Skip to content

Summerland Primary School—18 October 2017

October 19, 2017

Today science teacher Maria Galbraith from Summerland Primary School in west Auckland, brought the Year 4 class out for a day of learning and exploring.

The group included twenty-five students and teachers Maria and Jaimee.  Also joining us were parents Anita, Bevan, James, Justine, Nicola and Sylvia.

We started out with a quick morning tea and then Mahrukh gave the students some background on the CUE Haven project and spent some time talking about the impacts of farming and development on native plants and animals and waterways and the benefits of restoration planting

Mahrukh also described the activities planned for the day.  Students would learn about native New Zealand trees by spending some time potting up seedlings in the nursery.  Then they would learn about invertebrates and insects by doing a bug hunt in the field.  They would also take a long walk in the bush to learn more about native plants and animals and how to protect and nurture them

Because it was a large group, we broke the students into two teams so that each person had a chance to do each activity, with one group doing the walk while the other did potting and bug hunt.

Maria led the invertebrate study in the orchard and started out by explaining the activity and its objectives.

We had previously placed pitfall traps in the orchard so that the students would have some specimens to study and Maria explained how to use the traps.

The students broke into teams and each student had a magnifying glass and a plate and spoons to examine the insects they found.  We also had a supply of mirrors, so that they could examine their specimens from all angles.  Maria and the parents helped out each of the teams of budding scientists with their work.

In addition to the spiders, slaters and beetles they found in the traps, the students also explored the trees and rocks in the area and found snails, slugs and skinks.

And they used the magnifying glasses and mirrors for more detail investigating.

It was great to see how enthusiastic and creative the students were as they searched for new bugs to identify and study.

Mahrukh led the potting up session and gave a planting demo and safety briefing.  Today the students potted kohekohe and puriri seedlings.

Once again, Maria and the parents helped out and the students had a fun time transplanting the seedlings.

The seedlings that the students potted up will stay in the nursery for a year or two before they are ready to be planted in the field.  We hope the Summerland students will come back to do the planting!

Thomas led the groups for the nature walk.  Jaimee and the parents joined in and assisted with the activities.

During the walk, Thomas pointed out the different plantings so that the students could see how the forest was developing.  He showed them different kinds of trees and plants and explained the difference between wetland plants and other types of plants and explained how our plantings had helped water quality in both the CUE Haven stream and downstream in the Araparea River and the Kaipara Harbour.

The students also saw the area of the 2016 landslip and learnt of the importance of planting deep rooted trees on hill slopes to prevent erosion.

In the bush, the students got to see a weta hotel and learn a little bit about wetas.

Thomas described our weed and pest control activities and showed the students tools and traps we use to track and control pest animals which would harm the native plants and animals.

He then showed them how our pest control work had saved a puriri tree from possum browsing.  The tree has now become the home for kereru, who in turn are creating more forest by spreading seeds.

One of the things we want the students to learn at CUE Haven is the importance of slowing down and connecting with nature and appreciating the natural world.

At one point on the walk Thomas asked the students to stop, be still, close their eyes and focus on their breath for ten seconds.  He then asked them to do it again but this time to concentrate on what they were hearing, feeling and smelling and experience nature with their eyes closed.

The students then had to describe what they heard, felt. They heard birds, the stream flowing and the wind.  They smelled the hangihangi and the fresh forest scent.

On the walk back, the students engaged more with nature and looked out for the different colours that they saw in the forest.

Once all of the students had participated in each activity, it was time for a relaxing lunch and the final activity.

Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week in NZ and the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand (MHF) is sponsoring a program to raise awareness of the benefits of being in nature.  As part of the program, they are having a colouring contest for young students this month.

We asked the students to write /draw a picture of something they saw/experienced at CUE Haven on the contest entry form. They will colour their pictures in school and submit their entry to the MHF later this week.  Good luck to all the Summerland students!

This week is also Conservation week.  The Manuka trees are flowering at CUE Haven and Scrub Growers Nursery generously donated small manuka trees for each student to take back and grow in their garden at home and experience the satisfaction and benefits of planting native trees and to bring bees and birds to their backyards.

It was a great day of learning and exploring.  The students were enthusiastic and polite and we very much enjoyed the visit.  We want to thank teachers Maria and Jaimee, and all the parents for helping out today and helping to make the day so special.

Also many thanks to our generous supporters – Nestle NZ for providing the delicious hot chocolate drink for the students and the coffee for the adults;  Daltons, for providing the potting mix the students used to pot up their seedlings, and  Scrub Growers Nursery for the manuka trees the students took home to plant.


   And a huge thank you to the students!  We really enjoyed meeting you and working with you and hope you enjoyed the day as much as we did.  We do hope you will come back to CUE Haven with your families to explore more of the property and see how the forest is growing.

Thank You!!


Forest & Bird Warkworth Branch—15 October 2017

October 16, 2017

Today we were delighted to have our friends from the Warkworth branch of  the Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society  back at CUE Haven helping us pot up seedlings.

Although our pioneer planting is complete, we will continue to plant long lived forest giants amongst the pioneer trees for the next few years.  We acquire tiny seedlings and transplant them into larger pots and nurture them in the CUE Haven nursery for a year or two before planting them in the field.

The energetic group of Joy, Patte, Roger, Rosemary and Russell arrived around ten. We had morning tea and updated the group on the activities at CUE Haven since their last visit.

Today we potted up kahikatea, kauri, kohekohe, puriri, tanekaha and totara seedlings.

The group was so efficient that Thomas had trouble keeping up supplying them seedlings and carrying away the finished pots.

In just a couple of hours the hard working group potted 450 seedlings. And they cleaned up the nursery as well!

It was a fantastic effort and we really appreciate the hard work. The trees will mature in the nursery and some will be ready for planting next winter.

After a relaxing lunch Judy, Patte and Roger joined Thomas for a leisurely walk around the property.

This is the third year we’ve had the Forest & Bird Warkworth group out to assist and as always we had a great time with them.  Not only did they plant up all the canopy seedlings but they had a lot of good, practical information on weed and pest management as well as best practices for planting and management.  Plus, we had a good time socializing with them!

We want to thank Raewyn and Rosemary for their help with organising the visit today.

A big thank you to Daltons Landscape Supplies for donating the potting mix used today and also Nestle NZ for donating the delicious Nescafe Menu sachets for our volunteers.


And most of all a huge thank you to Joy, Patte, Roger, Rosemary and Russell for giving up your Sunday morning to come help us. We really appreciate your continued support and all your hard work and efforts.  We hope you enjoyed your visit and we very much look forward to seeing you back at CUE Haven soon.


Kiwi Property—29 September 2017

September 30, 2017

Our spring maintenance season got off to a great start as an enthusiastic team from Kiwi Property in Auckland brought ingenuity and hard work to some walking track remediation work.

Kiwi Property is the leading owner of shopping malls and office buildings in New Zealand and they have a strong commitment to social service and creating positive and innovative living and working environments.  The team arrived first thing in the morning and the Exceptional People included Alvina, Amber, Chris G., Chris G., Christie, Dylan-Jane, Jason, Kane, Louise, Michael, Sam, Tony, Trevor, Tronelle and Warwick.

We got acquainted over morning tea and Mahrukh gave an introduction and overview of the history of the CUE Haven project.  Thomas then gave a description of the work planned for the day and a safety briefing.

After wet winter weather, the walking tracks at CUE Haven need a lot of maintenance work.  Heavy winter rains also show us where drainage or track structure need to be improved.  There is one stretch of track near the wetlands that runs along a steep slope.  As a result, the track had to be cut into the side of the slope and retained on both sides to prevent erosion.  There were a few small slips over the winter and we identified a number of areas where the track benching and retaining needed to be improved.  The plan for the day was to fix as many of those areas as possible and there were a lot of challenges because each track section presented a slightly different issue.

The Kiwi Property team broke into smaller teams and tackled different sections of the track.   The first task involved clearing the mud from the slips and making room for the new retaining boards.

It was great to see the team members working together to come up with innovative solutions to the track issues.  They took extra care to make sure everything was straight and even.

Once most of the digging was taken care of, new retaining boards were brought up, cut to shape and fitted.

Securing the new boards required a lot of pounding and nailing.

One by one the track sections were fixed up!

The team were keen to fully finish off the improved track, so we went down to the driveway to get some gravel to spread on the track to keep the surface safe in wet weather.  Buckets were filled up and loaded on the ute and we drove as close to the track as possible.

The gravel was carried out to the track and poured out to be raked in.

The team took extra effort to clear out any weeds on the track before the metal was spread on.

When the entire area had been graveled and levelled, the team collected all the gear and took a minute to admire their hard work and took a short walk on the improved track.

In just a few hours, the exceptional people had transformed the track section. Thanks to all their hard work it now looks much better and is safer and more comfortable to walk on.  A fantastic effort and everyone should be really proud of their work.

We then broke for a relaxing lunch and later went for a drive up to the top of the property to see where the viewing platform will be built next year.

The team then took a leisurely walk down to explore more of the property.

They checked out the weta hotels built by the students from Westlake Girls High School.

And even took a well-deserved rest on the fan tail bench.

We really enjoyed working with the exceptional people from Kiwi Property.  They were enthusiastic and fun and accomplished an amazing amount of work.

Our many thanks to everyone in the hard working team.  And a special thank you to Amber for arranging the visit and help with organizing the very productive day.

We hope you all enjoyed the day as much as we did and we are truly grateful for the contribution you have made to the CUE Haven nature reserve.  The track improvements you have made will be enjoyed by many visitors over the coming year and we look forward to having you back soon with your friends and family for a more relaxed visit.



Mini Green Jam Y – North Shore Schools Environmental Conference —5 September 2017

September 6, 2017

Back in July, a group of students from Takapuna Grammar School on Auckland’s North Shore joined us for a planting day at CUE Haven.  One of the students later invited us to make a presentation on CUE Haven at the Mini Green Jam Y conference of student environmental groups from a number of schools on the North Shore.

The mini conference was held at Rangitoto College and started with introductions and an ice breaker so that all the participants could get acquainted.

The first speakers were from an advocacy group attempting to save a local park from development.  The park is one of the few nesting sites for the endangered NZ dotterel but the government wants to sell it off for property development.  The presentation was about how the group was fighting the sale.

Thomas then gave the presentation on CUE Haven.

He gave a brief history of the project and talked about how introduced pests endanger native plants and animals and how controlling the pests at CUE Haven has helped native plants and animals flourish.

Thomas had brought some of tracking cards and traps and explained and demonstrated how they worked.

He reminded the students of how much had been accomplished by people working together and encouraged them to get involved in making the world a better place.

You can see the full presentation here.

The highlight of the evening was a visit from Sylvia Durant, “The Bird Lady.”  Sylvia has been operating a native bird shelter and rehabilitation centre from her home on the North Shore for the past 30 years.  People from all over the area, including the police, knock on her door at all hours to drop off injured birds which she takes in and takes care of until they are ready to be released into sanctuaries.


She introduced us to a Morepork – the New Zealand owl – she is nurturing back to health.

Few people realize that the small Blue penguins are endemic to all New Zealand beaches and they are often injured by sea gulls or dogs.  Sylvia brought along two penguins, one that has lost a flipper and another that had nerve damage from a gull attack that prevented it from being able to swim.

It was a fun ending to a great evening.  We were very impressed by the students and how professionally organized the program was.

We want to thank Iona for inviting us to participate in the program. We also want to thank all of the students for their enthusiasm and their interest in the environment and conservation.



Visit By Unitec Ecology Students—22 August 2017

August 22, 2017

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.

CUE Haven has a great relationship with Unitec and it all started in 2010 when our good friend Mel Galbraith, a Senior Lecturer in Ecology at Unitec, brought his final year students to CUE Haven for a field trip.

Since then Mel has brought a class of new students out each year so students get a chance to observe a restoration project in process.  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 regularly accompanied Mel and the students for these field trips and students Chelsee, Chloe, Craig, Daniel, Eduardo, Elise, Marley, Richard, Sam and Thomas.

The group arrived shortly after noon 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.

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.

We then continued the walk, first visiting the wetlands where the students had a chance to see some of the features and challenges of the wetland planting area.

As we walked along, Thomas pointed out various features and aspects of the restoration work.  We discussed weed and pest control and the positive effect that pest management has had on native bird and animal life.

We visited the area where we had a slip last year and discussed the causes of the slip and the effect of the remedial steps we have taken since then.

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

We finished up the walk and after a debriefing at the cottage, 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.

Our many thanks to Mel and Dan for their continued support and for organising the visit.  And also a big thank you to the students for their enthusiasm and interest in the 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!

A 21st birthday celebration at CUE Haven—30 July 2017

July 31, 2017

We finished up our 2017 planting season on a high note with an extra special planting day.

Back in May we were contacted by Mildred, who is celebrating her 21st birthday in early August.  Rather than have a party at a pub, Mildred wanted to do something extra special and meaningful.  Mildred heard about CUE Haven from her sister, Melanie, who had been out to CUE Haven to plant trees with the Air NZ Greenteam, and contacted us for a day of tree planting for herself and her friends.

The very enthusiastic group arrived at around ten and included Mildred and friends Ady, David, Dianca, Hanna, Jason, Jessica, Juliet, Lizanne, Louis, Neeharika, Noubelle, Praveen, Rhea and Shevonee.  Also joining us for the celebrations later in the day were Mildred’s family Angela, Christine, Melanie and Matthew.

It was a cold but sunny day and we started out with morning tea outdoors.  Mahrukh gave a welcome and an introduction to the CUE Haven project and Thomas gave a description of the work planned for the day and a safety briefing.

The plan for the day was to do three distinct planting activities.  First, to plant some kauri trees in a section of mature bush where our existing kauris are located, then to do some infill planting of kahikatea, kowhai, matai, pigeonwood, puriri and taraire in the area initially planted in 2013 and finally to plant a birthday celebration tree for Mildred.   Each of the plantings was in a different part of the property so we moved around a bit.

We don’t plant many kauri because of our concerns over kauri dieback disease and when we do, we try to plant them in an area that gets almost no traffic so that the trees won’t be disturbed.  We also take extra precautions to protect the trees and we had everyone clean and spray their boots and shoes with Trigene, a disinfectant, before entering the planting area.

The group broke into teams and planted the kauris.  The area will someday become a beautiful kauri grove.

The planting required a lot of teamwork!

Once all the kauri were planted, we went down to the 2013 planting area and went to work planting the infill trees.  It was a bit of a challenge because the pioneer trees have grown up nicely and finding light wells to plant the trees in took some exploring.

Despite the challenges, the team coped well and planted all the trees we had for them and by the end of the planting, they were right at home in the bush!

Mildred then planted the last tree—a blue totara to commemorate her 21st birthday.  We found a nice spot close to the cottage but still overlooking the Harbour.

The team then walked back down and cleaned up before lunch.

Mildred’s family had brought along a nice celebration lunch which everyone thoroughly enjoyed after all the hard work planting the trees.

We then went for a leisurely walk so that everyone could see more of the CUE Haven property (and work up an appetite for birthday cake!)

We then celebrated Mildred’s upcoming birthday with a cake and singing.

It was a great end to a fantastic day.

We’d like to thank Mildred for coming up with the idea of a planting party.  And a big thank you to Mildred’s family, Angela, Melanie, Matt and Christine who helped out with arrangements and organized the lunch and cake and party decorations.

And we especially want to thank Mildred and her hard working friends who did a great job of planting.

Mildred, we wish you a very happy birthday and much happiness and success in all your future endeavours.

We were very impressed with you and your friends and really enjoyed working with you and getting to know you all.  It was a pleasure and a privilege to meet such an interesting, diverse, talented group of people and we know you will all continue to have a positive impact on the world. The trees you planted will live for hundreds of years and you all have made a major contribution not only to CUE Haven but to the planet.  We hope you will keep coming back to see how your trees are growing and to enjoy the CUE Haven forest.

Thank you and Happy Birthday Mildred!!

Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award Residential—17-21 July 2017

July 22, 2017

This week, CUE Haven hosted the twenty-second Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award (DoEHA) gold award residential.

The July residential can be a challenge because of unpredictable winter weather, but as usual we had a great time and got a lot done.

The group arrived on Monday morning and included Alex, Alice, Christine, David, Dylan B., Dylan L-W., Holly, Maggie, Michael and Philippa.  Julia, who had done her residential at CUE Haven previously was the team leader.

The group had met at the nearest grocery store to do their food shopping for the week and the first task was to unload and put everything away.  Included in the food stores for the week was some home baking.

We then spent some time getting acquainted over morning tea.  Mahrukh gave the group an overview of the CUE Haven project and an orientation to the cottage.

Thomas then gave a safety briefing and outlined expectations and plans for the week.

We then went for a short tour of the property to give the participants a better feel for the project and the work they would be doing.

The plan for the week was very ambitious, and the group accomplished more than we expected.  They did some tree planting, a variety of maintenance tasks and built and installed several benches along the walking track.

Walking Track Maintenance

There are over 4 kms of walking track at CUE Haven and they need constant maintenance. The first task the group tackled was to trim back some overhanging vegetation.

The group also got a chance to be creative—and get very muddy—fixing some engineering issues on various track sections.

There is a set of steps that had been prone to erosion and one team worked to dig out the problem section and install small retaining boards along the sides to prevent further erosion.

The first task is to dig out the existing steps to make room for the side boards.

Each step is different, so the side boards need to be individually measured and cut.

The side boards are then nailed into place.

And the result is a much safer and better looking set of steps!

In the meantime, another team worked to fix a drainage problem higher up on the track.  In the past few weeks we’ve had very heavy rains and water has found new ways to work its way onto the track.  They investigated the problem and came up with a solution.

They dug out a section of track next to a drainage channel which was not functioning properly.

They found where the water was coming from and installed a drain pipe to channel the water away from the track.

They then restored the sections of track that had been dug up and also fixed an out of line retaining board.

The two teams then came together to work on the biggest—and messiest–challenge of all.  The heavy rain had made a small stream overflow and the runoff was coming across a low spot of the track.  We asked the group to study the problem and come up with a solution.  They traced the problem back to a spring and decided to dig out a channel to divert the flow under the bridge and into the main stream.  It was a lot of work but it totally solved the problem.

They traced the stream back several metres and kept widening and clearing it to ensure that it could handle the flow of water.

We found an old nonfunctioning drain pipe and dug it up, cleaned it and reinstalled it to make sure any overflow will go under the bridge and down to the main stream.

It was a great moment when the new drain pipe started carrying away all the extra water!

Tree Planting

Winter is planting season at CUE Haven and we asked the group to do a variety of planting tasks during the week.  Now that the bulk of the pioneer planting has been completed, most of our work involves filling in areas that need more vegetation and one team did small amounts of planting in various areas of the property.

On Wednesday, everyone joined in as we tackled a major planting project in the wetland adjacent to the DoEHA Grove.

It was wet and messy planting but the group coped very well and kept smiling and planted all the trees we had!

Bench Building

We requested the group to design and build some benches for the walking track so that visitors can relax and enjoy the bush.  Andy Woodhouse, National Training Director for the DoEHA was on site to help out and we gave the students an overview of the types of benches we were looking for, but we encouraged them to be creative.  Andy also gave a safety briefing and trained the group in the use of various tools.

They broke up into smaller teams and planned their benches.

Thomas and Andy supervised as they used the power tools.

Once the designs were finished and the timber cut, the benches came together very quickly.

Due to time constraints, four of the benches were kept simple, but the team got creative with the other three.

A few days earlier, we had pruned the fruit trees in the orchard and some of the bright orange apricot wood was laying around and Alex, Alice and Julia decided to use it as part of their bench.

Holly and Phillippa painted their bench in the CUE Haven colours with their new team name.

And Christine and Maggie did some beautiful original carving on their bench.

Once all the benches were finished, it was time to install them in the field.  A small team had previously gone out to scout for good places for the seven benches and they marked each site with a flag.

The benches were loaded into the ute and taken out to the bush.  We also took a post hole digger, water and concrete to install them.

Each bench was then carried down to where it would be installed.

At each location, holes were dug for the legs, and the bench was cemented in place.

Everything was checked to make sure the bench was even and level before they were cemented in place.

The benches are a fantastic addition to the CUE Haven landscape and will be much appreciated by visitors as they explore the growing native forest.

Other Tasks

There are always a lot of little jobs to do around CUE Haven and we asked the energetic team to help out with a few of them.

We put wire mesh on the boardwalks and bridges to keep them from being too slippery when they are wet and the group helped out finishing off some sections that needed work.

Earlier this year, we had done some landscaping down by the front gate and we asked the team to spread some mulch, generously donated by Treescape, around the new plants to help suppress weeds.  They filled buckets with mulch and carried them down to the gate.

They then spread it among the plants and the result is an amazing improvement.

The entrance to one of the walking tracks had gotten very muddy and the team filled up buckets with small gravel and spread it along the track to make it safer to walk on in wet weather.

After the pruning in the orchard and after a summer and fall of track work, there was a lot of scrap wood and branches that we needed to gather up.  The team used wheelbarrows to fill the ute and we trucked the waste wood away.

And they also took the opportunity to do a general clean up in the nursery and got it looking better than ever.

The team accomplished an amazing amount of work during their stay at CUE Haven.

But it wasn’t all hard work.  The team spent time getting to know each other and relaxing with card games and dancing to songs from the 1970s & 1980s and baking amazing muffins and cakes.

Michael had an advance celebration for his upcoming 18th birthday and also planted a celebration tree to mark the special occasion.

Also, a bit of a long story.  When Julia had been a participant in an earlier residential, that team had adopted a cicada who they named Pete.  Unfortunately, Pete met an untimely demise and Julia, Alice & Alex decided to make a belated memorial plaque for him which they installed near one of their benches.

We also found out that Dylan had previously been to CUE Haven as part of a Trees for Survival planting when he was in primary school.   Dylan went up to see the area he and his class had planted in June 2011. The trees the students planted were about 30 cm big and look at how the forest has grown in 6 years!

It was a fun and productive week and we’d like to thank Andy Woodhouse for taking time out of his busy schedule to assist with the residential.  Andy, we really appreciate your help and your continued support of our efforts at CUE Haven.

And many thanks to Julia for serving as team leader—you did a great job and your excellent leadership was one of the reasons this was such a productive and fun week.

And of course, a huge THANK YOU to all the very enthusiastic and hard-working participants.  We enjoyed meeting you and working with you and really appreciate your amazing contribution to CUE Haven.  And we know that visitors to CUE Haven will really appreciate the growing forest and walking tracks that are easier and drier to walk on and the benches to rest along the way.

CUE Haven now officially belongs to the community and we hope you will continue to be a part of the CUE Haven team over the years – lots of opportunities for you all to showcase your talents as artists and visionaries.  And it would be great to have you back as future DoEHA residential team leaders too.

We wish you much success in all your future endeavours and look forward to keeping in touch.

Thanks again!!