Students help out at reserve

In early March, 26 keen university students from the US descended on Pukemokemoke Bush Reserve for some hands on restoration experience. EcoQuest lecturer and keen weed puller Robyn Sinclair talks about the day.

The students are here for a three-month visit to New Zealand to study at the EcoQuest Education Foundation, based in Kaiaua. A mix of wildlife ecology, conservation and environmental studies university students, they are mostly in their third and fourth years.

Warrick Silvester shows the students the fruits of totara

Our trip to the reserve started with a drive through the Hauraki plains and the sea of farmland between Kaiaua and Pukemokemoke. The reserve itself is easy to spot – the first patch of good looking bush for miles!

We were then treated to an excellent discussion of the history of the reserve and of the history of the New Zealand flora by Warwick Silvester, and a talk on Kauri dieback by Waikato Regional Council’s Jeanie McInnes, followed by morning tea and a tour of the work to date – including some botanising along the way.

Shelby and Chelsea enjoying pulling privet

Work began in earnest after the tour and included path laying and privet pulling. We extended the path along Mangatea track by about 25m, with most of those involved there disappointed to stop for lunch. We had some experienced path builders, and some new to it, but a good job was done by all.

The rest of us pulled privet seedlings. Mostly there was amazement and awe at the root system even a small seedling can have, and then things started to get competitive – how many can you pull out? Overall we pulled privet from a 40m long section of Mangatea track, starting from the start of the new path and ending at the clearing.

Sawyer, Alex and Levi level gravel ready for next wheelbarrow load. All photos by Rebekah Gee.

Post-lunch, our final activity at the reserve was a climb to the viewing platform and a trip to the Kauri grove. For some students, this was their first encounter with our iconic tree species, and there were grins all round.

There was a jovial atmosphere about the working area, and in the vans going home. Since arriving in February we’ve been teaching the students about all the problems we have in New Zealand – weed invasion being a massive one – and finally there was a sense of being able to help fix a part of the problem.

It was a pleasure and we’ll be back!

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