything changes in how we currently manage the land? Not hugely, since so much of what we do is already aligned with the covenant’s purpose. But some things might take a little longer to achieve. For example, if we want to build any new tracks or plant exotic trees, we have to first work with the good folks at the QEII National Trust to decide how that would fit with the covenant aims.

But that is a small price to protect the land for good.

Bridge over Troubled Waters

And so it has happened. After more than a year of sorting through building consents and engineering requirements, no more wet toes, ankles … thighs …

The Rameka Creek in flood
It doesn’t happen often, but when the Rameka Creek gets it into its head to flood, it can REALLY go to town.

The bridge over the Rameka Creek to Great Expectations has been built!

The actual building only took nine days. But those were nine totally full-on days.

Many more people were involved than are shown in this selection of photos. And to everyone who helped out – many, many thanks and big thumbs up to all of you.

So, here’s a taste of the action that took place over the week:

First up was measuring out exactly where the bridge needed to go …

Ricky Ward on the Great Expectations side of the bridge site.
Ricky Ward checks that everything lines up true for the bridge across Rameka Creek.

Then it was a case of digging ….

Phil Castle in a foundation trench for the bridge
Caver Phil Castle is back in his element – digging into the earth as he helps prepare the foundations trench on the bridge site.

And pumping …

Corina in the trenches
Corina Ward helps pump water from the trench.

And digging – did we mention digging?

Brian Sowman and Andrew XX dig deep
Brian Sowman and Andrew Smith knuckle in for just a bit more digging.

Measuring, sorting and sawing timber …

Andy Cole on site at the Rameka Creek bridge build
Andy Cole gets into the swing of things at the old mill site next to the creek.

But there was still a bit of time to stand back and assess exactly what it was we were doing.

Martin on bank
Martin Langley keeps calm and smiles his way through all the hustle and bustle of bridge prep.

And then it was time for the concrete to be poured for the foundations.

Tuesday, the concrete pouring day.
Richard Green arrived with the concrete for the foundations on a brilliant morning – perfect for setting.

Then first the piles and later the beams were lifted into place …

A crane lifts the first 12-metre beam from the mill site.
Friday was a wet day, but the 12-metre-long beams got lifted into place anyway.

And after that, it was a case of all hands on deck as volunteers came flocking to help hammer, saw, measure, grease, measure, saw, and measure again, bolt, hammer, dig … all the usual things one does to put a bridge in place.

EVan Mccarney bolted the beams in place.
Evan McCarney said this was the hardest holiday he’d ever had. Most of us agreed.
Damien and Zac Stone prepare the track to the bridge.
Damian Stones and his son Zac prepared an awesome track to the bridge.
David and Robin
David Bennett and Robin Dawson measured twice and cut only once to get all the decking timber exactly to size.
Weekend volunteer work on the bridge
The weekend round-up involved finishing the retaining wall at the base of Great Expectations, building a ramp to the other side of the bridge and putting in place the decking and then handrails.
Stuart Palmer and Karyn Burgess grovelled to get a handrail in place for the ramp onto the bridge.
Stuart Palmer and Karyn Burgess worked hard to sort out a handrail for the ramp onto the bridge – and it wasn’t easy!
Andrew McLellan, Brett Whiley and Helen Spring worked hard on the bridge build.
Andrew McLellan treated the sawed timber ends while Brett Whiteley and Helen Spring worked on the bridge decking.

And finally the bridge was complete … Ta-daaa!

Fil Burgess completes the staining on the bridge handrails.
Fil and Albie Burgers put the final touches of stain to the bridge across the River Rameka.