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.
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.
This was the first time I met Jonathan and Bronwen, the creators of Project Rameka.
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.
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!).
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.
Together we put up our new QEII covenant signs and walked the recently cleared historic 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.
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.
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.
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 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 …
Then it was a case of digging ….
And pumping …
And digging – did we mention digging?
Measuring, sorting and sawing timber …
But there was still a bit of time to stand back and assess exactly what it was we were doing.
And then it was time for the concrete to be poured for the foundations.
Then first the piles and later the beams were lifted into place …
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.
In the first week of November 2015, Jonathan, Bronnie and Simon Johnson headed down to Rameka with this year’s American interns from the HECUA New Zealand programme – Olivia Thorp and Hardt Bergmann. The agenda was to:
release the trees planted in August
take part in the DOC Conservation Week trapping workshop
tidy up a couple of unrideable corners on The Odyssey
clean up Great Expectations.
And time was built in to show our US visitors the highlights of the Bay.
This was the first time Olivia and Hardt had been to New Zealand and probably the first time they’d spent any time taking care of a forest restoration project. We asked them to share their thoughts:
Hardt and I spent seven tiring but adventurous days in Rameka Carbon Forest with Jonathan Kennett, Bronwen Wall, and Simon Johnson. On Saturday, we packed ourselves along with a week’s worth of supplies, tools, and traps into Jonathan’s tiny Ford Mondeo and made our way up to the Lorax Lair at the top of the hill.
We quickly grew to love this place and its quirky features, especially the wood-fired bathtub on the edge of the hill. Built by locals who often visit the lair, it was a great way to unwind after a hard day’s work!
Our first full day out we participated in a trapping workshop run by DOC, along with many other locals from the Golden Bay area to discuss pest control, particularly of possums, rats, and stoats.
After the workshop, about 15 volunteers headed up to clear 150m of the severely overgrown original historic Rameka Track. This track was built in the 1890s as an access route between Takaka and Tasman Bay. Once the main road was built, the pack track was pretty much abandoned, sections fell into disrepair and over time disappeared beneath plant growth. We aimed to change that!
We spent the next several days setting up traps for possums in hopes of helping the native flora and fauna to flourish.
When we weren’t setting up traps, we were weeding around the native trees Bronnie, Jonathan, Simon, and others had planted the year before or working on the Odyssey and Great Expectations tracks, the two mountain bike tracks that run through Rameka. This work involved clearing overgrown trees and tidying up a particularly rough switchback to make it more rideable.
It was a week full of spectacular views, heaps of learning and hard but rewarding work.