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Our Environment: Issue 12 - Spring 1997:

Our Environment: Christchurch City Council's Environmental Newsletter

Zonta Restores Natives Out In The Styx

Zonta, an international service group for women, decided to make an impact on the local environment. Without realising just how naive we were, we embarked on a five-year project to restore native vegetation to a stretch of the Styx riverbank, west of Brooklands.

The Canterbury Forest Trust provided the impetus in 1992 when it suggested restoring an area of native bush that had become overgrown with exotic flora. Then followed the search for a site, discussions with various owners and presentations to Zonta members in the five Christchurch clubs.

D Day came in January 1994 when we started cutting and clearing willow, blackberry, gorse, broom, alders and numerous thistles and weeds. Over the next four months we removed rubbish, derelict fishermen's huts, tin, glass and rubber. You name it, we removed it!

Planting began with one kowhai and several cabbage trees and flaxes on 14 May, 1994. We continued to fell and sell firewood that winter then received a major boost when the City Council took over the responsibility of clearing and removing the rest of the unwanted vegetation.

Photo of Zonta members at Styx riverbankSince then we have planted cabbage trees, flaxes, saltmarsh ribbonwoods, kowhais, ngaios, mahoes, matais, podocarps, kahikateas, manukas, wineberries, toitois and olearias in their thousands.


After three years work by about 100 women plus a few partners at monthly working bees, the overall concept is now taking shape, The first plantings are flourishing despite the dry winds, poor soils, lack of water at times, and wandering cattle, rabbits and the odd two-legged vandal.

This year the Wai-Ora Trust will clear the last area of unwanted vegetation under contract. We hope most of the remaining planting will be completed in the winter of 1998, leaving the final touches such as walkways, seating and maybe a barbecue area to be finished within the five years.

It has been a tremendous learning curve for us all. The excitement of seeing progress and hearing positive and supportive comments from the local people makes all the backaches, broken fingernails and scratched skins - not to mention the odd dunking in the river while filling buckets to water new plantings - worth it!

This project, included in a Waterways Enhancement video, is one of several for which the City Council can take credit.

Our heartfelt thanks go to Council staff for their encouragement, both verbal and practical, which has helped us edge closer to our goal. We would like to make special mention of Christine Heremaia, landscape architect in the Water Services Unit, who has been our mentor for the whole project. We would not have been able to contemplate finishing the project without her support.

With Christine's help I presented a paper at the Zonta International, New Zealand Conference in 1996, about our achievements on the Styx riverbank and how to work with local councils to achieve similar results in other areas. Our project has given worldwide recognition within Zonta to the Christchurch City Council Water Services Unit for the foresight to establish initiatives to improve waterways throughout our city, improving the environment for us and future generations.


Fenn Shaw
Zonta International

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