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Council leasing green belt land for VUW students and staff to plant native trees in Ohariu Valley

Grant Guilford and Tim Park WCC Environment Partnerships
VUW’s Grant Guilford and WCC’s Tim Park

News from WCC
Students and staff from Te Herenga Waka — Victoria University of Wellington will plant new native forest on the Outer Green Belt in an environmental partnership with Wellington City Council.

Councillors today approved the initiative that will see the University lease 11 hectares of land in Ohariu Valley for 33 years and undertake an annual native tree planting programme to progressively revegetate the site.

Mayor Andy Foster says the project is the Council’s first collaboration with the aim of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by establishing new native forest, and complements our long established Two Million Trees programme of planting native trees, and expanding our carbon sinks in the Outer Green Belt.

“The planting methodology the University propose is designed to maximise the removal of carbon dioxide from the air as well as providing practical teaching and research opportunities for University staff and students.”

University Vice-Chancellor Professor Grant Guilford says projects like this are integral to the University’s commitment to becoming carbon neutral by 2030. “We have sponsored an annual native tree planting day, ‘Growing Graduates’, for some years in the Town Belt but this is a significant expansion of that programme and has the added benefit of enhancing the partnership between the University and the city to the benefit of Wellingtonians.”

Councillor Tamatha Paul, the Council’s Climate Change portfolio leader, says planting will take place over the first three to four years, with up to 28,000 trees going in the ground. Over 50 years this would generate 3,575 carbon credits.

“The Council is looking at how it can best use its land to draw carbon down out of the atmosphere, and restore more of the ecosystems we know Wellingtonians love. Partnerships like this with the University are a great example of how we can achieve more together than each acting on our own. It gives me hope.”

Councillor Teri O’Neill, Council’s Natural Environment portfolio leader, is excited the University is getting staff, students and alumni involved in the acceleration of the ecological restoration of the Outer Green Belt. “This partnership will actively engage many Wellingtonians in restoring better ecological connections between Rangituhi / Spicer Forest and the forests on the flanks of Tarikākā (Mt Kaukau).”

University Director of Sustainability Andrew Wilks says the initiative offers significant research opportunities.

“Our Centre for Biodiversity and Restoration Ecology has already been involved with planning for the site with Master’s student Cameron Johnson investigating suitable plant species for the site. We plan to divide the site up into different plots to test different aspects of the reforestation.”