Kids Discovery Plant-outs a nationally recognised success

More and more green dots are appearing around the Selwyn region – bringing back a habitat for native plants and animals.

And it’s the region’s children who are getting involved in restoring and protecting pieces of how this part of Canterbury used to look, though the Te Ara Kākāriki Canterbury Greenways Trust’s Kids Discovery Plant-out Days.

Now, the programme that sees around 1330 kids aged five to 14 lend a hand planting native species, has gained national attention.

The Plant-out Days, which are supported by 14 schools in the Selwyn region, won the schools category of the New Zealand Plant Conservation Network awards, held at Te Papa museum.

Kids Discovery Plant-out Coordinator Lou Drage and Enviroschools Canterbury Facilitator Matt Stanford were in Wellington to receive the award from New Zealand Plant Conservation Network President Rewi Elliot.

Lou and Matt receiving award

Kids Discovery Plant-out Coordinator Lou Drage and Enviroschools Canterbury Facilitator Matt Stanford receiving the award from New Zealand Plant Conservation Network

It was great for the programme to recognised at a national level by the panel of the NZPCN, especially considering their expertise and knowledge,” Matt says. “We were stoked to let the students know their mahi is valued beyond their rohe.”

Green dots around Selwyn

Less than one percent of the Canterbury plains is covered by its original vegetation. The trust aims to increase that area, creating a corridor of native plantings on public and private land through partnerships with landowners and other organisations.

These green dots are large enough to provide a web of forest ecosystems that improve the region’s biodiversity, without impacting on productive land use.

Lou says us that the level of interest in their programme is growing, with more landowners asking about how they could establish a “green dot” on their land.

“Creating an eye-catching habitat on a corner of land or shelterbelt can help to conserve the special birds and insects that are native to New Zealand,” she says.

“Native plants also have important roles to play in sequestering carbon, preventing erosion and filtering run-off from roads and farms.”

An inspiration for young ecologists

Plant-out days, which contain an educational component – are often called some of the most fun activities for students, Matt Stanford says.

“The Enviroschools kaupapa really centres around connecting young people to their local environment so that they act instinctively in ways to protect it.

“The Kids Discovery Plant-out programme connects classroom learning at school to action at a local reserve. Each day is bespoke with different activities tailored to the learning focus, putting the planting in context.”

And that context is inspiring young people. Year 7 Springston School student Toby Benison has been awarded the Young Plant Conservationist award. Toby has participated in many Kids Discovery Plant-outs and through the programme has become very knowledgeable about biodiversity restoration along waterways. He also travelled to Wellington to receive his award.

Funding boost

The Selwyn Waihora Zone Committee has approved an additional $10,000 in Immediate Steps biodiversity funding for the Kids Discovery Plant-out programme.

Lou says that this funding will help expand their planting along the Huritini/Halswell River at Stackwoods Bend.

“Ladbrooks School students have been working hard to establish a corridor of native vegetation so it’s fantastic that the Zone Committee are supporting the extension of this habitat creation project,” she says.

Students participating in the Kids Discovery Plant-out programme have a vision to see special New Zealand birds like the kereru and tui return to the Canterbury Plains. Planting native tree species creates valuable food sources for native birds and provides a special opportunity for the community to enjoy their natural heritage.