Cooler and wetter weather can only mean one thing – it’s planting time at Tāwharanui. Throughout the years thousands of volunteers have embraced the pastime, sloshed about in mud, gazed at the stunning Hauraki Gulf or kept score of the plants they nestled into the earth. An enduring philosophy for the people who attend every year, or just once, is a commitment to improving the environment.
Two decades ago, volunteer conservationists knew they could achieve great things with Auckland Regional Council and Tāwharanui Open Sanctuary Society Inc (Tossi) was established. Soon Tossi had an on-site nursery to supply eco-sourced seedlings for an ambitious reforestation programme. To celebrate Tossi’s 20th anniversary the community is invited to witness the progress of the founders’ vision. Experienced Tossi members will guide people along an often-overlooked trail that includes a restored wetland and hilltop vistas over the first plantings in gullies.
In my naivety, the regenerating native bush doesn’t appear as spectacular as Ecology Bush near the popular beach at Anchor Bay. The remnant forest that was never cleared is full of birdsong and reintroduced birds, lizards and fish are established at the old end of the sanctuary. By comparison the 20-year-old bush seems quiet to me. However, with guidance from clever people who understand the science, I learned the relatively young bush is a thriving ecosystem at a different stage of its life cycle.
For example, the microorganisms I can’t see in the soil are busy contributing to the next link in a simple food chain that will become a complex food web.
It takes an extremely long time for new plantings to become the mature ecosystems that was once home to the threatened fauna and flora of Aotearoa. It feels like we’re just beginning and there’s no time to lose. It is a true celebration that the determination of the early Tossi volunteers continues after 20 years.
During the most recent community planting day, I met first-time tree planters Heidi and her mum, Marina. The pair embody the spirit of those who started the dream of a sanctuary in 2002. They’d travelled from Sandringham, not knowing what to expect but prepared for some hard work and fun. Like many young volunteers at Tāwharanui, Heidi is completing the William Pike Challenge at Kōwhai Intermediate School and planting trees contributed to her community service element. Heidi wants to help the birds and hopes that when she comes back in 20 years there will be many more and bigger trees. I hope so too.
Marina was keen for her daughter to experience the hard work needed to improve the environment and also, the feel-good factor that comes from collective mahi. Tossi’s free community open day is an opportunity to people to learn more about the outcomes of 20 years of restoring biodiversity. From 9.30am to 12.30pm on Sunday, June 26 there are guided walks to foundation and the latest planting sites, nursery tours and fun family activities, with a complimentary celebration lunch.
For more information and registration, go to events at www.tossi.org.nz.