SFS Centre for Rainforest Studies—11-12 June 2014
The School for Field Studies (SFS) is a US-based global organisation that provides students with overseas study opportunities in a variety of ecological settings. The SFS Centre for Rainforest Studies, based in Australia, features a programme of study that includes a visit to New Zealand where students can learn about New Zealand’s temperate rain forests.
Last year we met Dr. Amanda Freeman, Director of the SFS Centre for Rainforest Studies, at the kiwi release at our neighbour’s farm, Mataia, and as part of this years’ programme a three day visit to CUE Haven and Mataia was included.
Tuesday morning, the SFS group drove down from Northland in one of the worst rain and windstorms of the year and arrived at Mataia. That afternoon they enjoyed a lecture by ecologist, Mel Galbraith and his colleagues at Unitec about New Zealand birds and biodiversity.
Because of the size, the group was lodged in two locations at Mataia and at CUE Haven.
On Wednesday morning, the entire group convened at CUE Haven and we got acquainted over morning tea. The group included Amanda along with Centre staff Iris, Jenna, Joe, Justus, Megan, Sigrid and Olivia and students Ansley, April, Augusta, Cherilyn, Chloe, David, Emma P., Emma W., Emily, Erica, Erin, Katherine, Katie, Kayla, Lauren, Lili, Lindsay, Marissa, Megan, Meredith M., Meredith Mc., Michelle, Paul, Shauna, Stephanie, and Taylor.
We were also joined on Wednesday by Luke, his son Sam, and Steve. Luke and Steve are both with Telecom/Gen-i, New Zealand’s largest telecommunications company. Telecom provides their staff a day off annually to assist on community projects and Luke and Steve volunteered to spend the day helping out at CUE Haven.
The plan for the day was to do some tree planting and track work. Luke, Steve and Sam went straight to work building some new sections in the wetlands boardwalk.
We hadn’t boardwalked those sections during the summer because we thought they would be dry enough for visitors to comfortably walk on. But the heavy rain of the previous days proved otherwise. Working conditions were messy but the guys coped very well.
There were some well established kahikatea trees in the path of the boardwalk that had been planted in 2010, so we decided to make the boardwalk narrow in that section so as not to disturb the trees and allow for their future growth..
While Luke, Steve and Sam started the work on the boardwalk frames, we gave the SFS students an overview of the CUE Haven project with a focus on the purpose, scope and details of the restoration project.
We also provided a safety briefing and then went for a short tour of the property to give the students a better idea of how the restoration project is being done.
It was an opportunity for the students to learn a little bit about native New Zealand plants and animals as well as other project activities such as weed and pest control.
After the walk, we broke the group into three teams. One team would work on planting trees, the second would help Luke, Steve and Sam on the boardwalk and the third would work on attaching wire mesh to completed boardwalk sections to make them safe for all weather use. Over the two days students moved back and forth between the teams so they had a chance to work on each of the projects.
The planting team assembled in the nursery and then walked up to the planting area.
The pioneer planting for revegetation involves planting fast growing trees like manuka, kanuka, karamu, etc. which create the initial cover to shade out weeds. Longer lived, slow growing, canopy trees such as totara, puriri, kahikatea, taraire, etc. are then planted as infill.
The SFS team would be planting canopy trees amongst the pioneer trees that were planted in prior years.
Amanda gave her team a planting demo and they went to work.
In addition to the canopy trees, the group also planted some wetland plants near the boardwalk.
It was challenging planting but over the two days the group managed to plant almost five hundred trees. A fantastic effort!!
Once the team had finished the planting they assisted with putting stakes by some of the pioneer trees we have planted this season so that the little plants will be easier to spot during the weed releasing this summer.
The boardwalk team worked with Luke, Steve and Sam on Wednesday building boardwalk sections and nailing planks on top.
We made great progress on Wednesday and we’d like to thank Luke, Steve and Sam for all their efforts. The SFS team enjoyed working with them and their skills and knowledge added a lot of value to the boardwalk project. Thanks!
On Thursday, David utilised his past carpentry experience and led a team and finished off the remaining work on the boardwalk.
As soon as boardwalk sections were finished, the team doing the mesh was right behind, cutting the mesh and stapling it into place.
Over the two days the team constructed 14 metres of boardwalk and installed wire mesh on 36 metres!! The wetland boardwalk is now completely finished and looks fantastic thanks to everyone’s hard work.
Once the boardwalk and planting work were finished, part of the group went up to the gully walking track to do some maintenance work. The track is over two years old and there were some areas where wear and erosion needed to be fixed up. The team spread out across the track finding areas for improvement and working on them.
They even installed a little bridge across an old washout.
The track now looks better than ever and is safer and easier for vistors to use.
Before they left on Thursday, the group cleaned up the cottage and all the equipment they had used. Thanks!
The group also generously donated the spades they had brought with them to the CUE Haven project. Thank you for this much appreciated gift!
Despite all the hard work, the group was very cheerful throughout and there was always lots of laughter and merriment.
When it was time to leave the group presented us with a lovely card and sculpture. Thank you!
We want to thank Amanda for making the visit happen and for all her hard work in organising the logistics.
Additionally we want to thank Amanda and her staff for working alongside the students and providing valuable leadership and guidance.
And most of all we want to thank the students for their hard work. We really enjoyed meeting you and working with you.
You have made a major contribution not only to the CUE Haven restoration project but also to our planet and your hard work will be enjoyed and appreciated by visitors for many many years. The canopy trees you planted will outlive us all and will provide food and shelter for many over the generations. And your help with the walking track and boardwalk construction will ensure that visitors can explore the bush and wetlands safely and comfortably. THANK YOU!!
We wish you all the best for your continued studies and future success and we hope you will keep in touch and come back to see the progress at CUE Haven.