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Nativity Project re-Generating our native forests

It's not often native trees take centre stage in the church nativity—but Trees That Count is stoked to be the charity partner for this year's Nativity Project at Auckland's Holy Trinity Cathedral. We chatted to Sarah Wilson to get the scoop on the initiative.

Tell us about the project, and the groups involved—there’s some history here, I think?

The Nativity Project at Auckland Cathedral of the Holy Trinity Cathedral is a collaborative venture by the Friends of the Cathedral and ADJust (Diocese of Auckland Young Anglicans for Social Justice), and was born from a desire to make a meaningful contribution to the life of Aotearoa during Advent and Christmas, our busiest time of year. 

Each year, the Nativity Project seeks to highlight a particular social or environmental issue by raising awareness of the cause itself, and by supporting the fundraising efforts of a particular charity operating in that space.

Our team creates an ‘alternative nativity’ installation on the forecourt of the Cathedral which represents the chosen issue and which, we hope, generates awareness and interest for the many hundreds of people visiting the Cathedral over the Advent period.

We also provide a way for people to contribute if they wish, and we have found that, for many, Advent and Christmas is a time when it feels especially good to give back.

What about this year’s project; what inspired the theme?

This year, The Nativity Project is thrilled to be supporting Trees That Count and the crucial work they do in regenerating and protecting native environments in Aotearoa. Despite the many other hardships this year has brought, 2021 has been a time when the environment has been very much in the spotlight on a global scale with particular emphasis on restoring what has, in many places, been lost. We felt that in choosing this theme for 2021, we would be actively contributing to that dialogue here in our islands.

‘Care of Creation’ is a central principle of The Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia. Many of our members are already actively involved in movements to protect and advocate for our native environments, so we are fortunate to have the support and knowledge of people who are passionate about this cause in our team.

Why native trees?

Native plant life forms so much of the identity of almost any place on earth and, here in Aotearoa, we have some of the most recognisable and iconic species in the world. I think that many of our team were shocked to hear that Aotearoa also has one of the highest proportions of native species at risk in the world, and we feel that the removal of native trees is the main catalyst for this loss of biodiversity.

Conversely, we hope that the replanting of natives will be an investment in the future of the rich indigenous plant and animal life in which, as New Zealanders, we take so much pride. You don’t need to look hard to find native plants used to represent us as a people—the silver fern for the Labour party and many of our national sports teams; Tāne Mahuta for the New Zealand Reserve Bank and, closer to home for us, the Pōhutukawa flower for Auckland Council— we are glad to have this opportunity to represent our trees in return.

Why Trees That Count?

The Nativity Project admires Trees That Count for the work they do in educating and raising awareness about the importance of our native environment.

At Christmastime especially, the opportunities that Trees That Count provides for individuals and businesses to find ways of gifting which will genuinely make a difference are wonderful.

What’s your aim for this year’s project?

We hope that our project will generate conversation and awareness of the importance of native trees to our ecosystems, especially in urban areas like Auckland where we have lost so much due to the need for infrastructure. We are glad to be a part of the conversation around how we as a nation can balance the needs of a growing population with the importance of retaining those urban and rural ngahere which, apart from being crucial to conservation and combating climate change, add so much to the quality of life of New Zealanders.

We are also hoping that we can fund as many native trees as possible for Trees That Count over the Advent and Christmas period. The team is busy encouraging people who would like to give a special Christmas gift which will instantly remind someone, far or near, of the beauty of Aotearoa New Zealand, or perhaps looking to offset in a small but meaningful way the toll that the Christmas season can have on our environment to donate trees to our Tree Registry.

You can see the re-Generation installation at Holy Trinity Cathedral until Christmas Day, or support their native tree fundraising here.