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Our Environment: Issue 14 Autumn 1998

Our Environment: Christchurch City Council's Environmental Newsletter

Millennium Planting Plans For Port Hills

About 22,100 native trees and shrubs will be planted in the Port Hills to celebrate the millennium.

Moves to extend the breeding ground of the rare white-flippered penguin at Godley Head have also been adopted as a Turning Point 2000 initiative by the Port Hills 2000 project team.

The team aims to restore vegetation and birdlife on hillsides in the scenic reserves of Castle Rock and The Tors above Heathcote Valley, and Whaka Raupo located above Lyttelton.

"By implementing a carefully managed replanting programme we intend to restore self-sustaining native woodlands in gullies, resembling those of pre-European times," said Di Menzies, project team chairperson.

Plans include planting groves of kowhai and houhere trees along the historic Bridle Path. A special harakeke (flax) garden will also be developed in collaboration with the Ngai Tahu people of Rapaki in the south-east of Whaka Raupo reserve.

Initial planting of 20 hectares will be carried out mainly by community groups in the autumn and winter of 1999 and 2000. Orders for the native plants are now being placed so seeds can be collected from the Port Hills.

Christchurch City and Banks Peninsula District councils will continue to maintain and manage the 675 hectare reserves so that natural regeneration is encouraged.

"Conversion of some grassland vegetation to native shrubland in the Port Hill's dry climate is likely to be a slow process," says Di Menzies. However with careful management

she is confident the planting will be successful. "The plan also provides for retaining the wonderful rolling ridges in tussock cover," she said.

Walking tracks will be developed in the reserves, with stiles over boundary fences, appropriate signage and toilets in strategic places.

In addition the Port Hills 2000 project team supports a proposal by wildlife management consultant Dr Chris Challies to extend the Harris Bay breeding area of the white-flippered penguin. This would be achieved by protecting nearby Boulder Bay with a predator-proof fence then establishing a colony in the bay.

"A long term vision is to develop a penguin parade," according to the Port Hills 2000 booklet outlining millennium projects. "Visitors would arrive in the evening to enjoy the spectacle of penguins emerging from the surf like corks from a champagne bottle, to waddle up the beach in file to their burrows."

The Department of Conservation has agreed in principle to the concept and is now awaiting technical details which the group is preparing. Detailed information on the penguins - the third rarest in the world and colony establishment, as well as a landscape plan are also required.

Port Hills millennium projects will cost an estimated $574,000. The Port Hills 2000 projects team is currently seeking funding from agencies such as the Lottery Grants Board, sponsorship arrangements, fundraising and donations.

Jennie Hamilton

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