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Teamwork helps to turn dreams into reality at Rangitane Stream

In 2015, Far North locals noticed a problem with soil erosion in a small neglected council reserve next to Rangitane Stream, where the crumbling banks of a stormwater channel deposited large amounts of sediment into the stream.

The reserve was also a source of many weeds, spreading gorse and problem weeds to the stream banks and surrounding areas. The local community asked the council to repair the channel, and gained permission to plant the reserve with native trees to support native birdlife. 

Inspired by riparian restoration projects elsewhere, the group evolved into Friends of Rangitane Stream (with a longer name Friends of Kapiro-Rangitane Stream) and started planting other areas near the stream. They have planted more than 7,000 native trees so far, and plan to plant many more in the coming years.

“We recognised the need to develop ecological corridors along the stream to support native wildlife —especially kiwi and rare wetland birds (such as dabchick/weweia, bittern/matuku, banded rail/mioweka and spotless crake/pūweto) which dwell on parts of the stream,” says Melanie, coordinator of Friends of Rangitane Stream.  “It’s a large task, but we’re making progress each year, step by step.”

Kapiro and Rangitane Streams are located in Kapiro, a rural area in the Far North. Rangitane Stream is well over 20km in length, while Kapiro Stream is a long tributary that flows into Rangitane Stream.

The group’s members are volunteers from the local community – mainly people who live near Rangitane Stream and eastern end of Kapiro Stream. Impressively, all of the group’s work is done by volunteers.

“We collaborate with other groups, because we believe we can achieve much more by working together,” explains Roger Holman, a volunteer trapper and tree planter.

The upper half of Rangitane Stream (more than 10 km length) runs through Landcorp-Pāmu farmland, and parts of the stream are protected by covenant.  Landcorp-Pāmu Kapiro station is a project partner.  They plan to increase predator control and plant native trees on their length of the stream in stages over time.

Friends of Rangitane Stream focuses on the lower half of Rangitane Stream, a length of about 10km, and part of Kapiro Stream.  They work jointly with Kerikeri Peninsula Pest Control community group and Kiwi Coast to control predators along the stream.  “Together, we’ve eliminated more than 2000 predators on the stream in the past 24 months” says Dean Wright, coordinator of Kerikeri Peninsula Pest Control.  “50% of the predators (about 1000) were caught by three awesome volunteers - Graeme Boocock, Tyler Boocock and Roger Holman.”

The Friends have a Community Agreement with DOC to help restore about 27 hectares of DOC conservation land on the stream margins.  “The long-term objectives are to replant the riparian margins, develop wildlife corridors along the stream and adjacent areas, protect native birds (especially rare or threatened birds), enhance native biodiversity, and improve water quality,” says Graeme Boocock, a volunteer trapper and tree planter.  “We are working towards this goal in stages, year by year.”

Trees That Count has funded many of the group’s trees each year since 2018: 3,400 native trees in total. “Northland community groups have been able to plant many thousands of native trees supplied at cost price by the Shadehouse nursery in Kerikeri, run by Rod Brown and an amazing team of volunteers,” says Tom, a volunteer tree planter with the Friends.  “It’s one more example of groups working together to make good things happen.”

Another is the trees the Friends have received as donations from Ngawha Prison nursery at the Northland Region Corrections Facility, which trains people in nursery growing techniques, increasing their work opportunities after prison.

“There are several significant areas of mature native trees along the streams, but the streams also pass through areas that have few or no trees,” Roger explains, “but, step by step, volunteers are planting trees and eventually we aim to fill the gaps between existing pockets of trees.”

Ultimately, the Friends aim to develop continuous sheltered corridors for wildlife along the stream margins; and from there, they have a long-term vision for working with other groups to develop larger networks of ecological corridors across the district, if possible.

“Forming ecological corridors or wildlife corridors entails planting trees and native vegetation, removing problem weeds, trapping predators, and other activities to support natural ecosystems.  We’re also planting wildlife corridors along creeks, small wetlands and damp gullies linked with Rangitane Stream, because these areas are important for rare wetland birds,” explains Graeme.

In the works for the coming year:

  • Tree planting and weed control: Each year the group organises native tree planting on additional areas along the stream.
  • Predator control: The Friends will continue looking after predator traps in the stream area working jointly with Kerikeri Peninsula Pest Control, Kiwi Coast and other groups.
  • Restoring wetlands: Plans are underway to plant and restore several other small wetlands linked to the stream to support wetland birds - and because wetlands provide valuable ecosystems and remove carbon dioxide from the air.
  • Protecting vulnerable species: The group will carry out other activities to protect kiwi and vulnerable wetland birds in the area.
  • Improving stream ecosystems and water quality: The group’s work also improves stream ecosystems. Rare longfin eels, as well as more common shortfin eels, live in Rangitane and Kapiro Streams. This coming year they’ll tackle several problem areas where sediment or other runoff enters the waterway. Planting appropriate native vegetation along the stream helps improve water quality—it stabilises the banks, reduces unwanted runoff and provides some shade—important for reducing water temperature for sensitive freshwater species and reducing growth of nuisance water weeds/algae.