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Kiwis say it with native trees during lockdown

Photo: Jim Robinson

New Zealand environmental charity Trees That Count reported a 175% increase in the number of people gifting native trees during the lockdown period, and put it down to strong kiwi values of generosity and manaakitanga even in times of crisis.

Trees That Count runs the country’s only online tree marketplace which enables people to give a $10 ‘virtual native tree’ to friends and family – the ideal non-contact gift during Levels 3 & 4 of lockdown.

The trees are then given free to expert planters who plant them on behalf of the recipient in one of hundreds of planting projects happening around the country. Planters range from farmers, iwi, and schools through to local community groups planting native trees to improve air and water quality and bring wildlife back to the area.

Since lockdown started on March 25, Trees That Count has had 5134 trees gifted through the marketplace, which is a huge increase compared to the same period in 2019 when 1863 trees were given.

CEO Adele Fitzpatrick says the charity was glad to offer a meaningful way for people to connect with one another during the challenging weeks of lockdown.

“Being separated from friends and loved ones has been one of the toughest parts of lockdown life for Kiwis, but that hasn’t stopped them from finding ways to give something thoughtful to the people they’re missing the most.

“We are really proud of New Zealanders for still holding onto those values of kindness and generosity, and caring about the environment, even though they’ve faced really uncertain times and financial strain.”

Trees That Count, like many other New Zealand charities, has also felt the financial pressure since lockdown started with a decrease in business funding and support. CEO Adele says the generosity of individuals and families gifting trees will help soften the blow, but like other New Zealand organisations, it will take some time to fully recover.

“What we’ve loved seeing since lockdown started is how much people have been appreciating nature and the beauty on our back doorstep, and we really hope that continues,” says Adele.

“Those trees that have been gifted are a perfect example of how lots of small actions by individuals can create a consequential collective impact. 

“The 5000 plus native trees given during lockdown will not only sequester carbon, but they’ll also help strengthen our threatened biodiversity and create habitats for our indigenous wildlife.”

The Trees That Count website is flooded daily with public messages of support from people gifting trees for birthdays, wedding anniversaries, new babies, memorials and just to say thanks to someone important.

“We have seen so many great stories coming out of lockdown with people using this as a time to get back into nature and do something positive for the environment,” says Adele.

“One of our favourites was Paras, who started a native tree registry for his lockdown 21st and raised over 180 native trees, which was such an inspiring way to turn his situation into something positive.

“We want to thank every New Zealander who’s given back to the environment during this time, your efforts are making a difference for us all.”