Flat Top Hill Conservation Area

Flat Top Hill Conservation area is the location of our flagship revegetation project.

Five areas were specially put aside by DoC for revegetation when the land was purchased in 1992. Planting was then undertaken by DoC from 2007 until 2011 with around 1,000 plants being planted across the five sites. Success was mixed, but you can see a number of survivors from this period. They are mainly the tree daisy species (Olearia sp), the ubiquitous Mingimingi (Coprosma propinqua), Kōwhais (Sophora micorphylla) and the tall Ribbonwoods (Plagianthus regius) you can see in the damper gullies.

Fast forward to 2020, the year which Haehaeata Natural Heritage trust took on the challenge of revegetating these sites.

Of the five sites, we chose the ‘roadside plot’ as the best chance for a successful outcome for a dryland planting project. It is a rabbit proof enclosure of just over 1.5 hectares in size but at this stage we are limiting ourselves to a much smaller area close to the damp gullies. It has a natural, seasonal water course that can run year round in the wetter years. rock. Thick silty soil infills the gullies between the schist outcrops. This soil has good moisture holding potential, but a lot of work is needed to clear off the thick grass and to keep it and other weeds away from the plants while they grow big enough to survive the onslaught.

At the end of 2022 we are up to year three of a multi-year project where we aim to plant 500 trees and shrubs annually. The goal is to restore the grey shrublands to an area that has been farmed for around 100 years. In future it will become (we hope) ground zero for the natural expansion of our flora by creating a vibrant and healthy plant community which becomes a great seed source for the surrounding, less protected parts of the conservation area. In the short term, it boosts the food and shelter available to support a greater number or range of lizards, birds and insects some of which rely solely on these species for their survival.

Our first planting in 2020 had a few hiccups with the appearance of COVID preventing the ground preparation we had planned. Rampant, exotic grass growth has been a major factor to the first year’s 69% survival rate here. The 2021 planting has a first year result of 83% survival which is 14% better that the 2020 plot’s first year, so we can see we are doing things better.

The 2020 planting site. The larger trees are Coprosmas, ribbonwoods and Olearias that survived the initial planting by the Dept. of Conservation.

The Alexandra Rotarians helped us greatly in 2020 with our first planting.

These are the 45 species we have trialled, 14 of which are on the NZTCS list as ‘Threatened‘ or ‘At Risk’. To date approximately (Jun 2022) 34% are these uncommon plants that could do with having their populations boosted.

Dryland planting relies on natural rainfall for plant survival. In most locations across the country this would be fine but here in Central we need to accept there will be failures. To mitigate this, we have been working hard to assess the right species for the site. There is a lack of information in this area so by trialling a large number of different plant species and regular monitoring of all our plantings we are gaining some good insights.

Finally, we would like to thank all the people and groups that have joined us in our revegetation efforts. There are hundreds of hours that have gone into this project. From the eco sourcing of the seed to the volunteers propagating them every week at our nursery, the data collection, administration, the maintenance and of course, the glory job of planting.

Trees that Count and Contact Energy have funded the plants, DoC assists with the initial ground prep and have funded the shelters and weed mat in the past, Dunstan High school have helped with monitoring, Alexandra Rotarians have joined the trust along with numerous members of the public for planting and now we can add corporates like WSP to the list as well.

FTH 2021 planting

Site planted out in April & May 2021

Volunteers at our public planting day

FTH 2022 planting

Site once planted out (October 2022)

WSP corporate volunteering once the day had warmed up to 3 degrees celsius!

Would you like to help this project? There are a number of ways you can.

· Join our summer evening weeding crew – a couple of sessions each season haehaeata@haehaeata.org.nz

· Join our newsletter mailing list to find out about planting days haehaeata@haehaeata.org.nz

· Donate the cost of a plant to this project – https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfT8HGduJlFnRdzXKyxh-ZQZuekEmSqAe1UkaK-F7QrXOl0kw/viewform?usp=sf_link

· or follow us on facebook