Introducing Youth Trustee Lucy Boniface

The voice of youth is essential to our work. We understand that to combat climate change and dramatic biodiversity loss, young people need both practical skills and local knowledge. That’s why education is such a big part of our work.

Leadership experience in environmental management and conservation is important too. We offer that experience to future leaders through a dedicated seat on our board for a Youth Trustee. Currently that person is 16 year old Lucy Boniface, a Year 12 student at Wakatipu High School, who you might have seen carving it up on the ice hockey rink or hitting headlines as assistant captain of the winning New Zealand under-18 women’s team. As it turns out, she has a passion for native biodiversity too!

We caught up with Lucy to learn a bit more about the role so far.

Youth Trustee Lucy Boniface representing Whakatipu Reforestation Trust at a Volunteer South event in 2024
Lucy representing WRT at the recent Volunteer South event.

What interested you in the role of Youth Trustee?

I wanted to join the Wakatipu Reforestation Trust as a Youth Trustee as I have a strong passion for the environment and conservation. As a Youth Trustee I have the opportunity to help connect the younger generations to the Trust and the goals we are working towards. By being a Youth Trustee, I can help inspire my peers and make a real impact in preserving our natural surroundings for the future.

Why does the role matter?

As a Youth Trustee I can provide a different perspective on topics, issues or ideas in the WRT meetings. I believe that a Youth Trustee is a crucial connection between the younger generations of Queenstown and the older generations, helping everyone work towards a shared goal. I am also a member of the Environmental Council at Wakatipu High School and so far I have found that I can be a line of communication between the two, for example getting the nursery at school set up.

What do you personally hope to take away from your time with the Trust?

In the future, I want my career to have a strong environmental focus. Being a part of the WRT has opened my eyes to the various environmental jobs and roles available. I would like to gain a greater understanding of how to communicate with different groups of people and get them involved in the projects. I would also love to create personal connections in the community. Ultimately, I want to be able to say I made a difference and gave it my all.

How has your experience been so far?

I have attended two meetings along with a strategy meeting, so far, and now have a far better understanding of the ins and outs of the trust. Before becoming a trustee I had no idea of the hours of work that goes on behind the scenes. Being a Youth Trustee has also given me the chance to hear the ideas of other members and think outside the box for how I can make a difference or what I can bring to the table.

Think you’d make a good Youth Trustee in future? Get in touch.

Meet a volunteer: Hans Arnestedt

In this semi-regular series we take a look behind the scenes here, introducing you to the people behind the planting, and discovering what draws them to our work.

“I don’t like to sit inside. Well, not too much anyway,” say Hans Arnestedt in his typically understated manner, a Swedish accent colouring his Kiwi vowels. Anyone who’s met him knows Hans is not one to stay still for long, and that he prefers to let his actions do the talking – particularly when it comes to conservation.

“It’s nice to do things which you can see the benefit of later on,” he says.

Queenstown is already seeing the benefit of this mindset, thanks to all the voluntary work by Hans and others who have supported revegetation work since the very early days of the Whakatipu Reforestation Trust.

With a long history of involvement, Hans remains one of our most active volunteers, working most Wednesdays at the nursery. He can often be found at potting sessions and doing general maintenance, as well as helping load plants onto trailers before Saturday planting sessions.

Hans is always at community planting days too, and for many years he has also been an essential member of our maintenance team. While this group of hard-grafters prefer to keep a low profile they do the tough work of ensuring our planting sites remain weed-free, tidy and mulched. Thanks to Hans and the team, our plants have the best chance of survival once they’re in the ground.

This work can be best appreciated at our Lake Hayes South site – he prepared the site for the initial planting and, until very recently, has actively maintained it.

From the Stockholm archipelago to Lake Ohau

So what brought Hans to revegetation? “I’ve probably always been a bit outdoorsy,” he says. “I had been living in the middle of Stockholm, and spending time on my cabin boat on the archipelago.” When Hans arrived in Auckland, his sister who had been living there suggested he go on a tramping trip. “She said it was a good way to see the country. So I went with the Alpine Sports Club on a few alpine trips and I liked it, so it just carried on from there.”

That new love for the outdoors carried him down to Ohau in 1976, where he met his wife-to-be Dorothy, who was also working there. They married and moved to Queenstown, settling at a beautiful spot near the Old Shotover Bridge, overlooking the river and surrounded by trees. These days it’s loud with bird song and receives regular visits from tūī, bellbirds, waxeyes and the occasional kōtare/kingfisher.

No man is an island

Hans is a man of few words, and will cut straight to the chase when asked a question. Was he interested in botany before he met Neill Simpson? “No, probably not.”

Hans and Dorothy first met Neill and Barbara Simpson through the Wakatipu Tramping Club. All four were part of a group who restored the rundown hut on Wāwahi Waka/Pigeon Island in 1993, to honour the memory of two members who had passed.

Hans had trained as a builder back in Stockholm, working mostly on large construction sites in the city. The new work suited him better, as “I much prefer working on houses.” Later in life, Hans became a building inspector for the council.

Efforts ramped up on Pigeon Island after a fire tore through in 1996 and the Wakatipu Islands Reforestation Trust was formed to restore the precious vegetation. As a trustee Hans took part in 15 years of work by the trust to plant native trees and eradicate predators, restoring Pigeon and Pig Islands into a healthy habitat for native wildlife.

Since refocusing revegetation efforts on the mainland in 2013, with the formation of the Whakatipu Reforestation Trust, Hans has let his work speak loudly for his love of nature – both in background operations and in his unique, very hands-on way.

A patch of his own

Dorothy points out that Hans is responsible for an establishing stand of native trees on the banks of the Shotover River, not far from where the Queenstown Trail hooks up to Domain Road.

“Our daughter got married up there ten years ago and we thought, yeah, let’s see if we can do some planting up there so he’s done most of it,” she says. “I have been a helper at times – because you have to carry everything up. We put it all in our pannier bags on the bikes, or in the wheelbarrow.”

“There are 331 plants up there now,” says Hans. “Kōwhai, pittosporums and others. And people have actually made little routes in through from the river, and we’ve made it so that tone day hey will be able to walk through it.”

Hans agrees that volunteering with the Trust has helped them make lots of like-minded friends over the years as “it’s good to socialise over an activity.”

And surely, after all those years potting up, planting and weeding, he has a favourite native tree?

“The lancewood is pretty special,” he says. “I planted a few here on the corner of the house. When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I can see is the lancewoods.”

“The bellbirds love them too,” adds Dorothy.

The Whakatipu Reforestation Trust is extremely grateful to Hans and Dorothy Arnestedt for all their support and work over the years.

Success at Slope Hill!

Isn’t it the best when you put a call out for help and the community answers? Over a week of 18 – 22 March, many hands made light work of planting 7000 trees and shrubs at Slope Hill Reserve.

Wait – where did 7000 native plants come from?

The plants came from our friends at Trees That Count, who were tasked with giving the very best gift anyone could ask for (well, in our green-fingered opinion, anyway), the planting of 100,000 native trees across Aotearoa. The purpose was to mark a special occasion, the coronation of King Charles III, who like us, is a massive fan of restoring native biodiversity.

Trees That Count partnered with the Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai (DOC) to carry out the He Rā Rākau Tītapu – King Charles III Coronation Plantings. Along with other community planting groups around the country, we were the lucky recipients of plants that came from local nurseries Springburn and Home Creek.

Who else made it happen?

Patagonia Outdoor Clothing financed the plant guards, and fencing, as well as rabbit control and maintenance of the site for the next three years. After all, the mahi doesn’t stop once the plants are in the ground.

Simplicity also contributed financially, and their support funded the purchase of the remaining plant guards. We used sturdy cardboard plant guards – they don’t come cheap like the plastic ones, but are essential for keeping browsing rabbits from eating the small shrubs. These guards will naturally compost into the soil after their job is done, protecting the waterways from plastic accumulation.

The power of collaboration!

Major landscape scale planting events such as these require collaboration and detailed planning. The success of the event was made possible thanks to the support and partnership of the amazing Mahi Taiao team from Mana Tāhuna Charitable Trust. Their team put in a huge effort to prepare the site – spraying, digging holes, along with the logistics of getting so many plants to site and keeping them watered once they arrived on site. The team worked hard throughout the week, often labouring behind the scenes to stay ahead of new waves of arriving volunteers, running planting demonstrations, supporting the volunteers and so much more! They also planted out the remaining 2000 plants after the volunteer crews were done.

The team at Love Queenstown  gave us the confidence to undertake this huge project. This is the second major tourism sector planting event they have supported within the last 6 months which created an opportunity for the visitor sector to gain hands-on experience and knowledge about grassroots conservation around Queenstown. We are so grateful to the team for taking on the marketing and managing registrations for the event, and of course for rallying a huge number of volunteers from the visitor sector, who downed tools to attend two dedicated planting sessions. Thank you!

Michael Sly of Waste to Wilderness fame delivered 12 truckloads of his nutrient-rich compost, made from hotel food waste and mulch from wilding pines. This compost is a huge help on this dry site, and will help nourish the small plants as they established themselves.

No volunteer planting event is complete without nourishment for our volunteers. Thanks to the following hotels for providing morning or afternoon tea: Sudima Queenstown Five Mile, Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa, Holiday Inn Frankton Road, The Rees Hotel & Skyline Queenstown.

We extend our most heartfelt thanks to the 260 fabulous volunteers who turned up from all corners of the community – tourism, local businesses, our valued sponsors, conservation groups and community members. Thank you to everyone who gave up your time to help reestablish biodiversity at this important slice of public land.

And a final thanks to our neighbours Tony and Sarah Strain at Summer Hill farm for generously allowing us to access their farm track to bring everything to site! This project could not have taken place without their support.

What kind of plants went in the ground?

Slope Hill Reserve is steep and exposed, with a range of soil types between the foot slope and summit. Our planting plan had to ensure we had the right plants for each layer, taking into consideration the different soil types, moisture levels and weather exposure on the slope.

At the toe slope we planted species that don’t mind the cold and damp:

  • Plagianthus regius (ribbonwood)
  • Hoheria glabrata
  • Olearia lineata
  • Olearia odorata

Further up on the foot slope, where the moisture content is still reasonably high we put in larger trees like:

  • Broadleaf (Grisselinia littoralis)
  • Beech
  • Pittosporum tenuifolium
  • Cordyline australis (tī kouka / cabbage tree)
  • Psuedopanax ferox (fierce lancewood)

Then, slightly higher up where less moisture accumulates in the soil we included:

  • Myrsine divaricata (weeping matipo)
  • Sophora microphylla (kōwhai)
  • Podocarpus laetus (Hall’s tōtara)

Up high on the shoulder and summit, the terrain is at its driest and steepest, with rocky, frosty parts at the summit and some damp hollows. That called for our hardy, small-leaved trees and shrubs:

  • Sophora microphylla (kōwhai)
  • Olearia species
  • Coprosma species

And of course the tough old tī kouka, that can battle out the frost, damp and wind. You’ll see plenty of those reaching for the sky over the next few years.

What's next for Slope Hill?

Between August and October 2024, we will undertake our most ambitious planting project ever, made possible by a generous grant from the Hilton Global Foundation, and partnership with Mana Tāhuna Charitable Trust.

2023 Impact Report: See what we achieved

There’s no greater pleasure our work brings than tracking the year-on-year growth of native trees and shrubs planted by volunteers. This report reflects just one year, of course, but we can safely say it was a standout! 

Thanks to the community, and all our sponsors, we made fantastic progress toward our goal of one day seeing the Whakatipu Basin humming with native biodiversity. Check out all the things we did, including: 

  • Planting where it’s needed most
  • Raising tomorrow’s vital kaitiaki
  • Collaborating to uphold the unique environment of the Whakatipu Basin
You might even spot yourself in one of the photos…

Welcome to Katherine Durman, new Chair of the Whakatipu Reforestation Trust

In taking on the position formerly held by 2024 Senior New Zealander of the Year Finalist and hugely impressive environmentalist Neill Simpson, Katherine Durman has big shoes to fill. However, as a climate action specialist with a track record in developing and leading impactful environmental programmes, she is more than up to the task.

Neill Simpson has stepped down as Chair of the Whakatipu Reforestation Trust, which he founded in 2013 with his wife Barb. At 90 years young, his decision is perhaps not surprising, but as anyone who knows Neill can testify, it doesn’t mean he will be bowing out altogether. He will continue as a trustee, lending his immense botanical expertise to our restoration work. There are whispers of another book in the works, but we will have to wait and see…

Neill and Barb Simpson have been well accoladed for their efforts in leading revegetation projects around Whakatipu Basin. Much of the restoration work could not have happened without their vision and energy. The Trust and wider community is hugely grateful for Neill’s long service and leadership.

Neill Simpson, finalist in Senior New Zealander of the Year 2024

Meet Katherine Durman

Neill Simpson and Katherine Durman cut the Whakatipu Reforestation Trust's tenth birthday cake

Katherine joined as a trustee a few months ago and sees it as a real privilege to be invited to continue Neill’s great work. As an innovative sustainability professional, she brings a strong background in environmental behaviour change and climate action to the position of Chair.

A former role at QLDC leading the Climate and Biodiversity Plan allowed her to see the wonderful work done by the community, and experience the WRT’s mahi up close. 

“I have long admired the trust’s kaupapa and been inspired by the fantastic people who put so much effort in the background into helping it thrive.”

With a small amount of botany in her biological sciences degree, Katherine is looking forward to learning more from the knowledgeable people around her. 

“I’m excited to support the trust to continue regenerating the Whakatipu, and inspire our rangatahi, community and visitors through nurturing and showcasing our native biodiversity.” 

Katherine is known for creating innovative approaches to help organisations instigate genuine action on climate change and biodiversity. In her current day job she working on the next Emissions Reduction Plan for Aotearoa with Manatū Mō Te Taiao (Ministry for the Environment).

A collaborative nature, as well as a high level understanding of project management and change implementation puts Katherine in excellent stead to lead our work. 

But most importantly, what is her favourite native plant?

“Tī kōuka, cabbage tree – I have a view of one from my desk at home in Fernhill and spend a lot of time looking at it for inspiration while I pause to think!”

We look forward to continuing our mission under Katherine’s skillful leadership and wholeheartedly welcome her to the Chair position.