The Coolidge Street project began 10 years ago, to reforest a degraded three acre site at the top end of the Prince of Wales Park. The steeply sloping area had been used as an informal tip site for some decades. There were very few native trees left on the site, apart from a few struggling tree ferns that were regularly knocked by an army of grazing possums.
The site is a fairly sheltered, south east facing valley, with a stream running down through it. There is good sun and rich free draining soil on the slopes, with wetland areas near the stream.
Our vision is to create a sanctuary of real New Zealand forest almost within the city boundaries that will provide a bird friendly environment. All the planting has been carefully chosen to support native bird life, and particularly to provide year round food sources for kereru and tui.
There are 18 local households involved in the project and we now have a monthly working bee.
When we began the area was covered in mounds of pest plant climbers including blackberry, old man’s beard, convolvulus, nasturtium, and banana passionfruit. Underneath this were piles of non-degradable rubbish, including old stoves, bath tubs, dumped cars, millions of bottles, toilet pans, construction materials and general rubbish. There were also just about every kind of pest plant, as locals had dumped garden rubbish for decades as well.
The project began with local residents trapping and baiting possums. Possum control was then taken up by the Wellington Regional Council and is no longer a problem.
In the first years the focus was on ground preparation and weed control. Pest weeds were knocked back with a spray programme over three growing seasons, which was mostly done by the Wellington City Council pest plant team. The group then began clearing the dead blackberry etc and laying down blankets of newspaper, followed by a thick layer of tree/bark mulch.
In 2005 we became a Wellington City Council Community Planting Scheme. This meant that the WCC agreed to give us up to 500 native plants each planting season for the next five years. In return, we undertook to maintain and protect the trees, to ensure they grew and thrived. Now those five years are up we continue to apply for some extra planting, mostly for infill or under-planting.
The WCC plants are all local ecologically sourced for this area. In addition, the group has bought in lower growing native species shrubs such as hebes and coloured flaxes to interface between local gardens and the bush and create a more park-like approach.
Since 2005 we have planted over 2,000 native trees and shrubs, many of which are now over 3 metres tall. As the forest cover thickens up, the area is beginning to look after itself and the bird life has increased significantly. There are dozens of tui, and the first kereru has been spotted.
Coordinator, Coolidge Street Group
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