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Source: New Zealand Transport Agency

The planting of more than 570,000 plants on Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū-Tararua Highway over the next few months got underway recently, as the project enters its second planting season.

As part of the project’s ecological offset programme, almost 2 million locally sourced native plants – or nearly eight plants for every person who lives in the Manawatū-Whanganui region – will be planted along the highway and at five additional locations – known as offset sites – throughout the region across the duration of the project. A total of 250,000 riparian and wetland natives were planted during the project’s first planting season in 2021.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency Owner Interface Manager for Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū Tararua Highway, Grant Kauri, says this mahi was a feature of the project’s intention to “tread lightly” on the whenua.

“This is a key part of our commitment to leaving the environment surrounding the highway in a better condition than we found it,” he says.

“The planting teams have done a tremendous job of preparing the plants in nurseries ahead of the second season, and we’re all excited to see their efforts come to fruition as we enter the winter months.”

While the drier, summer months are ideal conditions for earthmoving activity, the opposite is true when it comes to planting. Rain loosens the earth, making it easier to get plants in the ground, while also providing a better environment for young plants to grow.

Mr Kauri says the remote nature of some the offset sites meant plants regularly needed to be flown in by helicopter.     

“The accessibility of many these sites is limited so our planting teams often have to make their way to them on foot, while the plants are brought in by helicopter. The timing of the season also means they are often working in challenging weather conditions, so we are extremely lucky to have a team who are incredibly dedicated and passionate about what they do.”

In the time between planting seasons, teams have undertaken considerable preparation work at the offset sites, which has included trimming back overgrown vegetation, installing fencing and pest control.

Mr Kauri says the team has also been preparing Parahaki Island, on the Manawatū River, for its mitigation planting phase.

“The team has been working closely with the Parahaki Island Trustees, including chair Rob Karaitiana and Secretary Jean Te Huia. Our mahi includes marking out the planting area and cutting back vegetation.  In addition to this work, the trustees are planting an additional 40,000 harakeke flax on the island, which is to honour and continue the flax planting begun by the Te Kauru-Hapu Collective in 2014.”

Along the highway, the planting and landscaping teams are preparing for permanent grassing on completed earthworks sections while also placing landscape mulch on permanent planting areas.

The second planting season is expected to end in October 2022.

For more information on Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū Tararua Highway, please head to: link)

Above and below: Project staff unloading a truck of native plants at the planting team’s compound, near the Te Ahu a Turanga site. Higher resolution images available on request.