Rameka Turns Ten

Yup, it’s been 10 years – a decade since Barack Obama was first elected President of the United States, promising an environmental programme of alternative-energy for that world super power; a decade since the polar bear was added to the list of ‘threatened’ species, becoming the first animal to do so due to the effects of global warming; a decade since we formed the Rameka carbon forest.

A polar bear (Ursus maritimus) jumps in the fast ice, north Spitsbergen Island, Norway. Credit: Arturo de Frias Marques

What a fitting time to celebrate with a little spruce-up for the project! Last year, Corina Ward suggested we provide visitors to the area with information on the history of Rameka and background to the project. It was a fantastic idea, and we leapt on it. Interpretation panels would give those visitors an opportunity to understand more about the area they were travelling through. And researching the information to go on those panels gave us a greater appreciation for this well-loved area.

Many thanks for their help in gathering information and photos go to: Cliff Turley, author of Rocks and Hard Places: The Takaka Hill; long-time Golden Bay resident Skeet Barnett; fourth-generation local farmer Dave Edmondson; the Golden Bay museum; interns Alex Delhagen and Orion Dick-Neal (who did the initial research); Paul Kennett (creator of the maps) Jonathan Kennett (for pulling the whole thing together and writing the narrative) and the many, many others who provided valuable feedback on multiple drafts.

Come November this year, new interpretation boards were ready and waiting to go in at each entrance, and some new volunteers were keen to come across from the North Island to help put them in place.

From left: Robbie Fyfe, Dhara Knight, Penny Kennett and Bronnie Wall settle in at the Lorax Lair.

Richard Green, his son Yoshi and friend Charlie Bowker had already prepared some really smart boards to go up at each of the hubs around the project – and had even dug the holes and installed the first one at the top site!

Richard and Yoshi get ready to add the interpretation information at the top board.

The other boards went up at: The Forks:

Richard, Yoshi, Penny and Jonathan Kennett can be thanked for getting this board in the right place at the Forks.

the mill site:

Richard, Yoshi and Jonathan make quick work of the interpretation board added at the Mill Site.

and the bottom of the historic Rameka track:

Dhara Knight keeps an eye on some suspicious-looking characters at the bottom interpretation board … or maybe they’re keeping an eye or six on her!

Each board comprises six panels. The top three are the same for all four boards and include a map, details about the surrounding tracks and information on the Rameka supporters. The three bottom panels are different on each board, providing details that range from the history of sheep farming and timber milling in the area to as much as we could find out about the original track formation in the late 1800s, old maps of the area and a timeline dating back to the 1860s.

So, next time you head through the project, give yourself time to pause and have a gander at the interpretation boards. I suspect you’ll be impressed.

In 2018, many of Barack Obama’s initiatives have been rescinded and the fate of the polar bear continues to teeter as the effects of climate change march on, but here at the Rameka Carbon Forest, thousands of trees have been planted, three primo tracks have been opened, the bird and native plant life is flourishing, and good things are on the up and up.

Golden Bay from the historic Rameka track – a view to inspire the soul

Nicole Benkert reflects on the August tree planting

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.

Nicole, Jonathan, Sonja, Bronnie, Kate and Perrine take a well-earned lunch break during the Saturday planting session.

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.

The views from the historic Rameka track are to die for …

This was the first time I met Jonathan and Bronwen, the creators of Project Rameka.

Jonathan carries a miro and a rimu to their new homes.
Bronnie pretends to be digging diligently.
Archie, Amy and Ruby take a well-deserved break from the planting to contemplate their efforts.

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.

Matt Shoult shows the team around the project.
Paul Kilgour and Andy Cole discuss the finer points of planting at Rameka during their lunch break on the Sunday planting.

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!).

Matt stands next to a rare Melicytus obovatus species that he discovered on the project – a very exciting find!

I hope to be back next year 🙂

Nicole Benkert gets her hands into the earth at Rameka.


Learning to fly

It isn’t easy being a native bird in NZ.

It’s a struggle to safely hatch if your nest can’t protect you from possum, stoats and rats.

If you can’t fly, cats, stoats and dogs do not make good neighbours.

If you are just learning to fly – which often means spending some time on the ground recovering from your last test flight – you are equally vulnerable.

Kākā are one such bird.  Kākā nest in tree cavities – usually large hollowed out native trees.  A typical nest will be between 2-4 eggs laid in late winter.  If a successful nest, chicks (or fledglings) might be ready to leave the nest in spring.  This is when they are their most vulnerable – flapping about on the ground, making a bit of noise and blissfully unaware of the dangers around them.

At Project Rameka we’ve been trying for 10 years to make it more welcoming to native birds.  We have been controlling possums, rats, stoats and weasels during that time through a mixture of trapping and bait.

With kākā being recently released in the nearby Abel Tasman National Park by DOC and Janszoon we thought it was time to put out a bigger welcome mat.

Enter a Kapiti Coast entrepreneur (Youssef Mourra from Nonsuch Consulting) and Kapiti Menzshed (Nigel and Mark in photo below).

With their generosity we are now the proud owners of an artificial nesting box designed to keep the most persistent of pests at bay.

Installed by Stuart, Evan and Andrew in early May it provides a safe haven for eggs and parents, filled with locally sourced wood chips and tasteful wooden interior for climbing practice.

We hope it is only a matter of time before we see kākā at Rameka as we are only 4-6km away from areas that kākā were released.  If we have any nesting on the Project we will certainly let you know!

Thanks again to our supporters, and Wellington DOC for putting us in touch with them.


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 https://westwindprojects.co.nz/ 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