By Dorothy Preece.
The view of the southern side of Whitianga Estuary has been changing gradually, as thousands of wilding pines have been removed from more than 100 acres of bush.
In 2010 the McNeil family bequeathed part of their land to the Backdrop Trust, placing it under the protection of the QE11 Trust in perpetuity. Then in 2020 a group of conservation-minded local businessmen formed the Mercury Bay Environmental Trust (MBET) with the aim of supporting and facilitating local environmental projects.
MBET Chairman Kim Lawry says the Backdrop Trust with its vision for the land, was a good fit for the Environmental Trust and met their goals to bring back the lowland coastal forests and protect them.
“We threw our weight in behind the Backdrop Trust and we are gradually expanding our native tree nursery, with a view to expanding the acreage beyond the original McNeil parcel.
“The surrounding land is under multiple ownerships, and we felt we needed to bring together all the owners in order to achieve agreements on such issues as pest control, weed control, new plantings and in time to work on ways to allow public access.
“In August we invited all the interested parties to talk about the vision. We met with representatives from all the local conservation groups as well as the Department of Conservation, Environment Waikato, and local Iwi. The Purangi Conservation Trust is doing a great job managing trap lines with more than 100 traps helping to bring the bird population back to where it should be.” Mr Lawry says all parties are very positive about protecting the land and another meeting will be held soon.
The Environmental Trust planted 1000 native trees on the lower slopes over winter, but Kim says access to the area is difficult. “It’s not easy to haul 1,000 trees through the bush to where they need to be,” he said.
More help needed:
“People will have noticed a new private access way on the hill above Ferry Landing and the owners have kindly allowed us to use that to help get the trees in. We bring others in by the water. The existing forest canopy provides the right environment for new seedlings to thrive.
“We have a team of very keen volunteers working in the nursery, but we could use more strong and fit people to take on the planting work.”
Kim says upwards of 30,000 native trees will eventually be needed if all the target land is brought in. The trees are grown from seed, and the nursery is funded by sales of natives and dune plants to other conservation groups.
“There are beautiful waterfalls and wetlands over there, and it would be great if public walking tracks could eventually be developed, but there’s a lot of work and consultation to do before that can happen.”
Caption: The Estuary backdrop.