Project Rameka Annual Report 2022

We’ve often described Project Rameka as a local solution to a global problem. The problem started with the industrial age and a new era in human civilisation that has been fuelled by burning an ever-increasing amount of fossil fuels. And our local solution – Project Rameka – started in May 2008 when Bronnie Wall and I bought 48 hectares of land in the Rameka Valley to create a carbon sink.

Project Rameka has grown since then: the area of land, the size of the trees, the number of native species. The track network has grown, too, and there are now 10 km of trails used by runners, walkers and mountain bikers every day.

But this track network is not only used for exercise. The local inhabitants are very lucky that the tracks are also regularly visited by kaitiaki or guardians. These guardians protect and enhance the environment at Rameka. They travel the length of the project, trapping introduced predators such as stoats and rats. They also control invasive weeds, like old man’s beard and banana passionfruit, which would otherwise smother native trees, and release young seedlings too. This important work has allowed native species at Rameka to recover and, in some cases, thrive.

Here is a snippet of a heartwarming report from two of these guardians – Fil and Albie Burgers – written on a hot afternoon just a few days before Christmas. After rebaiting all their stoat traps, they sent us an update, writing:

“We caught NOTHING, ZILTCH, ZERO. Plenty of birdsong, the usual riroriro [grey warbler], Californian quail, weka, a kereru, piwakawaka, korimako and several tui. There’s a favourite spot where we stop for a cuppa – the point where Great Expectations first emerges from the pines and there are beaut views across to Farewell Spit. We used to call it “Rat Corner” and set up five traps pretty close to each other as there was a plague of rats there. However, we haven’t caught any rats there for months and almost always see at least one tui there, very likely nesting nearby, so it’s now called “Tui Terrace”.”

Paul Kilgour (author of the memoir Gone Bush) is another stalwart trapper and often sends in reports of kea, weka, and kōmiromiro (tomtits) entertaining him, along with other animals such as mountain bikers and runners, who are having fun and enjoying the regenerating forest at Rameka.

Most of the traps have been replaced over the last year, thanks to GB MENZSHED and funds from the Ramaka Trust. The Trust earns money each year from the sale of carbon credits via EKOS, and many of these credits are actually sold to Golden Bay businesses who want to be carbon neutral and are keen to support a local project like ours.

“It’s all we’ve dreamed of” is how our pest control officer, Matt Shoult, recently described the progress at Rameka. Matt is paid to work two days a week at the project, dealing mostly to possums, pigs and invasive weeds. The results are impressive, and Matt easily reels off a long list of the birds he’s seen at Rameka, which include kea ripping into pine trunks for grubs and inquisitive weka stalking him all over the project. Matt also runs through a list of seedlings he’s spotted sprouting on the forest floor: toro, marble leaf, kaikōmako, mātai, kahikatea, porokaiwhiri (pigeonwood), lacebark and tōtara.

In some areas, however, long grass is too thick for native seedlings to push through, and they can’t get established. So, every year, we target an area for tree planting. Last August, 40 volunteers planted 1,000 trees, and the weather has been so favourable that virtually all those seedlings have survived – and thrived. The most common trees we put in the ground are puahou (five finger), akeake, makamako (wineberry), beech, toro and pittosporums. We also add in a few climax species, like rimu and miro, which live for centuries.

Looking ahead, the plan is to plant out the rest of the grassy areas, although some of these are extremely exposed. Our tactics will have to be well thought out, using the toughest species and tucking them in behind the shelter offered by previous years trees. This plan is likely to take another 10 years and 10,000 trees.

We will also need to keep on top of pest control, using the tools we have (DOC200 traps and bait stations) until more effective technologies emerge. Villains such as stoats, rats and possums would reinvade Rameka in a flash if we let our defenses down.

But right now, the local picture is looking great and is well supported by neighbouring initiatives such as Project Janszoon in Abel Tasman National Park and Project De-Vine controlling old man’s beard on a large farm opposite Rameka.

A global perspective

The global response to climate change has not been so effective. Earlier this month, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its sixth report on the state of the global climate. The report made it clear that without urgent reductions in greenhouse emissions across all sectors, limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius will not be possible.

Current commitments made by governments of the world put us on track to reach 3.2 degrees Celsius by the end of century. In Aotearoa, that means a lot more droughts and wildfires in the east and a lot more floods and landslides, especially in the west. We will lose all our glaciers, and rising seas combined with more extreme storms will cause unprecedented coastal erosion. Understandably, scientists are becoming more and more frustrated at the lack of action.

The general message is that this is a ‘now or never’ moment. We are at a critical point in history, but it is not too late to take action. We can halve our emissions by 2030, but it will take more commitment from everyone at every level – individuals, businesses and governments.  

These IPCC reports are a compilation of thousands of scientific reports on all aspects of the environment, with contributions from around the world. They have been issued since 1990 and explain the science of climate change, as well as offering advice to policy makers on how to solve the problems we face.

Without a doubt, we are facing massive changes. If we don’t slash global emissions, then the changes will be forced upon us by extreme weather events, rising seas and ocean acidification, causing disruption to our civilisations and the ecosystems we depend on. Alternatively, we can face the challenge head on and change the systems that run our civilisations on our terms to proactively reduce our emissions and then adapt to the changes that are inevitable.

You can read the reports and summaries from the IPCC here at: www.ipcc.ch

Other rock-solid sources of information are NASA and New Zealand’s Royal Society Te Apārangi.

Looking ahead, locally

Meanwhile, back in Golden Bay, we can continue improving a small slice of paradise by planting trees and controlling invasive pests and enjoying the unique native animals and fun tracks.

In the last week of August (21–27), we invite you to join us to plant another 1,000 native trees.

We continue to receive generous donations, which pay for the trees we plant and the tools and traps that are needed for regular pest control and track work.

Last year, we also received a bequest from Margaret Cahill. Margaret lived up in Kerikeri and spent much of her life working as a teacher and then as a children’s book publisher. She never managed to visit Rameka, but she supported the project from afar. We intend to use Margaret’s gift to plant some trees and build another small sleeping pod for visiting volunteers. We have also commissioned local artist Jocelynne Bacci to make a sculpture of a kārearea, to be installed in Spring. This sculpture acknowledges Margaret’s love of native wildlife. The kārearea is a striking falcon once commonly found nesting in the bluffs of Rameka. We hope the efforts at Rameka can encourage it back.

The most important function of Rameka – carbon sequestration – is invisible. Every year, over 1,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide are silently sucked out of the atmosphere by the trees growing at Rameka. That’s the same amount as is emitted by driving a medium-sized car 5,000,000 km: trees really are awesome. In fact, our lives and the lives of all land-based species depend on trees.

With this in mind, I would like to acknowledge and thank the Rameka committee: Amy Thornborrow (secretary), Corina Ward (treasurer), Matt Shoult (pest control officer), Ricky Ward (multi-talented builder, fixer, weeder, etc), Paul Michell (Quiet Revolution Cycle Shop) and Bronnie Wall (organiser and blogger). These people are essential to Project Rameka, and I really don’t know what we would do without such a great committee. Thankfully, they have all agreed to stand for another year.

We expect that until the pandemic has fully passed it will be ‘steady as she goes’ at Rameka. If you have any questions or ideas that you would like raised at the AGM on Friday 6 May, please let us know, or pop along and see us in person. The AGM will be at the Senior Citizens Hall in Takaka, starting 7pm. We also hope to hear from other cycling groups in Golden Bay at the AGM.

All the best,

Jonathan Kennett

Project Rameka Incorporated Society Chair

Tandeming to a conservation vacation

It was November and time to get fit, so Jonathan and Bronnie decided to try a new way of getting to and from Rameka – by tandem power!

After catching a ferry across Cook Strait, they biked around Queen Charlotte Drive and over the mighty Mangatapu Saddle.

The route via Maungatapu Saddle might be 10 km shorter than the highway, but at 740 metres elevation, you can understand why it isn’t the main road. The downhill was steep and rocky in places – and it was a blast!

After a long day, we were ready for an early night, and a similarly early start the next day. We wanted to ride the highway to Motueka before the traffic built up. So we left at 6 am, while most drivers are still in bed.

Once at Totaranui, it was only a 2-hour ride to Takaka for lunch, before the final 10-km push up to Rameka. By then, it was raining solidly, and the thought of another early night was quite tempting.

The next day, the rain had cleared and our first task was to weed the trees that were planted in memory of Martin Langley in 2019. They ranged from only 30 cm short to 2 metres tall. Fivefinger was doing best, followed by ake ake in the open and wineberry if it had some shelter. Kapuka was struggling for some reason. Maybe the slope doesn’t get enough sun. We will weed them for another few seasons and see if they start growing.

We also spent time planning new projects, such as fencing off deep tomo beside the track, choosing a site for a sculpture and planning where a new sleeping pod could go – we might put it on temporary wheels so it can be moved around. Extending the sleeping options at Rameka will make it a whole lot easier for people to join us on our trips across.

After four days, which included more weeding and a committee meeting, we headed back via the Rameka Track, Canaan Downs and Nelson.

Our eight-day holiday was half riding half conservation work – a very satisfying balance!

One week in September – 1,000 trees planted

1,000 trees were safely planted in September 2021. It was a bit stressful this time, as COVID lockdowns meant that our trip, which is usually in August, was delayed by a few weeks.

A big thanks to the following tree planters:

Alison, Grant, Karen, Chris, Bob, Bronnie, Jonathan, Richard, Nicole, Geoff, James, Ann-Louise, Maryann, Jeff, Marilyn, Katie, Claire, Stuart, Andrew, Evan, John, Winnie, Mike, Terry, Merryn, Rosa, Felix, Amy, Ruby, Archie, Ricky, Corina, Paul, Greg, Fil, Albie and two-man Josh.

Many hands really do make light work.

Also a big thanks to those who have made donations from afar to help pay for the trees, tree guards and ongoing tree care. This project is sequestering more than 1,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.

Celebrating Our Volunteers

We often talk about the great people who volunteer at Rameka. Three of the most enduring must be our stoat and rat trappers, Fill and Albie Burgers and Paul Kilgour.

Emails arrive in our inboxes on a regularly basis, updating us on what these three have been up to. Their thoughtful messages fill us with visions of Rameka and sudden hankerings to be away from our desks and back on the land. Here’s an example from Albie and Fill of one of their latest wanders around the block.

“Hello All,
We checked the Great Expectations, Boundary & Odyssey traplines
yesterday, 22 December. A hot day, 30 degrees, and we were happy to
splash in a very shallow pool at the bottom of the Odyssey at the end of
trapping run.
Rebaited stoat traps on GX and B1 to B6 with white bantam eggs (thanks
to our friends, Hennie and Brian, who sometimes have spare eggs for us
and appreciate us trapping). Rebaited the remaining stoat traps with
erayz.  Rebaited all the rat traps with peanut butter.

Caught NOTHING, ZILTCH, ZERO

Plenty of birdsong, the usual riroriro, californian quail, weka, a
kereru, piwakawaka, korimako and several tui. There’s a favourite spot
where we stop for a cuppa – the point where Great Expectations first
emerges from the pines and there are beaut views across to Farewell
Spit. We used to call it “Rat Corner” and set up five traps pretty close
to each other as there was a plague of rats there. However, we haven’t
caught any rats there for months and almost always see at least one tui
there, very likely nesting nearby, so it’s now called “Tui Terrace”.

We had a happy encounter with a juvenile korimako in flax flowers near
the top gate. It then flitted to a nearby flowering rata, one of the
first lot planted. Joy! Another rata near the Lair is flowering
stunningly, too. Also saw a Cinnabar moth fluttering about as we sat at
the cafe/station at the top of the project. Have only previously seen them up the Cobb, sitting with wings folded and not doing much. Interesting that they were introduced into New Zealand to control ragwort.

All the best for Christmas and the New Year
Albie and Fill”

Fill and Albie at the Lorax Lair in November 2021

See what I mean?

Thanks Albie, Fill and Paul for all the great work.

May Regrouping at Rameka

May marks a significant anniversary for Rameka. It’s when the project first kicked off way back in 2008 and is generally the time for the Rameka AGM. Last year’s was delayed until September because of COVID, so only eight months on and it was time for another reflection on how the project is going. And so? In a nutshell, the Rameka carbon forest is going bloomin’ awesomely!

Of course, a trip to Rameka is never just about one thing. Jonathan (as the chair of the Rameka Incorporated Society) and Bronnie went across for six days, and spent the week of sunny days catching up with Rameka and the locals – of both the human and non-human varieties.

And it kicked off with a workparty to tidy up the start of the historic Rameka track from the Rameka cafe towards the pines.

Bronnie and Corrina showing how it’s done on the upper Historic Rameka track
Amy Thornborrow and her son Archie got stuck in to make the tracker easier to ride. They were having way too much fun for the job.
Marie Langley showed impressive form by walking up from the totara car park … and then walking back down again afterwards – a total of 10 km of walking not to mention the digging!
Ricky Ward, looking very happy with his section!
Jonathan took his time and was extra fussy with his section.
Bruce ‘the powerhouse’ Chick turned up, even though he’d just blasted through the Heaphy the day before and was absolutely trashed from that.
One of the things we like about this photos is all the trees beside the track were planted and are thriving now. They took a few years to get going though.
Here is Project Rameka secretary Amy Thornborrow test riding the section of track that we’d spent the morning rejuvinating.

But the week wasn’t just about the tracks. There was also a bit of time dedicated to checking in on tree plantings – weeding around little seedlings that had been swamped with rank grass and removing plant guards from trees that had shot up and away and no longer needed protecting.

When Ginny Woods rode Tour Aotearoa in 2016, she decided to use the opportunity to raise money for trees to go in on various projects around the Nelson Tasman area where she lived. At Rameka, we planted most of the trees Ginny donated in the area shown below, and as you can see, they are thriving. If Ginny were still with us, we’re sure she would be happy to see her small forest claimed by fantail, weka and robin.

Wineberry, mahoe and pittosporum were the packhorses planted in this area. Their rapid growth will help support the slower-growing natives, such as hinau and rimu that are tucked in amongst them.

Jonathan and Bronnie also spent time with pest control officer Matt Shoult, sorting out areas for the spring planting at the end of August. This year, we’ll be aiming to get back into a site that was damaged by a landslip after heavy rain many years ago. It’ll be good to get some plants in the scruffy bracken-filled area.

The weather continued to play ball and was warm enough to re-stain most of the Rameka Creek bridge – something that we need to do fairly regularly to keep the bridge in good condition.

Without traps and trappers, the stoats, weasels and rats would thrive. Instead, it is the weka, fantails, robin and ghecko that are thriving, and that’s in no small part to our diligent team of trappers Paul Kilgour and Fill and Albie Burgers. Jonathan and Bronnie spent an afternoon in the Burgers’ wonderful shed helping repair tired old traps. Fill and Albie will take the traps back up to the project next time they do their rounds.

Here are Fill and Albie Burgers and Jonathan repairing traps before taking them back into the hills.

We’ll be back in August for tree planting. Can’t wait!