Family day spent planting at Orokonui Scenic Reserve

A carving of Tane Mahuta (god of the forest) was unveiled and blessed in front of iwi, staff and guests at Orokonui Ecosanctuary on Saturday. The macrocarpa work took more than a year and hundreds of hours at the site for carver Alex Whitaker to complete, often in challenging conditions. More than 30 people attended the unveiling, which even included an appearance by a resident takahe. Photo by Linda Robertson.
A carving of Tane Mahuta (god of the forest) was unveiled and blessed in front of iwi, staff and guests at Orokonui Ecosanctuary on Saturday. The macrocarpa work took more than a year and hundreds of hours at the site for carver Alex Whitaker to complete, often in challenging conditions. More than 30 people attended the unveiling, which even included an appearance by a resident takahe. Photo by Linda Robertson.
Former All Black and current Highlanders scrum coach Kees Meeuws spent Father's Day digging holes at the bottom of a gully yesterday, and enjoyed every minute.

He and about 100 others planted 2500 native trees and shrubs at the Orokonui Scenic Reserve, a 28ha tidal estuary at the base of Orokonui Valley near Waitati.

Kees Meeuws
Kees Meeuws
Mr Meeuws had his children with him and said the day was a great success.

Warm weather, a Lion Foundation sausage sizzle and "buckets of lollies for sustenance" meant everyone was happy, he said.

About 5000 natives were planted at the reserve last September, and yesterday's effort was to enhance the work.

"Next year, there will be another lot planted as well, and that area will look pretty beautiful in about 10 years' time," he said.

Mr Meeuws is the Otago face of nationwide community conservation project Living Legends, which was established last year to celebrate and leave a legacy of New Zealand's hosting of the Rugby World Cup.

Nationwide, 170,000 native plants will be dug into the soil through the project before its completion in 2015.

Last year, 85,000 were planted in 17 regions, set to benefit from a further 45,000 native plants this year.

At Orokonui, the aim was to transform low-lying pasture into a thriving natural wetland, resembling what it looked and sounded like more than 150 years ago.

It was hoped the revived natural habitat would link Blueskin Bay with the Orokonui Ecosanctuary, and provide further foraging space for native birds in the area.

-rosie.manins@odt.co.nz

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