Hurunui youth conservation project gains traction

A three hectare block in Balmoral Forest has seen invasive weeds ripped out and natives planted in their place, thanks to the Hurunui Youth Kaitiakitanga Project.

Having only been in place for a year, the youth project has already created fantastic results in terms of returning native flora and fauna for the area.

The Hurunui Youth Kaitiakitanga Project was launched in May last year and has been supported by the Hurunui District Council and Environment Canterbury. The two councils provided conservation-based education for the young people involved.

Now, a year on from the launch of the conservation site, work is continuing to restore the area and create a space where Hurunui youth can exercise guardianship of the land.

Most invasive weeds have been cleared and the first round of native planting was carried in the last week of May. Two hundred native seedlings were planted, despite the number of participants being limited to 10 people to remain within Alert Level 2 guidelines.

Native planting in Balmoral Forest

Native planting in Balmoral Forest

Native plants right at home

Our northern zone delivery lead Marco Cataloni spoke of the importance of preserving local plant genetics.

"We brought 16 species of plants with us, all natives, with the seeds having been collected in the Hurunui district. That means they are all indigenous to the area," he said.

"That's important, because plants from elsewhere could be a slightly different species, better suited to another area and dilutive to established genetics."

"There's plenty of scope left at the site for more plants and I have great faith in the ability of the young people involved to take the ball and run with it," Cataloni said.

Weed control and site preparation was carried out prior to the youth project taking over, with Environment Canterbury providing the plants, weed matting and plant protection for this first round of work.

"There will be ongoing fundraising required to keep enhancing that area, but Hurunui Youth have taken up the challenge."

"I think it's a good opportunity for young people that live in the community, to learn what was there once upon a time and what that land used to look like. Young people wanting to take guardianship of a place is a fantastic thing."

Youth taking ownership

Hurunui District Council youth development officer Ward Shearman said it was a fantastic day of planting.

"The youth helping were students from Hurunui College. Their science teacher, Tim Kelly, is currently teaching Agriculture and Horticultural Science. They're interested in landscaping, habitat preservation and the establishment of plants, so we were thrilled to have them," Shearman said.

Youth councillor, and Year 12 student at Hurunui College, Roderick Murchison, thanked the councils for their support.

"It's great to be able to restore an area that was just covered in weeds and other introduced plants and give it new life. I look forward to continuing the restoration and seeing how the area will look in future years as a part of our community," he said.

Youth councillor, and Year 13 student at Hurunui College, Bradley White, said the site is going to be an asset for years to come.

“Being able to take part in the first stages of one of the Hurunui Youth Council's biggest projects is amazing. As a Youth Councillor, it's something I've been waiting for. Seeing this plan come to life really highlights what youth can achieve."