Whitestone River Project Update,Te Anau Basin, Southland

20 May 2020 by alaina@sustainable.org.nz queenelizabeth Southland

Thank you to all the early supporters of Million Metres! Whitestone River was our first South Island waterway restoration project. The plants went in the ground back in 2015 and they are now almost 5 years old.

Unfortunately, due to an exceptionally harsh winter that first year, only 20 percent of the plants survived. While this was a very disappointing outcome for everyone involved, lessons learnt have informed further planting projects in the area and our own processes so that we avoid further losses like these.

The remaining plants are doing well!! The flax are now 1.5 to 2 metres high and going strong.

QEII National Trust partnered with Million Metres and Pāmu/Landcorp to deliver this restoration planting. Mark Sutton, QEII Trust Waiau representative updated us recently on how the plants are doing. He said:

“The Flax, Carex secta, Toi toi, and Cabbage trees are the real survivors here. When I visited the site last September some Coprosma plants that were also planted have survived. They will continue to do well from here on in.”

Progress since 2015 and what next

The experience of this project has inspired a new approach to riparian planting in the area.

The Department of Conservation are trialling direct seeding on the same property as the Million Metres planting site. This approach uses a machine towed from a 4 wheel drive vehicle to plant seeds of native plants directly into the ground. As with all planting projects, site preparation and clearing of the aggressive grasses in the area is critical in the survival of these seedlings.

Pāmu has since made a commitment to purchase and plant 25,000 plants annually in the Te Anau basin. Mark Sutton says,

“The Million Metres project planting has provided us with a lot of lessons that we are using to further waterway restoration in the area. A big thank you to all those who donated, the plants that survived are doing well and our efforts in the wider catchment are benefiting from what we’ve learnt at this site.”