This week, 80 students from Pinehaven, Trentham and Fergusson schools planted more than 150 native trees, shrubs and grasses along a 100 metre stretch of stream running through Heretaunga Park.
The students have been learning all about the freshwater environment as part of the Whitebait Connection programme delivered by Mountains to Sea Wellington, culminating in them improving the health of the stream.
These planting works will shore up the bare patches of stream bank in Heretaunga Park, reducing bank erosion, nutrient run-off and encouraging the return of native animals like the pīwakawaka.
"It has been a privilege to work with these students across the term. It is clear through the passion and effort shown by students during the planting day how much their knowledge and connection to this special place has grown,” says Sarah Kachwalla of Mountains to Sea Wellington.
Enviroschools’ Michelle Ducat was one of the driving forces behind the action, helping co-ordinate and setting the groundwork for the undertaking. She knew the schools were keen to connect with this place and honour the restoration work that has already been done.
“It’s has been amazing to see the community come together for this planting to support students. A huge thanks to the Friends of Mawai Hākona, Friends of Horoeka, Growing Places Community Trust and Upper Hutt City Council. Trees were sourced from nurseries at Forest and Bird Upper Hutt and Remutaka Prison. Funding for the trees came from the One Billion Trees programme.”
Part of what makes this project so exciting is its longevity, Sarah says. Both Pinehaven and Trentham schools are feeder schools for Fergusson Intermediate and the hope is that tamariki will carry this kaupapa with them as they get older, staying connected with this space and creating a sense of agency and stewardship.
In service of this ongoing mahi, the students also learned about how to look after the plants’ future by doing things like mulching, weed releasing and watering.
We have been planting trees as part of our action plan to improve the health of the stream. The trees will help provide shade for the stream, stop erosion of the banks and provide habitat for the creatures. It makes us happy to be able to help the environment and give the wildlife a better chance to survive. Isabelle, Sally, Lucinda and Kirsten - Fergusson Intermediate.
The hope is now, with more locals like these students realising their place within nature (not separate from it) and taking up the mantle of environmental stewardship, the next ten years will see regeneration on an even grander scale.