SERN Autumn Field Day

8 May 2021

The SERN Autumn Field Day began at Kew Bush where about 40 people gathered to watch Allan McPherson and John Tait unveil the new sign at the north entrance to the bush track. Fondly referred to as ‘the boys’, Allan and John became involved in the restoration of this small forest remnant, on the grounds of Kew Hospital, in the late 1990’s. At that stage they were a part of the South Invercargill Lions Club team that used to help out by clearing the track. However these two saw that the bush needed a helping hand, as after the heavy frost of 1996 the understory was decimated and a number of weeds were taking over. With an old holly hedge along the north side of the area, this exotic had made itself very much at home, so one of the main tasks for Allan and John, with help from fellow South Invercargill Lions Club members, was to cut and drill and poison this pest plant. With a large drain being put through the bush at the time of the new Kew Hospital being built, a large area was opened up that they propagated natives to replant the area, along with the north, south and west edges where they removed weeds and then filled in with natives. Realising that seedlings weren’t naturally getting going, partly due to the presence of pest animals like possums and rats, they took on this challenge, with help from Environment Southland providing traps and poison for them to use. The walk around the track after the unveiling of the sign revealed a very different forest to what it was 20 years ago, with the work spearheaded by these two resulting in a much healthier forest remnant.

At noon we moved to the Southland Community Nursery Education Centre at Otatara, for lunch. Here Maurice Rodway, Honorary Ranger for the Oreti Totara Dune Forest, explained how this 70ha area on Oreti Rd was purchased by the national organisation, the Native Forest Restoration Trust (NFRT), last year. He told how this area, although private land, had always been a place that the people of Otatara had explored and enjoyed due to the good will of the owners. With the purchase by the NFRT, the intention is that that opportunity will continue, along with giving the totara dominant forest, shrublands and wetlands a chance to restore naturally. The more grassy areas will continue to be grazed in the short term, however the areas of forest have had no stock in them for almost a year now and already native seedlings are establishing in the understory. The local committee that helps to manage the area has organised the mowing of tracks and with assistance from a keen local a number of seats, shelters and bridges have been put in to enhance the area for recreational use. The Otatara Pestbusters have overseen the establishment of predator control lines and another committee member has helped with signage. It will be interesting to watch this area develop over time.