“I JUST WANT TO PLANT TREES”
It starts with a seed!
When we came to New Zealand our goal was establish a safe place for the family away from the turmoil brewing around the world. This wondrous country offers that but as we settled, cracks began to widen in the idyllic vision we’d painted. And it was nothing to do with the earthquakes!
We’re all aware of the damage we’ve done to the World and New Zealand Aotearoa is merely the latest causality.
It’s very easy to play the blame game, it’s easy to get into heated debate and even conflict. None of this does any good.
We resolved to do what we could. We decided to plant what we could, where we could. Fix what we can, where we can.
It seems we’re not alone!
Paul & Anna
Rewilding is a new, (pro)active approach to biodiversity conservation. The abandonment of rural areas worldwide provides huge opportunities for developing rewilding projects and creating new nature reserves – though it’s important to note that rewilding is necessarily a bottom-up process that can only be truly sustainable if it is set up and implemented in cooperation with local communities. Restoring ecosystems is key to our public health and mental well-being, and vital in the fight against climate change and mass extinction.
Rewilding is a form of ecological restoration with an emphasis on recreating an area’s “natural uncultivated state”. This may require active human intervention to achieve. Approaches can include removing human artefacts such as dams or bridges, connecting wilderness areas, and protecting or reintroducing apex predators and keystone species.
The general goal is to move toward a wilder, natural ecosystem that will involve less active forms of natural resource management. Rewilding efforts can aim to create ecosystems requiring passive management. Successful long term rewilding projects can need little ongoing human attention, as successful reintroduction of keystone species creates a self-regulatory and self-sustaining, stable ecosystem, possibly with near pre-human levels of biodiversity.
While rewilding initiatives can be controversial, the United Nations have listed rewilding as one of several methods needed to achieve massive scale restoration of natural ecosystems, which they say must be accomplished by 2030 as part of the 30×30 campaign.
Around 1000 CE, before humans arrived in New Zealand, forest covered more than 80% of the land.
The only areas without tall forests were the upper slopes of high mountains and the driest regions of the South Island (which did have small pockets of tōtara). When Māori arrived, about 1250–1300 CE, they burnt large tracts of forest, mainly on the coasts and eastern sides of the two main islands. By the time European settlement began, around 1840, some 6.7 million hectares of forest had been destroyed and replaced by short grassland, shrubland and fern land. Between 1840 and 2000, another 8 million hectares was cleared, mostly lowland or easily accessible conifer–broadleaf forest.
By 2000 New Zealand had only 6.2 million hectares of native forest, most on mountainous land and dominated by southern beech.
It is said that New Zealand has suffered the fastest rates of deforestation over the shortest period.
Modern Kiwis are now seeing the effects of this damage and there is a growing movement to ‘fix’ the problem.
The current solution is to plant native forests through a labour intensive and very expensive process. The land is cleared and sprayed, native seedlings pre grown in a nursery are planted individually by hand, staked and then covered with a plastic protector. Spraying continues for the next couple of years as the trees establish.
This system currently costs in the region of $30,000/ha
Costs of forest restoration planting (Source MPI)
From these data, minimum, average and maximum forest restoration costs can be inferred. Assuming the typical planting density of 4,444 stem/ha (1.5 × 1.5 m planting spacing), and assuming seedling supply from a commercial nursery, professional planting crew, and one year of commercially implemented releasing and blanking, typical costs can be indicated by the survey data (Table 3). Taking average costs for seedling supply, planting, releasing, and blanking – use of the most popular restoration grades results in average forest restoration planting cost of $22,314/ha, which equates to a simple costing of $5/seedling (i.e., $22,314/ha / 4,444 seedlings/ha = $5/seedling). The same scenario, but only for the second most popular seedling grade, results in an average forest restoration cost of $27,425/ha (or $6.2/ seedling).
Planting fenced riparian areas adds further benefit to the environment as plants function like a sieve, helping to filter out sediment and nutrients before they enter waterways. Stabilising riparian plants help prevent land erosion and increase the habitat for native wildlife.
Waterways are of particular interest to rewilding groups but prove particularly challenging due to their terrain.
In Paul’s opinion Pine is a toxic weed, grown for the benefit of overseas markets.
Forestry is an important industry for New Zealand with an annual gross income of around $6.6 billion. 1.6% of New Zealand’s GDP (Source MPI).
What are the environmental problems caused by forestry?
These negative impacts include: destruction of forest cover, loss of biodiversity, ecological imbalance, soil compaction, soil erosion, flooding, desert encroachment and disruption of hydrological cycle.
New Zealand now has 1.75 million hectares of planted forest, of which some 90 per cent is radiata pine, much in first rotation forests.
Pine has a three cycle lifespan. After this the soil is exhausted and can no longer support growth. It sheds massive quantities of toxic debris (pine needles, cones, pollen etc.) that smothers all other fauna except their own seedlings.
Their pollen (which is unattractive to bees) travels for great distance and causes major problems to water systems. Radiata seedlings quickly outgrow other species (even gorse) and in 6 months can be 1m high on inaccessible hill faces.
This species can suck up all available moisture and store it in its own canopy to prevent other species growing.
Pine timber when harvested, rots very quickly unless treated with toxic anti-fungal/insecticide solution immediately. It must then be treated with even more dangerous chemicals if it is being used for fencing or building material. Large areas contaminated by arsenic are thought to be caused by these timber treatment processes.
Old dying pine trees on fragile land leave 100mm diameter roots that have penetrated down 10m into the sub soil. These quickly rot to channel storm water into the subsoil which can cause major slips taking out whole hillsides.
Hundreds of millions of years of natural evolution designed native coniferous trees specifically for our unique island continent. These include rimu, totara, kahikatea, miro and others.
Paul recently purchased a farm in Ngatimoti and, wanting to restore much of the unusable or unproductive land to native began researching the process.
Having identified some 50 acres it soon became apparent that the costs were highly restrictive.
Paul’s land borders a recently planted native forest. Having spoken to the owner Paul learned that the bush is only twenty five years old and was started on bare paddock.
Roger, the curator, is passionate about restoring the forests and over the years has honed the process.
Step one is to use either an invasive species such as gorse or introduced Tagasaste as a nursery crop. This provides Nitrogeon and cover for the next phase of growth. Tagasaste is a fast growing tree grass with a flower that attracts birds such as Kiruru.
Guanau contains seeds of previously digested meals that begin to strike below the nursery cover.
After a couple of years natives reach the light. Shade intolerant gorse dies off leaving pristine bush.
Looking to accelerate this process Paul began to research seed bombing, replicating the natural rewilding process.
There is very limited information with regard to the process available and Paul has spent twelve months perfecting not only the process of making bombs but the vital recipe.
Controlled tests have proven highly successful with strike rates of up to 80% with certain NZ Native species.
Masanobu Fukuoka incorporated his ancestral gardening techniques into his own farming methods and, in so doing, started a revolution.
Seedbombs are an ancient Japanese practice called Tsuchi Dango, meaning ‘Earth Dumpling’ (because they are made from earth). They were reintroduced in 1938 by the Japanese microbiologist/ farmer and philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka (1913–2008), author of The One Straw Revolution.
Fukuoka led the way into the world of sustainable agriculture by initiating ‘natural farming’. His methods were simple and produced no pollution. His technique used no machines or chemicals and almost no weeding. Seedbombing was part of Fukuoka’s annual farming regime.
He believed that Mother Nature takes care of the seeds we sow and decides which crops to provide us with, like a process of natural selection, because ultimately nature decides what will grow and when germination will occur, be that in 7 days or several seasons away.
Fukuoka grew vegetables like wild plants – he called it ‘semi wild’. He seedbombed on riverbanks, roadsides and wasteland and allowed them to ‘grow up’ with the weeds. He believed that vegetables grown in this way – including Japanese radish, carrots, burdock, onions and turnips – are stronger than most people think. He’d add clover to his vegetable mixes because it acted as a living mulch and conditioned the soil.
Having honed a system that dramatically reduces costs and accelerates speed of propagation Paul is now sowing his first trials on his land.
There are several delivery methods:
- By hand
- Workshops with Catapults and competitions
- Education roadshow with Trebuchet
Bag o’ Bombs are what it says on the bag!
These will be sold online and through retailers such as Farmlands.
Backed by highly encouraging trials Paul is now confident and ready to establish Seed Bombing as the preferred system for reforestation.
Tāne and the forest
Encountering the bush
When the ancestors arrived in New Zealand, they found it was very different from their Polynesian homeland. They had been primarily seafaring people, but on these larger, colder islands, they also needed to know about the bush.
Understanding the forest was vital to life. As Māori explored and learnt about the forests, Tāne, the god of the forest, found an important place in tribal consciousness and traditions. People developed a reverence for and knowledge of te waonui-a-Tāne – the great forest of Tāne.
Tāne in tribal traditions
Tāne is a figure of great importance in tribal traditions. Tāne separated earth and sky and brought this world into being; he fashioned the first human; he adorned the heavens, and brought the baskets of knowledge, wisdom and understanding down from the sky to human beings.
Tāne is sometimes given different names to reflect his different roles. He is called Tāne-mahuta as god of the forest, Tāne-te-wānanga as the bringer of knowledge, and Tānenui-a-rangi as bringer of higher consciousness.
Tāne as a model
Tāne is a model for masculinity and action in the world. His various names suggest freshness, youth, someone who can overcome others’ actions, and who is true, loyal and authentic. He is seen as upright and able to bear the weight of an enterprise; he has his roots in the earth and his head in the heavens.
In most Māori creation traditions, Tāne separated earth and sky. His parents, Ranginui (sky father) and Papatūānuku (earth mother), had produced many children while lying in a close embrace. The children became frustrated with living in darkness between their parents, and decided to push the pair apart.
This creation story by Wiremu Maihi Te Rangikāheke of Te Arawa tells how Tāne’s brothers tried and failed to separate earth and sky:
Rongomātāne arose to separate the two, but the two were not separated. Tangaroa arose to separate the two but they were not separated. Haumia-tiketike arose but the result was the same. Tūmatauenga arose and the result was the same. Finally, Tāne-mahuta arose…
It was Tāne who successfully separated Ranginui and Papatūānuku, and created Te Ao Mārama – the world of light.
Trees in the forest
Trees in the forest are seen as Tāne-mahuta, rising to separate earth and sky. Tāne, the tree, holds the sky aloft, bringing light into the world. The widespread felling of forests in New Zealand in the 19th and 20th centuries was calamitous to the traditional world view of tribes that lived in the forest – it was like the sky rejoining the earth, and the world returning to darkness.
The felling of forests also went against traditional models of behaviour. The word ‘tika’ means erect, upright and correct – as a tree is upright and erect. It informs the concepts of tikanga – correct behaviour or action – and whakatika, which means to arise. Correct behaviours arise from within a person, as a tree rises from the ground.