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Rooting for Restoration Planting

A Day of Restoration Planting and Community Spirit - Past & Present

A beautiful, crisp, clear day dawned on Thursday, May 23, setting the stage for a fantastic day of restoration planting in Whataroa. As the morning mist lingered above the lakes and dipped through the forest, the paddocks and farmland were ready for some new greenery. One particular plot of land, cherished by brothers Steve and Mike Purcell, was prepped for a new chapter.

Steve and Mike, along with their parents, Glynnis and Jim Purcell, have deep-rooted memories of this land, swimming and fishing in its ponds and streams. Though they aren't self-proclaimed "greenies," they understand the value of restoring 12 acres of their farmland. They farmed the land as everyone did, always keeping some aside, and now they aim to bring back the forest that once thrived here.

Community Volunteers Planting Day West Coast New Zealand

It's remarkable how few birds we see on our planting projects—often, none at all. Most of our volunteers are tour operators and guides used to working in areas teeming with birds and wildlife. This is what we hope to reintroduce to pockets of land that were once forested. It's good for our communities, our water, our land, and, ultimately, all of us. It's incredible how rewarding this work feels. It's not about drastic change; it's about small, meaningful actions that allow us to give back.

On Thursday, we gathered a fantastic team of keen volunteers, including Franz Josef Glacier Guides, Tash & Cliff from Glacier Valley EcoTours, Paula & Swade from Okarito Boat Tours, Antje from the Okarito Native Plants Trust nursery, guides from Franz Josef Wilderness Tours, Jo from Ribbonwood Retreat, and landowner Steve Purcell. Of course, we were also joined by Sam Speight from Landcare Trust, our lead liaison between the Okarito Plant Project and the landowners we collaborate with. What Sam doesn't know about plants isn't worth knowing!

In just 2.5 hours, we transformed a prepared site, meticulously organized by Mike and Steve. Despite the rocky river gravel bed beneath our spades, we planted 265 eco-sourced native plants. These ranged from carexes (grasses) along the stream bed to flax, various coprosmas, ribbonwoods, and totara.

We celebrated our efforts with a well-deserved lunch at the nearby Lonely Stag cafe, courtesy of Steve. As we enjoyed our meal, we listened to Steve's captivating stories about growing up on the West Coast.

This was our second planting at the Purcells', having started in December and extending out from a stand of totara. Next up, we'll be planting the edges of an old pond, which has been cleared of old fencing and concrete. We can't wait to revitalize this area with sedges and grasses.

Stay tuned for our next steps, and we'll keep you posted on the return of the birds!

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