These two farms in the Ruatoria district have areas protected by a Ngā Whenua Rāhui covenant, a special form of covenant under the Reserves Act to protect biodiversity on Māori-owned land. Trees That Count funded the planting of 1,616 trees in the two reserves in July 2016. The plantings were organised by DOC ranger Graeme Atkins. Graeme was recognised by Project Crimson in 2015 for having planted over 14,000 pohutukawa and rata trees on the East Coast with the support of local communities.
Kia Ora Station is 10 minutes from the township of Ruatoria. The reserved area consists of a small forest remnant (15 ha) surrounded by pasture. It is located on a fertile alluvial terrace in the lower reaches of the Tapuaeroa River. The forest contains tall kāhikatea, matai, totara and pukatea emerging over a canopy of tāwa and titoki. Other species present include miro, pigeonwood, putaputaweta, rewarewa, nīkau and māhoe. It is visited by schools, community groups, the polytech, wananga and marae groups for bush walks and overnight camps. These can include talks on ecology, rongoa or Māori medicine, plant identification and pest and weed control by Graeme and other DOC staff. Because of its handy location to Ruatoria and the flat terrain that it grows on, the forest is highly valued by the local community.
It has been fenced for 15 years which has led to a spectacular recovery of the understory. Despite this, there are still large areas of thick , rank grass inside the reserve that have so far resisted the natural regeneration that has occurred under the native canopy . This is the area that was planted in July 2016 with support from Trees That Count and the assistance of local school children.
The reserve on Te Rimu Station is a 20ha coastal forest remnant consisting of mature pohutukawa, pūriri, tūwa, kohekohe, ngaio, cabbage tree, mānuka, kānuka, tauhinu, wharariki and taupata. Like the reserve on Kia Ora Station, it has many areas of rank grass as well as blackberry. These were sprayed before planting took place in July. Trees that Count funded the trees, which were planted with the help of local Polytech students.
Graeme Atkins hopes to extend the planting programme to other farms that have Ngā Whenua Rāhui covenants on the East Coast in years to come