Ken Bowater

My name is Ken Bowater

I manage the Kelburn Gulley Volunteer Planting Group for Wellington City Council. This extends up from the motorway to the north of the Kelburn Park fountain.

I call on a small group of friends once a year to assist with planting, but do everything else during the year on my own. I have invited all of my neighbours (a mix of businesses and tenants – it is a small street) but none has been willing or able to lend a hand. Two of them are part of my group, but are not physically able to assist. So basically I am a group of one.

I have been active for about 10 years and have planted about 2000 plants (mostly trees) – about half from the Council and half that I have eco-sourced and propagated. As ‘my area’ is not a natural formation (it is a gulley formed below Kelburn Park when landfill was used from the motorway to enlarge the park) the Council has agreed for me to include some fruit and nut trees in the mix (provided they don’t require spraying or Council maintenance – e.g. walnut, avocado, fig). Mostly I anticipate this will provide variety of diet for the birds in the, but this will also contribute to the locally available food for future foragers.

Initially there were almost no natives except hybrid fivefinger, karaka, rangiora and kawakawa. The dominant species are ash, sycamore. The problem weeds (tradascancia, ivy, old man’s beard, blackberry, English Elm suckers and onion weed) are pretty much in control, with the tradascancia remaining the most persistent. There is now a baby native forest in the making.

I’ve removed crate loads of bottles, bucket loads of broken glass, household rubbish (shoes, tyres, saucepans, etc.), demolition materials (bricks, iron, pipes, cast iron sinks, etc) and bags of pedestrian litter. I buried the bath.  The area, including the stream, is now much safer to work in.

The planting is pretty much finished – just needs 20 years to grow. The priorities now are litter and rat (dormice, rats and ship rats) control, and ongoing weeding. The Council is currently not prioritising rats control in this area and have suggested either a year of monitoring or buying my own traps at $80 each from Greater Wellington Regional Council. Neither option appeals currently, so I await reprioritisation.

I would welcome interest from VUW or others in taking on the monitoring task, assisting with weeding, or taking on the trapping. There has been a significant increase in native birdlife – probably from Zealandia. Rat control is the next step towards further increasing the native bird life.

Both these photos below show a substantial gully that existed alongside Salamanca Road from near Gladstone Street. The gully was also used as a tip for part of its history thereby obliterating the course of the Kumutoto Stream
Te Aro Pic

Creator Unknown: Photograph of Te Aro, Wellington, and surrounding area.

[189-?] (Source: Alexander Turnbull Library).

Halo Cable Car

Wellington cable car and city [ca 1904] Photographic Archive.

(Source Alexander Turnbull Library).

Our gulley is down on the far side of the ridge of hillocks (now mostly flattened to become part of Kelburn park when the motorway was built, with Weir House on top of what remains). Kumutoto Stream and the university are to the right.

The head of the stream is now three pipes exiting the bank in the gully in the south western corner of the area. So the true nature of the shape of the landscape is hard to determine but it is obvious that this area has been altered substantially by human activity and from the mid 1800’s the area had been denuded of vegetation therefore, like most bush in Wellington it is a regenerated artifact.