Planting trees ‘best way to learn’

Pictured are (back from left) trust members Andrew Hutcheon and Colin Astle, Big Rock principal...
Pictured are (back from left) trust members Andrew Hutcheon and Colin Astle, Big Rock principal David Grant, trust members Anne-Claire Mauger, Viktoria Kahui, Kris Mullen of Wildwood Ecoforestry, and trust member Simon Laing, plus (front) pupils Leo Douglas (10), Armani Ngaia (9), Stevie Kahui (10), Alice Grey (10), and Amelie Laing (7). PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD
Local schoolchildren will join a Brighton environmental group in an ongoing project to restore and protect the Otokia Creek and Marsh.

After years of voluntary work, planting more than 1000 native plants in the area, local landowners and environmentalists recently formed the Otokia Creek and Marsh Habitat Trust to formalise their efforts.

The trust has been awarded a $21,659 grant through the Otago Regional Council’s Eco Fund, supporting its ongoing efforts to protect the marsh, foster long-term engagement with Brighton’s Big Rock Primary School, and provide public access to the marsh catchment for walking, nature viewing, and education.

Trustee Viktoria Kahui said the Eco Fund money would be spent on establishing a native plant nursery, monitoring water quality and planting natives along the marsh and creek.

"Having the marsh here is very special — the birdlife in the area is amazing."

That the Otago Regional Council had named Otokia a regionally significant wetland was an endorsement of the high ecological values of the area, Ms Kahui said.

Kris Mullen of Wildwood Ecoforestry started planting natives in the area more than eight years ago, and has been delighted to see the project gaining momentum and support within the Brighton community.

"The more native trees we can plant to shade the creek and marsh, the cooler the water will be, and the better it will be for the fish and birds," Mr Mullen said.

"We get quite big groups of people turning up to help with planting at the weekends, which is great.

"And in a wider sense, people are gaining awareness of the marsh."

There was also growing concern in the community about the connection of the Otokia Creek and Marsh to Smooth Hill — the proposed site of the Dunedin City Council’s new landfill.

Big Rock Primary School principal David Grant said the school was pleased to be invited to take part in what was already a well-established project.

"It will be good environmental education for the children — doing this kind of hands-on project is the best way for them to learn.

"Learning to look after and love their own spaces is a good philosophy to have."

The planting project involving the school will start in March and April next year, as autumn is the best time for planting.

The Otago Regional Council supported 10 projects through the October round of the Eco Fund.

Grant recipients in Dunedin included Otago Boys’ High School, Our Seas Our Future, University of Otago Department of Geology, and Otago Polytechnic.

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