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Te Kākano Aotearoa Trust is a Wānaka community-based, non-profit plant nursery that raises plants of local origin for native habitat restoration.

Before the arrival of the Europeans, over 80% of New Zealand’s land was covered in dense, natural forest. Today, that number sits at about 24%. In Wānaka, settlers burned many native trees and shrubs to make room for agriculture. 

Today, Te Kākano works with the Department of Conservation and the Queenstown Lakes District Council to identify replanting areas in Wānaka, Albert Town, Hāwea, Glendhu Bay and Diamond Lake. These restoration projects are supported by a volunteer network, consisting of local groups, schools and businesses.

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Te Kākano believes that this network of people fosters healthy community spirit and involving people in looking after our lands and waterways creates strong bonds to the environment and to others.

The organisation operates entirely on a volunteer and donation basis. So, whether you’re a local or visitor, there are many ways that you can help.

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Why is restoration important?

The native plants in New Zealand are vital to the environment here. Their roots protect the land from erosion and help to reduce flooding. They also provide food for native birds. On a larger scale, of course, plants absorb carbon dioxide and forests create powerful “carbon sinks” that help to combat climate change.

Te Kākano believes that not only is restoration important for the land, but it is also important for the people. By engaging the community in their initiative, particularly the younger generations, Te Kākano hopes to foster a care for this place and a legacy of conservation.

Walk, weed and water

If you’re a visitor, this is one of the simplest ways to contribute to the restoration project.

Head out for a walk along the lakeside (try the Millennium Track!) and be sure to keep your eyes open for Te Kākano’s signage and giant drums of water. They’re massive and are situated directly on the side of the track.

The drums are full of water and have a bucket that you can use to water the plants in the surrounding area. Try to water the plants furthest away from the drum, as these are usually the ones that get the least amount of watering.

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If you spot weeds growing around the plants as you water, Te Kākano asks that you pull them out, as they compete for water and nutrients with our precious natives.

Volunteer at the nursery

Te Kākano sources seeds and cuttings from naturally-occurring vegetation close to where the new natives will eventually be replanted. This is because these plants are already well-adapted to the climate and soils of this area and will be more likely to survive once planted. 

While volunteering at the nursery, you’ll learn propagation and cultivation techniques, leading on to how to plant and nurture young plants in the wild.

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The nursery is open to volunteers from 9am-12pm every Tuesday and Wednesday from October 1-March 31 and then from 1-4pm from April 1-September 30. There’s also weeding sessions out in the field one evening a week and on Saturday mornings. To volunteer, contact Te Kākano

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If you’re a local or you happen to be in Wа̄naka at the time, Te Kākano also invites you to join their planting days where participants get the chance to see where the plants from the nursery go.

Plantings days are usually held on a weekend and are advertised the week before on Te Kākano’s Facebook page or in the Upper Clutha Messenger.

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Time poor? Consider donating instead

The Trust grows between 10,000 and 15,000 plants every year. If you don’t have time to volunteer, consider donating to the organisation through their website.

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Te Kākano Aotearoa Trust’s mission is to inspire native habitat restoration through propagation, education and hands-on participation. We encourage everyone to get involved this initiative in any way they can, whether it be simply watering a few plants along the lake, spending time at the nursery or donating. It’s up to us as both visitors and locals to look after this place and leave a legacy that will protect this land for years to come. 

To book in to volunteer, click here. To learn more about sustainability stories in Wānaka, click here.

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