One tough trip

The Code Red storm made just getting to Rameka a challenge. Roads were closed, flights were cancelled, and the ground floor of the bach we had booked was flooded.

To get to Rameka, we had to walk 5 km each way, and on the first day, we saw the extent of the damage. One huge slip had taken out four bridges, closing Great Expectations and washing hundreds of trees away. Another slip had closed The Odyssey.

Huge slip across a road through poplar trees.
The most visible slip, and the one that blocked the road for us and the locals

Last Sunday, we held a work party, but it was really hard to know what to do. The damage to Great Expectations was so severe, with a new gulch having been formed, and a muddy sludge dumped along the sides. At least the historic Rameka Track was in remarkably good condition.

Six men clearing debris from a slip down a stream
The hardy group of locals trying their best to salvage a stream crossing devastated by the slip

It wasn’t until the third day that our fortunes turned and spirits began to lift. We carried 200 trees up and planted them in fine weather. On the same day, Ricky Ward managed, somehow, to drive another 800 trees up to the project via a private farm track. We were making real progress.

Four people digging holes for trees in bracken
The bracken of today will be a forest in 20 years!

We kept chipping away, planting one or two hundred trees a day. And Fulton Hogan were also busy repairing the road. Finally, on our last day (Saturday) the road was open, and just in time for our final big work party.

Twenty-two people turned up and the last 450 out of 1,000 trees were planted and guarded. A big thanks to Alison, Grant, Bob, Chris, Suzy, Mike, Andrew, Bevan, Duncan (Mountford) Glenda, Mark, Maryann, Will and Kerry.

People planting trees on a steep hillside
A sunny Saturday for planting the final 450. Hoorah!

Also a special thanks to Paul Kilgour who put heaps of effort into planting and guarding trees over the week, even staying at Rameka two nights.

And most of all, the crew who took a week off work and returned home, tired, fit and happy today: Nicola and Richard, Geoff, Justine and Duncan and Bronnie and Jonathan.

Six tree planters smiling on a track.
It was all smiles once we got cracking!

One of the observations Jonathan had at the end of the week was this. By restoring the land over time, the land has begun restoring us.

Three people standing/sitting at a lookout.
Gathering our breathes at Martin’s lookout.

Tree Survey and Track Tickle Up – May 2022

On this trip, Bronnie and Jonathan were joined by Simon and Penny, with a guest appearance by Garth Baker. During our stay, we were joined by several Nelson and Golden Bay locals to give the lower half of Great Expectations some TLC. It should be running sweet now.

The weka certainly seemed to approve of our track work.
The weka certainly seemed to approve of our track work.
The intrepid track-work group. Chris, Paul, Bronnie, Louise, Bob, Eva, Marie, Garth, Penny, and Axel. Jonathan was behind the camera. Simon was counting trees. Johnny was on his bike somewhere, Mark and Glenda were still on the track, and Ricky and Corina had just left.
Now, let’s see… Chris, Paul, Bronnie, Louise, Bob, Eva, Marie, Garth, Penny, and Axel. Jonathan was behind the camera. Simon was counting trees. Johnny was on his bike somewhere, Mark and Glenda were still on the track, and Ricky and Corina had just left.
On this trip, we also released 1,000 seedlings from weeds and did a survey of all the climax species between 350 metres elevation and 450 metres elevation.
On this trip, we also released 1,000 seedlings from weeds and did a survey of all the climax species between 350 metres elevation and 450 metres elevation.
Thanks to everyone who joined us. Good times
Penny, Jonathan, Simon Kennett at work with the tree releasing.
Another interesting job done was a survey of over 500 beech and podocarp trees, mostly planted between 2009 and 2012. Here is a summary of results.
A figure showing size in centimetres on the y axis and climax tree on the x axis. The trees were: Totara, beech, northern rata, rimu, miro and matai. Totara was the main tree planted, but the few matai were doing really well.
What we discovered was that totara, beech and northern rata really need full light to thrive. If they were being shaded by other trees, then they weren’t growing. So we cut back a lot of pittos and five finger to create light wells.
Garth Baker standing next to a rimu that is twice his height.
Garth Baker admiring a rimu planted in 2010

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:

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.