Success at Slope Hill!

Date: 10th May 2024

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.

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