Plan to 'grow the lungs of Christchurch' almost at halfway stage

Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust volunteers putting podocarps in the ground. PHOTO: TINA TROUP
Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust volunteers putting podocarps in the ground. PHOTO: TINA TROUP
An ambitious project to plant 10,000 native trees on Banks Peninsula is nearly halfway to its 2025 goal.

“We like to think of the southern Port Hills as a potential area to grow the lungs of Christchurch,” said initiative co-ordinator Sophie Hartnell.

Since 2021, signatory groups of the Te Kākahu Kahukura initiative have planted 4165 totara trees as part of the Podocarp Enrichment Programme.

They passed the milestone of 4000 podocarps at the end of the last planting season in October.

Giant podocarps include some of New Zealand’s most iconic natives, such as totara, kahikatea and mataī.

Sophie Hartnell.
Sophie Hartnell.
Hartnell said totara were planted first due to the species’ relative growth speed and resilience. 

Te Kākahu Kahukura is a collaboration between 18 environmental organisations, agencies, hapū, and private landowners, overseen by the Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust.

Its name represents the goal of the project. Kākahu means to dress or clothe, while Kahukura is a Māori god, in legend responsible for creating Banks Peninsula’s forests. Natural regeneration, planting and pest control are all parts of the initiative.

Planting the giant podocarps is a key aspect. The initiative’s signatories will begin planting kahikatea and mataī next year.

Hartnell is unsure whether the programme will reach its 2025 goal due to the pandemic causing delays at the start.

“We anticipated we could get the 10,000 in the ground, it may take a bit longer.”

The large trees will seed the land and make way for thriving native forests.

Hartnell said it is a crucial local solution to help address climate change and the global biodiversity crisis.

“The Canterbury Plains are sort of stripped of any ... native biodiversity. The Port Hills seem like the perfect place to remedy that.”

Te Kākahu Kahukura began in earnest in April last year, with organisations signing a memorandum of understanding, although conservation work was already under way.

More organisations, such as the Lyttelton Port Company, have signed up since then. 

The initiative is part of the BPCT’s overall ecological vision. One of its goals is to plant four 1000ha native forests across Banks Peninsula by 2050.

By Dylan Smits