A year after the government announced its COVID-19 recovery schemes, riparian revegetation projects are underway.
As discussed previously, the government has been well prepared to use green initiatives to recover from the devastating economic blow that is COVID-19. While the Delta variant has pushed the country into a bevvy of lockdown levels and regional differences, the mission to plant natives to protect and enhance our water quality throughout the country is still on track. We are busy planting projects funded by the Ministry of Primary Industries and the Department of Conservation as part of the Jobs For Nature COVID-19 economic recovery scheme. They are exciting projects that have allowed us to hire more employees and consistently produce and sell appropriately eco-sourced plants. We are generally seeing a big increase in riparian plantings in the region.
Here at the nursery, we realised early on that projects would focus on waterways. Water is important to all people culturally, biologically, and spiritually. So, waterway projects tend to get a lot of volunteers for spring planting days. This reduces the cost of a project and creates community ownership. Also, as part of the need to improve the water quality throughout Aotearoa, local councils and private landowners have been revegetating streams of all sizes and also using natives for bank retention and to minimise nutrient runoff in watercourses in rural areas. This is a positive step for all of us. Key plants for these purposes are Toe toe, Carex secta, Carex virgata, and Harekeke They all provide excellent bank retention and can easily thrive during times of drought and love water.
There are key species for each successive year of the project. This is where plant selection and availability comes into play. In the first year of a typical project, the site requires fencing and site preparation including weed maintenance. Then planting can begin. Plant the previously mentioned bank retention plants and any appropriately sourced trees and shrubs. Because as the old Chinese proverb goes, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
The second year focuses on planting any plants that were not available in the first round. Again, address weed and pest control before planting. As well as the bank retention plants mentioned previously, key species for riparian revegetation would be bird attracting plants such as Manuka, Koromiko, Kowhai, Ti kouka and Manatu. These are upper bank species and can get wet in periods of flood but do not stay wet for long. By attracting the birds, you are encouraging natural regeneration which saves money and provides biodiversity. These are widely available plants in nurseries. They are fast-growing and easily grown from seed, which is important when looking for eco-sourced crops.
Other water margin and lower bank plants such as various Juncus species, sedges and ferns should also be included. These species flower and fruit at different times, so they provide food as well as biodiversity. Coprosma propinqua is one form of Mingimingi that is key for birdlife. It is versatile in a planting plan and a hardy, adaptable shrub.
Finally, in the third year, podocarp species like Matai, Kahikatea, and Totara should be introduced.* This gives the nursery the time to grow seedlings to a healthy, plantable stage. The site will also have some established plants that can help protect these slow-growing species. If plant guards were necessary for the first two years, remove them as the plants should be too big to be damaged by browsing.
Once planting is complete, look after the area for a few years until it becomes self- maintaining. Remove weeds and stubborn invasive weeds like willow around young plants until they shade out their competition and the area is well established. Regularly walking through and enjoying the revegetated area will show you if any maintenance is needed and bring enjoyment.
Get the job done
Wai-ora’s Ecological Contracting department have been busy supporting government-funded projects in Canterbury. Our clients have seized these job creation opportunities to make a difference for our local biodiversity and water protection for generations to come, and it is our privilege to support these Eco-Heroes and their work. Part of our support has been working with regional councils and community groups to set out plants for volunteers. We have dedicated planting and maintenance teams who have been doing revegetation and weed control work for years.
*This is not a complete list of plants, for a more complete list, contact Wai-ora.
Streamside Planting Guide developed by Colin Meurk, Landcare Research, Lucas Associates and Christchurch City Council (1997)