July 2023 newsletter: AGM votes for change

Friends of Maara Roa (FMR): 23 years bringing biodiversity back to the Cannons Creek catchment

Working bees every fine Saturday; meet at 9.30 am in the carpark at the back of Porirua College.  The nursery group meets every Thursday from 10 am to noon, in the grounds of Aotea College in Okowai Road. Website: www.maararoa.org.nz Facebook: Friends of Maara Roa | Facebook

July 2023 newsletter: AGM votes for change

AGM makes “timely decision”

FMR founders Keith Nicoll, Brenda Stickley and John Hodges cutting the cake to celebrate 23 years of Maara Roa. John Hodges already had 30 years of conservation work in the Cannons Creek area when he joined FMR.
  • What happens next
  • Long links with Maara Roa
  • Watch this space – trees are filling it
  • Holding on to history
  • Belmont Regional Park: past, present and future

The 19 people attending the 23rd Annual General Meeting of the Friends of Maara Roa on 10 July decided unanimously to take steps to dissolve the incorporated society that was established in 2000.  Several speakers supported the suggestion, highlighted in the chairman’s annual report, that it was timely to consider a less formal structure more suited to the smaller membership. The meeting then moved that the newly elected four-person committee should process the dissolution and decide the format of an alternative structure.  

What happens next

“Business as usual” will continue as the new committee works through the process, with regular working bees and nursery days.  This will be the last newsletter, so to get the latest information you are invited to join the Facebook page Friends of Maara Roa | Facebook

People at the AGM enjoying Jeremy Paterson’s presentation on Belmont Regional Park

Before applying to dissolve the incorporated society, the committee will have to divest all the assets of FMR. Most of the assets are tools and nursery equipment, as well as the trap network. According to current rules and the FMR constitution assets must go to non-profit entities with similar aims. 

This could include the new informal group as well as other care groups in the regional park. 

Greater Wellington Regional Council has confirmed it would continue to cover approved expenses for a new care group. The group could still apply to the Community Environment Fund, for example to further extend the trap network (428 kills in the past four years). Speakers suggested it could be wise to affiliate with an umbrella organisation which could provide administrative support such as a bank account.    Makareta Makapelu explained that Wesley Community Action hosts projects based in Cannons Creek, offering a legal structure but having no influence over funding or decisions.  Russell Bell said a similar arrangement in Kapiti offers potential funders the tax benefit of a charity. Jeremy Paterson said the new entity would need to have a clear vision of what they want to achieve. This could then be incorporated in the overall Belmont Restoration Plan.

Long links with Maara Roa

Former longtime volunteer Joey Kahi has transferred the rakau whakairo he presented to the nursery to the Pataka museum and will eventually send it to Korea where his son teaches English.

All four members of the committee have links to the earliest days of the Friends of Maara Roa as well as long membership of the committee. Their involvement goes back to the busiest times when more than 6000 trees were planted each year, a network of ten bait stations trapped possums across the valley, and guided walks introduced people to the forest in their own back yard.

Keith Nicoll, who has been both chairman and treasurer, was one of the 19 people who signed the original application for incorporation in June 2000.   Both Sef Truyens and Brenda Johnston joined in 2001, and Paul Guiniven in 2003 – the year of the devastating fire that destroyed the first plantings and prompted the innovation of green firebreaks.  Sef, Keith, and Brenda are part of the core tree care group along with Royce Johnston, Julie Daly and Mel Tyson.  Sef, Paul, and Brenda are part of the regular nursery team, with Adrienne Gibbs (another from 2001), Dawn Johnston, Des Drummond, Rae Collins and until recently Jonathan Boyes.

Watch this space – trees are filling it

Recloaking Papatuanuku (Mother Earth) is a huge transformation taking place on the hills and around the waterways on Belmont Regional Park, Western Principal Ranger Jeremy Paterson told the meeting in his keynote presentation.  Some 100,000 trees are being planted, which along with continuing mitigation planting by Transmission Gully, will soon make the green corridor envisaged by FMR founder Sylvia Jenkin a reality. The removal of grazing from Waitangirua Farm released money from the Low Carbon Acceleration Fund.  Under the new parks network plan, there is greater emphasis on how people use and move through the park, which will result in new tracks and facilities like toilets, new activity areas, and even bookable accommodation in future.  A full summary of the presentation is below.

Holding on to history

The 19 people who signed the original application to incorporate The Friends of Maara Roa in June 2000 were, in order: John Hodges, Neil Bellingham, Juliet Bellingham, James Lynch, Graeme Hunt, Richard Robertson, Craig Robertson, Margaret Robb, James Robb, Joyce Wilson, Margaret Holden, Jennifer Lawrence, Bernice Thomas, Josephine Richardson, Keith Nicoll, Margaret Hughes, Brenda Stickley, Thomas Hughes and Sylvia Jenkin.  “Last but far from least” the late Sylvia Jenkin was the driving force behind FMR for many years.

More than 500 people and close to 100 different organisations and groups have been

recorded as involved with the Friends of Maara Roa at some time in the 23 years of its lifetime. The numbers go over 1000 when counting those who have joined numerous working bees, and the children from 10 local schools who each adopted a planting spot, marked by individual pou that can still be found among now mature trees.  Some people are remembered, officially or unofficially, on the map of the valley.  Fittingly, Keith’s Knoll will probably mark the highest point that planting will be done.  The triangular seat at the viewpoint known as the volcano honours founders Sylvia Jenkin, John Hodges and Neil and Juliet Bellingham; the late Neil Bellingham is buried close by. Mandela Bank marks the contribution from the South African Embassy while the Honda Bank records the motor company support. 

This rich history will not be lost to the Porirua area. Plans are under way to ensure the archive of minutes and newsletters from the early days, along with historic photos and maps, can be safely stored at Porirua Library.  The website www.maararoa.org.nz  will continue in the meantime, and the main historic data has been captured by the National Library and can be found at: https://natlib-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/f/1s57t7d/NLNZ_ALMA11399800740002836

Click on either “Online access” or the link ‘National Digital Heritage Archive’ to view the archived instance.

Presentation: Belmont Regional Park, Past, Present and Future

Jeremy Paterson, now Western Principal Ranger, Parks, for Greater Wellington Regional Council and from 2010 closely involved with FMR, gave an engrossing presentation to the AGM, reflecting on the past and looking to an exciting future.  He drew on images from the

FMR website archive to remind the meeting how much had been achieved since 2000. He estimated some 100,000 trees had been planted to take the Cannons Creek valley from once-bald areas to a vista of green where tracks go through tunnels of trees. He highlighted key achievements by FMR such as responding to the devastating early fires with John Hodges’ “awesome foresight” of planting green firebreaks – then an idea but now a common practice. Sylvia Jenkin’s vision, supported by now retired councillor Jenny Brash, for a green corridor across the hills is now well on the way to reality.  Great success was achieved by working through two 10-year plans.

Greater Wellington is now working to the comprehensive network plan, Toitu Te Whenua, which covers all 8 of its regional parks. There is a shift in focus to restoring natural values including wetlands, improving access, developing high quality recreation experiences, and building in greater response to climate change. These goals are to be achieved through collaborative work with mana whenua partners, community conservation and recreation groups.   In Belmont, the mahi tahi (way of working) involves collaboration with Ngati Toa and Porirua City Council (PCC), for example in riparian planting around the harbour.

The game-changer for the west side of Belmont Regional Park was removing stock grazing the Waitangirua Farm area, three years ago. This gave GW access to the LCAF (Low Carbon Acceleration Fund) which has enabled extensive planting in the area, with 100,000 trees in the Waitangirua area alone.  With Recloaking Papatuanuku, and ongoing mitigation planting at Transmission Gully, a massive transformation of land use is under way.  Improvements are designed to enhance the visitor experience, such as new signage. Under the landscape master plan, which looks at how people use and move through the park, there are plans for new tracks and for additional facilities which could even include bookable accommodation in the old farmhouses. The GW website www.gw.govt.nz has maps showing future enhancement ideas as well as planting sites.  

New techniques to speed up the number and greatly increase the survival of plantings are on trial, such as spraying seeds into furrows and covering large areas with a hydro-seeded “eco-blanket”.  New tracks will eventually link the east and west side of the park under Transmission Gully again, opening the park for more and more people to enjoy.

The Friends of Maara Roa (Inc) has been supported by Greater Wellington Regional Council, working to the  Belmont Regional Park Cannons Creek Forest Restoration Plan.  For information about future meetings and the progress towards a new entity contact Sef Truyens (s-v.truyens@xtra.co.nz or 04 234 7747). Also check  Friends of Maara Roa | Facebook