The Manawa Karioi Ecological Restoration Project is one of the oldest restoration projects in Wellington, on marae land in the southern suburb of Island Bay. The project’s goal is to create an island of biodiversity that connects with the other neighbouring restoration projects - Tawatawa Reserve, Paekawakawa Reserve and friends of Owhiro Stream in Happy Valley.
In early 2017, the project signed up to Trees That Count and pledged to plant 1,000 trees. The Wellington project was also one of seven groups across New Zealand to win native trees in the mid-year Trees That Count Matariki competition. The Manawa Karioi volunteer group were delighted to win an additional 300 native trees to plant. The additional trees selected were locally-rare trees that will become a seed source, allowing them to spread into the surrounding regenerating forest that they are currently absent from.
The 8ha restoration area was formerly low-productivity farmland. The project has spent years working out which tree species do best in the exposed conditions. The most exposed areas have seen plantings of pittosporums, coprosmas and cabbage trees. Sheltered areas have been planted out with more locally rare trees such as totara, rimu, titoki and rewarewa. The land has been transformed from a hillside of gorse, grass and blackberry to a new native forest.
This planned, diverse planting approach isn’t just about tree species coping with the challenges of the site and extreme weather. The project aims to bring back more bird-life into Island Bay. The Manawa Karioi forest has lots of small to mid-sized forest birds, but larger birds such as kaka and kereru need a wide range of food trees.
The last five years has seen these larger bird species visiting the forest, so the project is ensuring they have the range of trees available for them to thrive. Both kaka and kereru have been absent from south Wellington for well over 100 years, so it is really special to see them re-establishing themselves in this forest sanctuary, along with the shining cuckoo.