Parker’s conservation vacation

Hello! My name is Parker Geho.  I am an American student studying abroad here in New Zealand, learning about sustainability, culture and the environment. I had the honour of travelling to Takaka and staying at the Lorax Lair in Project Rameka for five days. Here are a few highlights of my time at Rameka!

Work Party

On Sunday April 22nd a work party was formed to fix up the forks/hub area of The Odyssey, Great Expectations, and the Historic Track. We had to realign the start of almost every track and because we had over a dozen people, we were also able to get about 200 meters of The Odyssey finished, making it completely ridable! It was a helluva a day of work but a whole lot of community building fun! Here are a few pictures showcasing people, work, and just my appreciation of the beauty of this place.

This is a simple picture I took that day when I decided to look upwards. It is so easy to forget to look up when work is always down, but stopping for a second and viewing the world from a different perspective always help to keep energy up.

It was an exciting moment when the long-lost see-saw was uncovered from fallen trees completely intact. This also shows how clear the track is. It was all dense bush beforehand. (Don’t worry, nothing important was dug up).

This is Ricky, still full of energy, even after doing more work than I thought a human was capable of. His attitude and appetite to help really got things moving on getting work done. He even came back a couple of days later with a chainsaw to take care of some pesky trees that were blocking the start of the Historic Track and Great Expectations.

After the work party, we had a very nice time roasting chestnuts. A fantastic way to end the day!

A Nice Walkaround

Simply strolling around Project Rameka the scenery is breathtaking, even if many of the views that were here previously have now been covered by trees that are too tall to see over. In fact, that is a great thing.

This is just one of my favorite views from walking around the property. You can see the amazing foliage coming in on each hill. The hills just seem to keep rolling infinitely from here. I don’t get views like this at home in the flat plain that is called Ohio!

Sorry for the poor image quality, but what is in this image is just too cool not to talk about! During a walking tour that Matt kindly gave me, Bronwen, Simon Johnson, and Jonathan he showed us a bunch of tomos. The one in the image is about 20 metres deep, but another one knows no end! You can drop a pinecone down it and never even hear it hit the bottom! I theorize that this is where bigfoot has gone, along with a few Moa of course. We also learned a lot about the property on that walk, with historic stone fences, Rameka’s only pond/mud pit, and places where once rampant weeds have been brought under control.

Some Tree Weeding

A lot of my time here was spent taking care of last year’s tree plantings, making sure that they won’t get overrun by grass, gorse, thistles, and other horrid weeds. It was extremely satisfying.

Here you can see a wild Bronnie and Simon just ahead of me, tramping towards the planting site of 2017. It was beautiful weather, with hardly a cloud in the sky every day. It took some time but we cleaned up every single tree down at this site. They had about a 90% survival rate! But damn! Look how BEAUTIFUL it is here.

The Lorax Lair

The Lorax Lair is a fantastically homey place to be. With fires at night, good conversations (especially when chopping food for dinner. I’m looking at you Paul!) and an outdoor bathtub, what more could a person ask for?

At the start of the trip we cleared out the little access path as best we could from fallen trees in the bush around the Lair, giving us plenty of firewood for our stay. But with plenty of wood comes plenty of chopping which happily became my job when cleaning up at the end of the trip. What a great simple life can be led here. Whoever comes next has backlogs for days!

A Little Town Called Takaka

On our first day in town we stopped at the good old fresh choice. It was here that I realized I would love this town. I got complimented on my hair twice within five minutes of being here which happened a total of 0 times back in Wellington! (I got up to 6 compliments throughout my time here how dope is that?)

Takaka has some gorgeous architecture for such a small town. This church especially stuck out to me!

My proudest, most aesthetically pleasing sheep pic was also taken here, just inside town! Classic New Zealand.

The artwork around town was my favourite part of this place. There are a bunch of paintings, murals, and amazingly coloured buildings around town. Every single one of them is beautiful and tells its own story. It really makes the town stick out in the best way.

I already miss this small town. The relaxed atmosphere and hippie vibes were a fascinating mixture that felt really great to be around. Everyone here greets you with a smile on their face even if your hair is blue!

Farewell for Now

I am grateful for this experience and opportunity. I must thank Jonathan, Simon, and Bronwen for taking me to such a fantastic place with such great culture! I hope to be back again someday to help with some more tree releasing. Hopefully many of the trees I helped with this year, will be over my head by then.

 

Parker Geho, April 2018

Rediscovering Rameka’s Historic Bridle Track

During the week of November 13th 2017 I headed down to Takaka with my buddy Orion and two Project Rameka trustees, Stuart and Karyn, to lend our track building skills to the effort to reopen the historic Rameka Track. Orion and I came to New Zealand from America as part of a study abroad program, and have been working for Jonathan Kennett in Wellington for the past two months or so.

Two fierce track builders, Orion (left) and Alex (right)

The primary objective of our trip was to uncover the historic track, which had been built in the 1890s as a bridle path for mustering sheep, but has been overgrown for more than 50 years. We also hoped to release trees planted during previous work parties and collect information from locals to be used for interpretive panels we’re in the process of creating.

Track building master Hamish Seaton hard at work

We arrived Tuesday evening, and Orion and I set up camp in the Lorax Lair, a small wooden hut built for volunteers. We were struck by the remoteness of the location, but soon came to enjoy the simplicity of life up there.

Watch out for tomo!
Orion doing battle with a barberry stump

During the rest of the week we spent time working on the track with our grubbers, digging out roots and stumps and smoothing out the gradient. We also attended a meeting of the Project Rameka Incorporated Society and heard about the status of the land and plans for its future.

A track with a view
Locals lending a hand

Over the weekend we participated in the community work party, and I was amazed by the support and enthusiasm of the locals and the incredible progress we managed to make. It’s hard to recall all the names, but from memory there was: Paul, Darren, Emma, Jason, Pete, Tamsin, Linwood, Brian, Mandy, Kea, Frazer, Kerry, Daphne, Chris, Jill, Martin, Marie, Hernan, Annie, Glenda, Mark, Jonathan, Bronnie, Stuart, Ricky, Corina, Ginny, Karl, Steve, Hamish, Georgie, Archie and Brady!

With nearly 30 people showing up each day, we uncovered around 3 kilometres of the old track and built a handful of switchbacks. Not too shabby!

A perfect switchback!

In our free time we headed down to a local swimming hole to test out the cliff jumps and rope swings, tossed a frisbee around at camp, and spent the nights gazing up at the star-filled sky. Our time in Rameka is one of the highlights of my time in New Zealand, and something I’ll remember for years to come!

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.