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Ignored no longer: the restoration of Tanera Gully

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By Denis Asher
One of Wellington’s many north-south fault-lines, Tanera Gully is one of a growing list of central city restoration projects.

Seven or so hectares, steeply sided, empty of original forest cover, crossed by high-tension power lines, framed by ancient pines, and sitting over serious plumbing (various storm water, etc drains). Until recently, it’s been a relatively ignored area. Part of the town belt, but a dump for residents and passers-by. Somewhere to exercise your dog, somewhere to sleep rough.

A perfect environment as well for the capital’s suite of plant invaders — ivy, buddleia, sycamore, old man’s beard, tradescantia, etc. But amongst the rubbish, plants with a more powerful claim to provenance are apparent: they include māhoe, the usual coprosmas, mamaku and at least two mature tītoki. Karo is also there, as is pōhutakawa. Both are well outside their original range. They’ll have to go. Why? Because our objective is to go forward by going back: restore as much as we can of the pre-1840 biodiversity.

We’ll not return huia; and the laughing owl has also gone. But, we can bring back miro, northern rātā, clematis, fuchsia, etc. We can trap. We can reduce predator pressure and increase the breeding prospects for kākāriki, kākā, korimako, etc. Maybe one day we’ll persuade residents to keep their cats inside, day and night.

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A community discussion took place during March 2015. Working parties now meet regularly. Forest & Bird took us under their wing. We started moving the rubbish out and dealing to the weed tsunami. The original residents are returning, courtesy of eco-sourced seedlings out of Wellington City Council’s excellent Berhampore Nursery, Forest & Bird’s marvellous Highbury Nursery and Project Crimson. Trappers emerged. The first weasel is dead, as are numerous rats, mice and hedgehogs: we kill to conserve.

Corporate volunteers have appeared. Conservation Volunteers continue to undertake valued work. The Council has dealt to several massive sycamores — handsome trees but seriously out of place.

Those aging pines? No one’s resourced to take them out. Besides, they’re the tallest trees in the neighbourhood; the best roosts for kākā who regularly slalom through. Kererū are also about. These pines will come down in time by their own life cycle. We’re planting out around them in the meantime and if we lose some natives when the old boys fall, then others will take their place.

Kōura reside in our tiny streams, and titiwai/glow worms were found under a dumped garage door — a piece of inorganic rubbish that won’t be moved just yet. One recent, long dry summer notwithstanding, the new plants are doing well. Weed control is our single biggest activity. Myrtle rust may prove to be a serious set-back: northern rātā is a priority for this area. Early settlers’ diaries and letters talk of Wellington’s Christmas Eve crimson hills: possums, fires and felling drove these trees close to local extinction. We want that back.

Three years’ effort has already worked its magic — our clear intentions are emerging.

First published in Forest and Bird’s Chirpings newsletter.

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