Communities across New Zealand are doing their part to increase native tree planting while celebrating and honouring their local community heroes, with more than half a million trees planted across the country.
The One Billion Trees-funded Matariki Tu Rākau programme, which is administered by Te Uru Rākau – New Zealand Forest Service, has to date funded 660,000 native trees planted as living memorials at over 300 events nationwide.
The programme is now accepting applications for memorial plantings in 2022.
Senior adviser, Matariki Tu Rākau, Belinda Miller says the programme is a great way for marae, schools, and other organisations to honour special people in their communities who have shown exemplary community service or have brought distinction through their work, while planting trees in their memory.
"Not only is tree planting a great way to commemorate and remember those who were important to us and our communities, it is also a great way to enhance the environment and native biodiversity by restoring and rebuilding our natural habitat and protecting our land, soils, and waterways."
Matariki Tu Rākau grants provide funding for native trees and rongoā species, clearance of planting areas, a plaque, and kai for the planting event. It can also contribute to tree maintenance.
"The Matariki Tu Rākau team can help you plan where to plant your memorial, what trees to plant, how to prepare and maintain your planting and how to get the local community involved," says Belinda Miller.
A great example of a recent planting event was at Maeroa Intermediate School in Hamilton, where students planted 500 trees to restore a gully and honour the late Rob Begbie, former teacher, and stalwart of the community.
"The children at the school collected seed, propagated the seedlings in their shade house, planted the trees, and are now maintaining their new forest and ‘outdoor classroom’ at their school."
You can watch a video of the planting day at the school.
"These small forests that are planted through the Matariki Tu Rākau programme provide important resources for communities to spend time in nature. Our hope is that these forests provide spaces for communities to enjoy for generations to come," says Belinda Miller.
Other recent examples of plantings supported by Matariki Tu Rākau include:
- planting 2,000 trees and rongoā species at Waiohiki marae, Napier to commemorate Tāreha Te Moananui, the first person to enter parliament with a full facial tā moko
- planting 370 native trees with Mohiki Trust, Central Otago to commemorate all researchers who have contributed to the knowledge of Central Otago's endemic flora and fauna
- planting 125 native trees in Wellington with Makara Pony Club to commemorate Jack O'Leary for his voluntary service to the Club.