Hut, Forest, Planet

“As kids we were bought up to leave a place better than when we arrived.” says Brett.

Whether it be tidying a tramping hut, filling a wood shed or picking up rubbish on a beach, it’s an outdoors etiquette that most Kiwis follow. That’s partly why New Zealand is such a beautiful country.

“Now we’re looking at the big picture,” Brett says. “To leave the world a better place.”

So it’s natural that Brett Whiteley and Helen Spring would turn their attention to climate change, because the climate has such an impact on the outdoors they love, particularly the snowy mountains and glaciers, our coastlines and rivers.

“The bush is a peaceful place where other worries sort of go away. So we want to support a local project,” explains Brett, “to give back to something local.”

Brett and Helen often mountain bike through Project Rameka to Takaka in Golden Bay. The forest there is owned by a charitable trust for the purpose of growing trees to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. And it now has three popular tracks through it that were built by volunteers.

But the trust recognised that the forest offered even more potential. It entered the forest into the Permanent Forest Sink Initiative (PFSI). As part of the deal, the trust has agreed with the government to grow trees to absorb carbon dioxide and never log the forest. In return, the government gives the trust carbon credits, which it can sell.

The charitable trust sometimes sells carbon credits to people like Brett and Helen so that they can offset their carbon footprint. Here’s how it works.

Brett went to an online carbon calculator and worked out his carbon footprint for the last year. “It was really simple to do. Once I found the calculator, it only took half an hour.”

Their footprint was only 8 tonnes, which is pretty good.

Then Brett approached Jonathan from Rameka Charitable Trust to cancel 8 tonnes of carbon credits, which cost $200 ($25/tonne).

That then meant that Brett and Helen were carbon neutral for the year. Awesome!
But it gets even better than that.

The charitable trust doesn’t have any management costs (and the government doesn’t charge any kind of tax on the transaction as it wants to encourage New Zealand to meet its international climate agreement targets).

So the trust puts all income from carbon credit sales back into the project. 100% of Brett and Helen’s $200 will be used to enhance the forest at Rameka by looking after trees and controlling pests.

But Brett and Helen went even further. They decided that they wanted something tangible to show for their efforts to ‘give back’. So they decided that they would buy a tree for every report written for Brett’s business (West Wind Projects). That equates to around 100 extra trees a year planted at Rameka.

The end result is that Brett and Helen are no longer part of the climate change problem; they are part of the solution. And the forest at Rameka will be bigger and better every time they ride through it.

Thanks to for supporting the environment.

Brett and Helen and a friend riding the Tour Aotearoa in Northland.

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.