The landscaping teams on Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū Tararua Highway have started the mammoth task of putting 420,000 native plants in the ground over the next six months.
With the arrival of autumn, the third landscaping season on the project has now started. This season is significant as it will be the first to include planting along the highway alignment.
Previous seasons have focused on planting at five offset sites, which are away from the highway, but this year 220,000 native plants will be planted next to it in areas where earthworks are complete.
In addition, the teams will plant 60,000 plants in newly-constructed stream diversions and 20,000 on the offset planting sites from previous seasons.
About 120,000 natives will also be planted at an area of former farmland near the Ashhurst end of the project. These plants replace non-native trees, which were removed over the summer.
The planting season will include a mixture of locally grown plants and others grown outside the region, which have been originally sourced from locally-grown seeds.
While planting is a large part of what the landscaping teams do, they are also responsible for pest control. This is an important part of ensuring the planting sites are successful, as pests can destroy young plants before they get a chance to be established.
The teams have been busy eradicating more than 1000 pests (mostly rabbits, hares and possums) from the areas we’ve planted over the past two seasons to make sure they continue to thrive.
Te Ahu a Turanga’s landscaping and pest control teams include groups from local iwi organisations Te Ao Turoa Environmental Centre (Rangitane o Manawatū) and Ngā Manu Taiao (Ngāti Kahungunu ki Tāmaki nui-a-Rua).
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency project spokesperson Grant Kauri says landscaping is important as it is part of the project’s intention to minimise the environmental impact of the construction process.
“One of the principles of this project is Treading Lightly. This means we are doing everything we can to protect the environment near the highway, both during the construction phase and post construction.
“Our aim is to leave this environment in a better condition than when we started, and our planting, maintenance and pest control programme is a huge part of achieving that.”
Mr Kauri says another example of how the project adheres to this principle is through repurposing existing resources for other uses.
“At the eastern end of the project there was a block of pine trees that we had to cut down, so we processed some of those trees into mulch, which we used for landscaping in other areas of the site.
“Putting our value of kaitiakitanga into practice means finding ways to reuse resources, reducing our environmental footprint, while also creating cost efficiencies.
”Since the start of construction in January 2021, landscaping teams have planted more than 760,000 plants covering 105 hectares,” says Mr Kauri.
By the end of this season, they will have put more than 1.1 million plants in the ground, with around 2 million expected to be planted by the project’s completion in 2025.
For more information about the project, head to nzta.govt.nz/projects/te-ahu-a-turanga