Shelley Trotter‘s family have lived in the Duck Creek sub-catchment area of the Mahurangi River, north of Auckland, for five generations. It has been home to Shelly for as long as she can remember.
In the early 1970s, her father began fencing off riparian areas of the creek and from 1991 Shelley carried on his efforts. The neighbouring Solway Deer Farm was added in 1995 and a programme of extensive fencing and planting continued. “I worked out I was more of a tree planter than tree harvester” says Shelley. “I couldn’t cut the trees down, they were just too pretty”. The local council was meanwhile implementing the Mahurangi Action Plan - a 20 year strategy to restore the Mahurangi River and harbour (including addressing the high levels of sediment accumulation resulting from over a hundred years of pastoral farming), and to preserve the uniqueness of the landscape, location and history. Mahurangi Action, a community group led by local enthusiast and longstanding editor of the Mahurangi Magazine, Cimino Cole, was working with the council, local landowners, interest groups and schools, to promote various initiatives to demonstrate options for riparian retirement and planting using native plants.
Shelley took to the initiative like a … duck to water. In the early days she planted a large variety of trees but, in line with the Plan, she narrowed her focus to plant only natives. Tens of thousands of natives in fact, resulting in a Fish and Game New Zealand Award for Excellence in Riparian Management in 2010 and a NZ Farm Forestry Association award in 2012.
Shelley’s efforts were so prolific that she ran out of riparian areas on her own land and had to move on to her Uncle’s. “I fenced and planted my Uncle’s place, and, when the fence went in, I asked if we could leave room for a walkway. Thus, the Mahurangi Farm Forest Trail was born”.
The Forest Trail represents a key initiative within the Mahurangi Action Plan, and aims to improve water quality and provide corridors of indigenous biodiversity through lining waterways with native trees. Also of importance is the role the Trail has in successfully retiring farmland into areas for native plants to flourish. The Trail itself runs alongside Duck Creek and the vision is eventually to connect the townships of Warkworth and Matakana.
Trees That Count funded the planting of 5,000 locally sourced native trees in 2016, including totara, kahikatea, manuka, kanuka, and tarata. They were planted in an area that runs alongside Duck Creek and is not only part of the Mahurangi Farm Forest Trail but also a number of other walking tracks. Shelley prepared the area by clearing the ground and erecting new deer fencing, while farm labourer Richard took care of getting the natives into the ground throughout August.
There is strong community interest in the Mahurangi district, with several large projects being run by Mahurangi Action in conjunction with Auckland Council and other interest groups such as Tane’s Trees Trust, Trees for Survival and the local branch of the NZ Farm Forestry Association. All of these projects are working towards the common goal of reducing erosion and sediment input into the Mahurangi Harbour, achieved mostly by planting natives and fencing waterways to keep livestock out.