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Visit By Unitec Ecology Students—19 August 2016

August 19, 2016

Unitec is an Auckland-based institute of technology with a dual commitment to post-graduate and degree level study as well as vocational education and training.

Since 2010, our good friend Mel Galbraith, a Senior Lecturer in Ecology at Unitec, has brought his third year ecology students to CUE Haven for a field trip.  The trip gives students a chance to observe a restoration project in process and because we have been planting since 2008, they can readily see different stages in the regeneration process and learn about the issues and challenges associated with each phase of the work.

Joining Mel were Dr. Dan Blanchon, Unitec Head of Environmental and Animal Science, who has also been a frequent visitor to CUE Haven on these field trips and students Amy, Bevan, Charlie, David, Hannah. Hemelleia, John, Lizzie, Lizzy, Louisa, Mikey, Roz and Sinead.

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The group arrived at one and we spent some time getting acquainted over tea.  Mahrukh gave an overview of the CUE Haven project and explained the objectives of our restoration work and the planting process and Thomas talked about our weed and pest control efforts.

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Bev Trowbridge, our neighbor at Muriwai Valley Farm, is doing pioneering work in sustainable organic farming and joined the group briefly to speak to the students about her interesting project.

Thomas then gave a safety briefing and we took the Unitec team for a walk around the property.

We started the tour in the nursery and explained how we converted the disused milking shed into the plant nursery.

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We also showed some “before” pictures of the property to give the students an idea of what it looked like when it was a farm and to show them how the restoration work had changed the property.

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We then took a walk through the wetlands and pointed out some of the features and challenges of the wetland planting area.

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As we moved out of the wetlands the students were able to see the different types of vegetation and land and soil characteristics.

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They also got a good look at the recent slip on the property and we shared with the group what we had learned about the cause of the slip and the remedial steps we will be taking as we replant the area.

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They also got a closer look at the slip.  Here is Mel going as far down the road as is now possible.

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Along the walk the students were able to see many interesting features – like a naturally occurring wild bee hive in a puriri tree.

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We carried on almost to the top of the property with frequent stops along the way to observe various aspects of the regenerating bush.

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We also stopped at the locations where one of the students, Louisa, who is doing research at CUE Haven, has been gathering macroinvertebrate specimens for her research and her classmates helped her conduct some water quality tests and collect samples.

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And she was very happy with the results! Here’s to more Mayflies!!

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Many thanks Louisa for selecting CUE Haven for your research project. Your findings will be a very useful benchmark for helping to determine how the restoration project has impacted macroinvertebrates on the property.

We finished up the walk and had a debriefing at the cottage before the group headed back to town.

As always, we had a very enjoyable visit.  We learn a lot from these visits and are always impressed with the enthusiasm and varied interests and knowledge of the Unitec students and staff.

We want to thank Mel for his continued support and for organising the visit.  And many thanks to Dan and the students for taking the time to come out and for their interest in our project.

It was a pleasure meeting all of you and we wish you all the very best in your endeavours and we hope you will all come back to visit us again soon!

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Expect the Unexpected—14 August 2016

August 14, 2016
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Just when we thought we were finished with the bulk of our pioneer planting work, nature decided to rearrange our plans.

Last Wednesday we had one of those 100 year storms that seem to be occurring every 3 years.  We got over 100 mm of rain in a 24 hour period and there was a lot of flooding and road closures.

Because of the conditions, we hadn’t planned to head up to the farm until next week but Louisa, an ecology student from Unitec who is doing research at CUE Haven on macroinvertebrates in the stream, thought that it would be a good idea to do some specimen gathering on Friday while the stream was still high.  She sent us a message yesterday asking us about “the slip.”

That’s when we started doing some research of our own and we talked to her and she sent some rather alarming pictures.

From the pictures, it looked like the boundary fence with our neighbours, James and Jody, was involved so we let them know and headed up first thing this morning and met up with them to inspect the damage.

We had a look at the area and the pictures Louisa had sent hadn’t done it justice.

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That isn’t a meteor impact crater, it’s a picture of the slip taken from the other side of our property.

The grassy area to the top and on the left is the neighbour’s property which is quite steep.   There are several tomos (sink holes) on both the properties.

As far as we can tell the surface layer of clay gave way because of the intensity and volume of water flowing after the rainstorm.  A section of land on a steep slope had let loose and slid all the way down, covering the road and extending into the wetlands on the other side of the road.

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The photo below is the view from the neighbour’s boundary.  The loose clay that let go ran over the road and well into an area that had been planted in 2015 and 2009.

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And this is how the slip looks from what was previously the road.

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The area was planted by a series of volunteer groups between May and July 2015.  Here are some before and after pictures to give you an idea of the extent of the slip.

August 2014 —

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The photo below shows the area right after it was prepped for planting in early 2015—it shows how the road used to go.

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Here it is today, the road is shown with a red arrow.

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Getting ready to plant in 2015:

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This is what it looks like now.  You can see the destroyed fence in the right of the picture.

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Planting in the wetlands across the road – a year ago…

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Today ….  Besides the trees planted in the wetlands in 2015, a lot of the trees planted in 2009 have also been lost.

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Our next steps are to have experts come in to see how stable the remaining land is and what we and our neighbours need to do to safely stabilise it.  James and Jody have already installed a temporary fence further back on their property to keep their cows (and people) from getting too close to the edge.

Now we need to get the road fixed and we’ve already started to change our 2017 planting plans to include areas we thought we’d already planted!

Even though a lot of trees have been lost, we want to again thank the people who worked so hard to plant the trees.  We’re really glad that no one was around when the slip occurred and in the overall scheme of the restoration project this is a minor setback.

We are choosing to focus on the good news which is that winter is coming to an end and the kakabeaks at CUE Haven are starting to blossom.

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Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award Residential—11-15 July 2016

July 16, 2016

This week we hosted the eighteenth DoEHA Gold Award residential.   The July residential can be challenging because it is in the middle of winter and it can be wet and messy.  But the weather mostly cooperated and we had a great group of students who got a lot done.

The group arrived on late Monday morning and included Agnieske, Catherine, James, Katie, Kyle, Sana, Stella, Virginia and William.  Jena, who had previously been to CUE Haven for her gold award residential was the team leader this week.

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Also, Andy Woodhouse, DoEHA Director of Training and Development and past team leaders Brigid and Kayla were on site for part of the week.  Richard Stevens, an ecology student at Unitec in Auckland also joined us for two of the days to help out.

We got acquainted over morning tea.  Mahrukh then gave a welcome and history of the CUE Haven project and Thomas gave a safety briefing and an overview of activities planned for the week.

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Winter is our planting season and so the primary objective for the week was for the team to focus on planting and to also do some maintenance work on the walking track.

After lunch we loaded up the trees to take up to the planting site.

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And then went to work! The team started planting in the wetlands adjacent to the DoEHA mosaic.  The area had been prepped but there was a lot of dead grass to contend with.  It was also a wetland which meant that it was muddy, but the team coped very well with the challenges.

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The next day the team moved up to another challenging planting area.  There is a section inside one of our fenced bush areas that was never planted and was overgrown with kikuyu grass.  We’d earlier sprayed it out for planting but the dead grass was a thick layer with lots of roots to cut through.

Once again the team coped very well and quickly finished planting the area.

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The thick grass was a pain to plant in, but it was a nice place to relax!

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We had finished up the bulk of the planting at the end of the day and Kyle demonstrated an efficient way to put all the gear away.

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To take a break from planting, the following day we took a walk along the boundary fence with our neighbor who is grazing cattle.  There is a hot wire to keep the cattle from paying us unwanted visits and it regularly needs to be checked and cleared for vegetation that may be growing on it.  Each team member armed themselves with different kinds of shears, loppers and secateurs and we cleared the entire fence line.

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At the top of the property we found a section of fence with broken wires and William taught the team how to do some effective repair work.

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In one of the planting areas there was an old fence that was largely broken down.  The team helped cut it out from the rest of the fence and we carried it away.

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The other big activity the group worked on was walking track remedial work.  The walking tracks get a lot of wear and tear plus we are always finding ways to make them safer and easier to use. We needed the team to assist with the track remediation, however, there were still trees left to plant.

Katie, Sana and Stella volunteered to continue planting the following day. They did infill planting in a lot of areas that had previously been planted but needed some additional plants.

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They covered a lot of area and despite the wind and rain, the team worked away smiling till all the trees were planted!!

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Meanwhile, the remainder of the group worked on the track maintenance. We split the group into two teams.

Brigid, Catherine, Kyle and Virginia tackled a section of track near the wetlands to fix some erosion problems by boxing in steps and track sections and also building a small retaining wall.  There were several sections needing attention.

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Meanwhile Agnieske, James, Jena and William worked on other sections of the track, boxing in steps and installing retaining walls.

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Working with the long boards was a challenge and required a lot of digging and measuring to get everything straight and level.

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The result is a dramatic improvement in the appearance and safety of the track.

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In this area the steps were wearing out because people were taking a short cut.  The team shored up the sides of the steps and even came up with the idea to plant trees to prevent future trampers from short cutting the corner.

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On Friday the whole team worked to fix some steps heading down from the DoEHA hut.  The section of track is steep and subject to erosion.  They cut out and boxed in several steps.

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It was a challenge digging in the heavy clay but the result is well worth it.

The team finished off the new track sections by covering them with a layer of metal to keep the track surface safe in all weather.  We first loaded metal into buckets.

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And then carried it out to the track where it was spread out and raked in.

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Thanks to the team’s efforts the walking tracks are nicer and safer than ever.

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In addition to a lot of hard work, the group also took time to relax and enjoy each other’s company.  The team went for night walks in the bush, watched movies, and played cards and other games. The variety of delicious Nescafe Menu coffees generously provided by Nestle NZ for our volunteers was much appreciated by all.  Thanks Nestle!

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The team accomplished an amazing amount of work and managed to complete all the planting–a fantastic effort by the whole team!!

We’d like to thank Brigid, Kayla and Richard for taking time out and helping us this week.  We really appreciate it!

Andy, thanks for organising the DoEHA residential and for your continuing support.

A BIG thank you to Jena for leading the team and helping us accomplish so much.

And our many many thanks to the hard working gold award participants.  We very much enjoyed getting to know you and working with you.  We were very impressed by the way you came together as a team and worked so well together so quickly.

You have made a major contribution to the CUE Haven project and to our planet.  The trees you planted will create a sustainable habitat for a variety of plant and animal life and also provide a green space for the community to enjoy for years. And the walking track remediation will ensure that visitors have a safe and easy path to explore the growing native forest.

We wish you all the best of luck as you continue to pursue your gold awards and much success and happiness in your future endeavours.  We look forward to seeing you again.

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Thanks again!

 

Exploring CUE Haven Waterways—6 July 2016

July 7, 2016

Auckland Council’s Wai Care is a water quality monitoring, education and action program for community groups, individuals, businesses and schools across the Auckland region.  Waicare staff support and enable local communities to be active in the protection, health and management of local waterways and catchments.

Since 2012, Waicare staff have been conducting water quality tests and identifying macroinvertebrates in the CUE Haven stream, Wai Mātauranga (Water of Wisdom) and the ponds.

Over the years Waicare staff have come out on numerous occasions when we have had school groups assisting us with planting and other activities.  They do an hour long waicare session with the students about the importance of protecting our waterways and teach the students various water quality tests and how to identify macroinvertebrates.

In November 2012 staff from Waicare did some bench mark testing of the CUE Haven stream and at that time found native banded kokopu in the stream.  Read about the visit here.

Today Shelley Hackett and Hazel Meadows from Waicare came out to again to check on sites visited in 2012 and conduct further analysis of the stream at other sites too. Also joining us for the day was Louisa Copestake, a final year biodiversity management student from Unitec who is doing research at CUE Haven on macroinvertebrates.

We gathered up the equipment and headed up to the top of the property where the stream starts.

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They identified the first point for testing and set up what looked like a mini laboratory!

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They then conducted a variety of tests to compare with previous benchmarks and to include in our data base of historical results.  Louisa assisted with the testing and also gathered samples and conducted tests for her own research project.

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A very important aspect of learning about how to do water quality testing is to understand how different conditions and characteristics of a waterway will affect the test results and also impact the types of creatures that might find the area hospitable.

Shelley’s and Hazel’s subject matter expertise was invaluable as they pointed out how different conditions along the streams and around the ponds affected water quality and habitat.

This helps us to make sure our plantings are helping water quality and also enables us to recognize habitats where fish and macroinvertebrates are likely to be.

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They then explored the area up and downstream and conducted more experiments.

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We were happy to see that water quality of Wai Mātauranga continues to improve as we have planted out more of the property.

They examined the collected samples for macroinvertebrates.

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In addition to some spiders and snails they were happy to find a flat mayfly:

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And a big damselfly larva that was almost ready to take wing:

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The big excitement for the day was finding a kokopu in roughly the same place we had found other kokopu back in 2012.  The kokupu we caught and released today was approximately 150 mm long. Yeah!

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Finding kokopu again is further confirmation that water quality at CUE Haven is satisfactory to maintain the fish long term.

After the initial find of banded kokopu, Louise Thacker, a graphic design student at Unitec designed a very informative sign about these fish. Thanks to funding from the Auckland Council’s Rodney Environmental Education Fund and Capitol Sign Services Ltd, we developed Louise’s design into an actual sign. The information sign enable visitors to CUE Haven to learn more about our native fish.

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The other bit of excitement on the day was Louisa getting an accidental waist deep dunking in the 10 degree cold water! But she managed to keep her sense of humour throughout.

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We’d like to thank Louisa for helping out and participating in a fun and interesting day. Louisa, many thanks for selecting CUE Haven to do your research project – we are anxious to read your report at the end of the year and we hope other students will follow on and build on your research on macroinvertebrates at CUE Haven.

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Our thanks to Unitec’s Ecology and Biodiversity Studies Department for their continued support and encouraging their students to conduct research on native biodiversity and do practicums at CUE Haven.

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A big thank you to Shelley and Hazel for spending the day with us and doing all the waicare tests and also imparting so much valuable information.

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And our thanks also to Auckland Council for making Shelley and Hazel available.  The expertise of Council field staff is invaluable in helping us with our restoration project.  And we really appreciate their continued support of our efforts to make CUE Haven a native nature reserve with thriving biodiversity for the community to enjoy and also use as a space for environmental education.

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Lucas’s Birthday Party—18 June 2016

June 19, 2016
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A couple of months ago a young boy named Lucas visited CUE Haven with his family.  Lucas very much enjoyed exploring CUE Haven and asked if he could come back to celebrate his tenth birthday with his friends and also help with planting trees.  We thought it was a great idea and today Lucas came with his friends and family to plant trees, celebrate and explore.

The group arrived after lunch and included Lucas and friends Andrew, Brianna, Jack, Lincoln, Louise, Mika, Oscar and Theo.  Accompanying the youngsters were adults Beate, Chris, Claes, Hans, Madelaine, Neil, and Roger.

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While the group had some hot chocolate drinks, Mahrukh gave them a short introduction to the CUE Haven project and the plan for the afternoon.

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Then it was a quick ride up to the planting site where Tom gave a safety briefing and showed the group the area and trees they would be planting.

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The first item on the agenda was for Lucas to plant a celebration Totara tree. It was a big tree and his mates chipped in to help him with the planting.

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Lucas’s sister, Louise, also planted a rewarewa tree to celebrate her successful environmental education project to raise awareness amongst Aucklanders about the waste from New Zealand being washed up in the Kermadecs.

We are very impressed with her initiative and efforts and were happy that she received recognition in the local newspaper too. You can read the article here.

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The entire group then spent some time planting manuka, karamu and mahoe trees in an area that had been sparsely planted in prior years.

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In a short time, the enthusiastic group had planted all the trees.  Yeah!

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We then went for a walk to explore the property.

The boys even had a “singing competition” to check out the good acoustics in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award hut.

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 They saw weta in the weta hotels.

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The group also spotted a number of interesting birds, mushrooms and plants and were especially happy to see a big rat caught in one of the DOC 200 traps.

It started to get dark as we got back from the walk and it was time to sing Happy Birthday to Lucas and enjoy some delicious birthday cake. Happy Birthday Lucas! We wish you many more great years ahead!

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We very much enjoyed hosting Lucas and his family and friends.  It’s great to see so much interest and enthusiasm for nature amongst youngsters.

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We’d like to thank all of the parents who helped out and planted the trees and a BIG THANK YOU to Lucas and friends for being such good guests and for all your hard work today.

We very much look forward to having you all come visit again and see the how your trees are growing up.

 

The SFS Centre for Rainforest Studies—14 & 16 June 2016

June 17, 2016

The School for Field Studies (SFS) is a US-based global organisation that provides university students interested in ecology and environmental studies the opportunity to study overseas.  Students studying at the SFS Centre for Rainforest Studies, based in Australia, have the opportunity to visit New Zealand to learn more about New Zealand’s temperate rain forests.

For the third consecutive year, the students’ New Zealand trip included a stay at CUE Haven and Mataia, our neighbours across the road.

The group arrived at CUE Haven after lunch on Tuesday and included students Brenda, Brooke, Caitlyn, Chase, Christian, Daniel, Hannah, Holly, Ian, Josh, Julia, Julianne, Kaitlin, Kathy, Kaylee, Laura, Lindsey, Mark, Melissa, Nick, Robin, Ryan and Taryn.

The group was led by Centre Director Amanda Freeman, lecturers Catherine Pohlman and Justus Kithiia, and student affairs managers Lucia and Gregory, and intern Wes.

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We started by getting acquainted.  The students and staff introduced themselves and told us a little about their backgrounds.  Then Mahrukh gave an overview of the CUE Haven project and Thomas described the work the students would be doing during their stay as well as a safety briefing.

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Thomas then took the group for a short walk around the property and explained the restoration plan and demonstrated how it is being implemented in both the wetlands and other areas of the property.  He also explained our pest and weed control procedures and pointed out tracking tunnels, bait boxes and traps.

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We then headed out to the wetlands to do some infill planting of flaxes, cabbage trees and cyperus.  Part of our wetlands management process involves reclaiming the wetland areas that have been invaded by kikuyu and mercer grass and the plantings will be a great help in expanding the coverage of native species in the wetlands.

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The students weren’t afraid to get stuck in and clear out unwanted vegetation to make room for their plants.

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The boardwalk the students were using for access has been constructed entirely by our amazing volunteers, and the 2014 SFS team helped build the section in the picture below!

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And they weren’t afraid of the interesting creatures they found!

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The hardworking group worked on right till dusk and managed to get all the allocated trees planted in the wetlands. Yeah!

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Some of the students were staying at CUE Haven and the others at Mataia, and the group had lunch and dinner at the Glorit Hall down the road.

That night after dinner the group went for a bush walk at CUE Haven and got a chance to see glowworms in the little grotto by the waterfall in the gully.  It was a crisp clear night and they also got a good look at the Southern Hemisphere stars.

The next day the students spent the day working at Mataia, planting and exploring the mature bush there and learning about the kiwi releases and how kiwi are monitored and protected on the property.

On Thursday early morning the whole group reconvened at CUE Haven.

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In contrast to Tuesday’s wetlands planting, the plan was to plant pioneer trees in areas that had been planted in previous years but where the canopy was not filling in.

We hiked up to the start of the track where most of the planting would be done.

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Because we were going to planting in a variety of areas, we dropped the plants in a central location and carried them out to the sites.

It was challenging planting as we had to carry the plants a long way into the bush. The students planted manuka, kanuka, mahoi, mako mako, pittosporum and cabbage trees and the students also had to identify the best places to plant them.

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The group also had to cope with some nasty weeds like gorse and blackberry but they weren’t afraid to attack them and make room for their trees.

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In spite of various challenges and a few unexpected rain showers the group kept smiling.  They were so productive that we ended up bringing more trees for them to plant!

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In just a couple of hours the enthusiastic and hardworking students had accomplished an amazing amount of weed clearing and planting.

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When we had finished planting the students even helped clean all the equipment.

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And had well earned cake and frozen mango Smooze before we said good bye.

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It was a short visit but we were very happy and impressed with all that the group accomplished.

We want to thank Amanda for all her help on site and for arranging the visit and making sure everything went smoothly.  We really enjoy having SFS students and staff at CUE Haven and value our relationship with SFS and very much appreciate your continued support.

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And we also want to thank all the SFS staff for their help and for helping us work with the students to make sure they got the most value from their time with us.

And a very BIG THANK YOU to all the students.  We really enjoyed meeting all of you and working with you. We were very impressed by your motivation, enthusiasm and interest in the project and NZ native flora and fauna.

You have all made a major contribution not only to the CUE Haven restoration project but also to our planet.  The wetlands and forest you helped create will create a sustainable habitat and provide food and shelter for a variety of plant and bird life over the years and provide educational opportunities and enjoyment to generations of visitors.  What a fantastic legacy!!  THANK YOU!!

We wish you all much success and happiness in your future endeavours and we do hope you will keep in touch and come back to visit us at CUE Haven and enjoy the native reserve you have helped create.

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Thanks again!

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Overseas Chinese Association, New Zealand Chapter—11 June 2016

June 12, 2016

Today we were delighted to welcome our friends from the Overseas Chinese Association, New Zealand Chapter for a planting day.  The Association is regularly involved in many community service projects around Auckland and they have assisted with planting trees and other projects at CUE Haven for the past two years.

This year is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Dr. Sun Yat Sen, founder of the Republic of China, and a variety of commemorations are being held.  Sun Yat Sen believed strongly in harmonious coexistence between humanity and nature and was a strong advocate of tree planting and reforestation and today’s planting was seen as part of a continuing tradition of establishing forests to maintain the balance of nature.

The group arrived at about ten and included Aden, Adonis, Ailian. Alex, Betty, Bixia, Cheng Ya, Chia, Chin Chan, Chen Huei, Cindy, Cloud, David, Eric, Ester, Gary, George, Grace, Heidi C., Heidi W., Howard, Hui Chia, Ivy, Jimmy, Johnny, Julia, Juliana, Karen, Katie, Kay, Lao Yao, Lauren, Lawden, Lili, Lola, Maria, Mary, Mike, Karen, Ned, Peter, Raymond, Sam, Sebastian, Simon H., Simon K., Stephanie, Steven, Taiwen, Ted, Terry, Tony, Wei, Wendy, William and Yu Hwa.

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We got acquainted over morning tea.  Nestle NZ has generously sponsored a variety of Nescafe Menu coffees for our volunteers which were most appreciated. Thanks, Nestle NZ!!

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Mahrukh gave the group an overview of the CUE Haven restoration project and Thomas did a safety briefing.  Some of our guests are not as yet proficient in English as it is their second language, and Wei, a Mandarin language interpretation doctoral student, assisted with the briefings.

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Then Ned Chou, Deputy Director General of the Taipei Economic & Cultural Office and Adonis Yang, President of the Overseas Chinese Associate each gave the group a welcome.

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We then took a short walk up the planting site where Thomas gave a planting demonstration and update of the safety briefing before the group went to work.

Today’s planting was also significant because we were planting canopy trees in amongst the pioneer trees that several members of the Overseas Chinese Association had planted during their first visit to CUE Haven in 2014.  The group was impressed at how much their trees had grown and today they planted the long living canopy trees – totara, rimu, tanekaha, miro, kahikatea and pukatea.

As this was infill planting, the team had to spread out into the developing bush to find suitable spots to plant their trees.

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When all the canopy trees had been planted, the team collected all the empty pots and trays and equipment.

In just a couple of hours, the hard working group planted over 300 canopy trees!  A fantastic effort!!

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Several members then helped Simon and Chen Huei plant a celebration Blue Totara.

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While the group was planting, Adonis and George came down to prepare lunch. The group celebrated the Dragon Boat Festival with a relaxing and delicious lunch that included a special soup, salads and sticky rice dumplings.

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After lunch, several of the group members went up to the top of the property to explore and took a leisurely walk back down via the walking track where they got a chance to see some mature specimens of the trees they had planted as well as some friendly native birds.

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As always, we had a great day with the group and are very happy to have been able to meet up with old friends and make many new friends.

A special thanks to Adonis Yang for his help with organising the visit.

And a really big THANK YOU to all the members who came today. We really appreciate your friendship, enthusiasm, hard work and your continued support of our efforts at CUE Haven.

You’ve made a major contribution not only to CUE Haven and New Zealand, but also to our planet in keeping with the reforestation vision of the enlightened Sun Yat Sen. The trees you planted today are a lasting legacy and will live for hundreds of years and provide a wonderful habitat for numerous plant and animal life and also create a wonderful nature reserve for generations to enjoy.   Many Thanks again!!  We very much look forward to having you visit again soon.

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