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Our Environment: Issue 23 Winter 2000

Our Environment: Christchurch City Council's Environmental Newsletter

Network builds interest in native restoration projects

From the street, thriving tussocks are the only clue to the burgeoning ecological network nurtured inside Mike Peters’ Addington home.

The Addington Bush SocietyOut the back though, the 1,500 square metre Eel Creek Reserve Mike began planting 10 years ago reflects his passion for indigenous plants. The reserve led to the creation of the Addington Bush Society which, because of the huge interest it generated, spawned the New Zealand Ecological Restoration Network known simply as NZERN.

The Bush Society is now a member of NZERN which links 111 groups and more than 3,000 members nationwide on its web site (

Committed to hands on restoration the groups publicise plantings, share resources, and provide details of their own projects. Development of a TV series called Bush Telly, which will feature the various groups, is now underway and will air on CHTV on Sunday mornings.

NZERN’s recently written constitution outlines its main purposes as:

  • To aid conservation, restoration and protection of NZ native plant and animal communities;
  • To engage all interested individuals, community groups and other organisations to participate in this work;
  • To build a shared self- help, nonpartisan network made up of many individuals and independent organisations each wih their own sites, nurseries, ideas and experiences;
  • To create and distribute useful rsources where there is a common need, including nursery materials, tools and equipment, electronic, broadcast and print media, educational resources.

Mike is acting President of NZERN, which is about to become a legal entity, and President of the Addington Bush Society. Although both organisations share key officeholders they are administered separately.

A sculptor, Mike considers his “day job” is perfectly compatible with his commitment to biodiversity. “I like creating things, I like doing things. I’ve always gone tramping because I just love the natural environment. It’s about aesthetics.

“In one hundred years we want to have tuataras running all round the country again, he says. “This is the home for all these animals and plants.”

Mike began planting his back yard in the early 1990s. Inspired by his vision seven neighbours gradually knocked down their fences and began planting the expanding reserve in native trees and shrubs. The Addington Bush Society was set up to legally protect the ownership of neighbours’ combined back yards. Two families have moved but others who took their place were happy to buy into the concept.

These days, fingers of land jut between fences, planted with many indigenous varieties from Canterbury-sourced seed or cuttings. Carefully constructed wooden bridges cross the swales while a rather grand wooden hut stands in the centre. Flocks of fantails visit the reserve, adding kowhai and other seeds to the indigenous mix. “We’ve got more plants that are self sown than we’ve planted,” says Mike.

Other families and schools in the neighbourhood have also joined the society, which produces seedlings for ongoing planting projects in its own nursery. Huge interest in the Addington Bush Society took its members by surprise and threatened to become unmanageable. When operators of the Native Habitat database wanted to pass it on, Mike leapt at the opportunity. Since then the network has evolved “on the basis of need, trial and error”. The result was a shop window for ecological restoration projects in New Zealand and an effective management tool.

Interest shows no sign of waning. “I receive 60 e-mails a day,” says Mike. “It’s just phenomenal.” Whether he’s linking groups through NZERN or restoring native plants to riverbanks and other habitats Mike’s happy to put in the hours. For him the issue is simple. “We stuffed it up. Why can’t we fix it up again?”

Jennie Hamilton

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