Zones Landscaping help restore Tauranga’s waterways

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ARTICLE  Amber Baker

Brace yourself.

According to the Department of Conservation, more than 62% of New Zealand’s lowland rivers are so polluted with pathogens, we can’t safely swim in them. 44% of our monitored lakes are so polluted, virtually nothing can survive in them. And 74% of our native freshwater fish species are now threatened with extinction.

The loss of native forests, intensive agriculture, urbanisation and the clearing of wetlands has all contributed to the declining health of New Zealand’s compromised waterways. Unfortunately, this is the reality for the future for New Zealander’s whether we know it or not. It will take awareness and active change to bring life back to our streams.

Ten volunteers from Zones Landscaping Tauranga recently played their part in the goal of restoring these compromised waterways. Zones Landscaping partners with Million Metres who they worked with, alongside the Uretara Estuary Managers and other community volunteers, to help restore the Tahawai stream and Uretara estuary in Katikati. Million Metres is a project led by the Sustainable Business Network, in partnership with the Department of Conservation. Million Metres is on a mission to restore one million metres (literally) of streams throughout the country.

The project works to restore rivers by supporting landowners and communities’ groups to plan, fund and plant their local stream. ‘Riparian’ is the area between land and a river or a stream. Freshwater scientists agree that riparian planting is vital to the health of our freshwater ecosystems. This type of planting helps stabilise the banks of waterways, reduces erosion, filters pollutants and restores native habitat for wildlife.

The Tahawai stream passes through farmland and orchards in the beautiful Bay of Plenty on its way to the coast. On this journey, the cool clear stream that leaves the Kaimai Forest becomes warmer, receiving the impacts of stock crossing, sediment wash from roads, tracks and general soil disturbance. All of this has had an effect on the health of the lower stream and estuary.

With a goal of 1250m of plants being planted at this stream alone, the project is well on track after the recent planting day in late July, with the stream now sitting strong with 913m of freshly planted banks. It has been said it takes a village to raise a child, similarly, it takes a community to save a stream.

“It was great to be part of the volunteer group that helped out on the day. The planting was well organised by the Uretara Estuary Managers and we enjoyed a morning planting a variety of shrubs and trees including Mahoe, Manuka, Kanuka, Sedge and Rimu. The plants were locally sourced and grown by the UEM, which meant they will have a greater chance of surviving local conditions,” said Nichola Vague, Tauranga Zones Landscaping Specialist. “We were also lucky to have the benefit of being able to learn about our endemic Longfin eel species that live in the stream. Improving the stream margins means that we are helping to improve the eels habitat and help with maintaining their species numbers. The kids loved the chance to catch and release a few eels as well!”

It's a feel-good initiative that locals are excited to get behind with the Tahawai stream planting day taking place on private land, where both the landowner and community shared an interest in bringing life back to the stream.

“It is very rewarding being able to help these incredibly important ecosystems. Trees and bushes around the streams are very important. In the summer they give shade, which keeps the exposed rocks cool. If the rocks get hot it increases the stream temperature, causing the fish to die,” said Nigel Ramsden of Zones Landscaping Tauranga.

Zones Landscaping are the leading landscaping specialists with a strong presence throughout the country. Each team collectively aim to apply sustainable practices in their landscaping projects where possible. “As landscapers, we’re very aware of how building and landscaping activities can create waste especially when removing existing structures or materials like paving and decking. Where possible Zones offers reusable materials for recycling or upcycling to reduce the amount of waste ending up in landfill. Offcuts from timber decking, excess lawn or plants can be someone else’s treasure. As part of keeping our waterways clean we also try to design natural drainage into our designs to keep storm water on site and out of the waste water system,” says Tauranga Landscaping specialist.

The Zones Tauranga team also recently raised further donations through a sausage sizzle at the local Mitre 10 in Tauranga, but their passion to help Million Metres won’t end there.

“We’re already looking forward to getting our gumboots out for the next one,” said Nichola.

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