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.

November at Rameka

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.

Bronnie, Olivia, Simon and Hardt celebrate creating a new sitting platform at the entrance to Rameka
Bronnie, Olivia, Simon and Hardt celebrate creating a new sitting platform at the entrance to Rameka

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.

A weka sprints past the fire place at the Lorax Lair
Weka rule at the Lorax Lair

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.

Trapping workshop at Rameka November 2015
Volunteers from Golden Bay gathered at the Totara Car Park for a trapping workshop

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!

Jonathan sets a trap on the 'new' Historic Pack Track.
Jonathan sets a trap on the ‘new’ Historic Pack Track.

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.

Hardt Bergmann stands on a switchback before starting work to make it more rideable, The Odyssey, November 2015
Hardt at the same corner after working on it.
And the finished product – satisfaction plus!

It was a week full of spectacular views, heaps of learning and hard but rewarding  work.

An August Pilgrimage to Rameka

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Contributors express how they really feel about being part of Rameka during an excursion to Farewell Spit.

By August, the necessary funding had been secured and negotiations were well down the track for purchasing the land to add to the Rameka carbon forest. Yeeha! It was time to show everyone what their contributions were going towards.

Jonathan hired a bus and accommodation at a backpackers in Takaka township for a week of exploration and celebration – and the contributors responded in kind. From Christchurch, Mapua, Wellington and Masterton, for one night to seven days, the size of the group ebbed and flowed as work commitments allowed.

We started by meeting in Mapua to help the locals plant a roadside reserve, then after fish and chips at the wharf (in brilliant sunshine of course! What else could you expect from a visit to Mapua?), we continued over the hill for our first sighting of the new-look Rameka.

The next day, Sunday, was totally committed to the land. We planted and explored both the new block and the existing Rameka.

The start of the working week meant that many of the troops had to say goodbye and return to their working lives, but they were replaced by others! Over the rest of the week, we planted more trees – concentrating on rata from Project Crimson this time, worked with neighbours to put in a new waterpipe and cleared some of the historic Rameka pack track on the new block of land.

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Sonja Mitchel and Paul Bruce attack the blackberry and Himalayan honeysuckle with aplomb.It wasn’t easy work, but somehow, Sonja and Paul managed to make it look like a ball!
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One of the easier sections; a zigzag remnant of the original Rameka pack track, originally built in the late 1800s.

And there was even time for exploring the further reaches of the Bay.

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Farewell Spit on a sunny winter’s afternoon