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Quail Island, Lyttelton

If you had set foot on Quail Island near Lyttelton in Canterbury thirty years ago, you would have been greeted by what a DOC ranger describes as “a dusty dry grassland overrun with pests and wasps”. The site, once steeped in historical and environmental significance, had been cast aside as unused farmland. 

Enter the Quail Island Ecological Restoration Trust. The Trust, made up of experienced representatives from a variety of backgrounds, drafted an ambitious 20 year plan to ultimately recreate a functional example of Canterbury’s ecosystem by restoring a 24ha native forest to Quail Island. 2016 was the 14th year of the plan’s implementation. 

The Trust has successfully eradicated all pests from the Island, with the exception of mice, and planted 86,588 trees and shrubs to date. 

In 2016 Trees That Count enabled the Trust to plant 2990 locally sourced native trees, including kanuka, kohuhu, lemonwood and manuka. The island has a special significance, being one of only two islands capable of supporting regional indigenous flora and fauna. It is also on the flightpath of native birds on their way to Banks Peninsula, providing a suitable home. The island is used for educational purposes, be it for pre-schoolers from Diamond Harbour Playcentre, students from Lincoln, Canterbury and Florida Universities, or local children from the Gifted Children Association and Girl Guides. 

Public engagement and volunteer work is crucial to the restoration effort. Locals converge on the island every weekend in August to assist with planting, while fortnightly volunteers visit to help with weed and pest control. Local groups, such as Kiwi Conservation, Cathedral College, Sunrise Rotary, and the Peninsula Tramping Club, have assisted the two Trust workers on the island to plant the trees provided by Trees That Count. Local firms, Fulton Hogan and Chapman Tripp, provided staff to support their efforts. 

The fruits of their labour are already being realised with visitor numbers increasing and many positive comments on the island’s restored appearance being made. Several species of native birds, including the native woodpigeon and bellbird, have already returned. The endangered White-flipper Penguin will also be reintroduced as the island is perfect for protection from the threat of mainland predators, such as dogs. 

Trust Administrator Barbara Price believes the island provides a unique opportunity for visitors. “They can come and walk on Quail Island and actually see the progress that is being made. I’ve had people call it ‘the jewel of the harbour’ now that its greenness can be seen from Lyttelton”. 

“The funding from Trees That Count has been a God-send” says Price.  “It’s been tough to get funding for these types of projects after the earthquake… we got to the point of considering not planting for a year. It has been an enormous help”.