What’s happening at Slope Hill?

Date: 12th December 2023

Thanks to some generous contributions this year, work towards a shared vision of restoring biodiversity to the site is gaining serious momentum. (check out our video here)

The Slope Hill Recreation Reserve, between Slope Hill Road and Wai Whakaata-Lake Hayes, is a 33ha area of DOC land that has recently been retired from grazing.

Cyclists passing through on the Countryside Trail currently see the early stages of a biodiversity restoration project on a tributary leading to our wonderful Wai Whakaata-Lake Hayes, where WRT first began restoration work in 2019. An extensive section of willow has been removed all the way downstream to the reserve boundary, with adjacent neighbours removing willows downstream to the bridge too.

While they do look pretty in autumn, willows are problematic in our waterways because they channelise the water and suppress the growth of indigenous wetland plants. Those deciduous leaves and their large root systems can also congest creeks and streams.

In their place, our volunteers planted over 7,500 native riparian plants to help slow and filter the stream water and to soak up excessive nutrients – the transformation is already striking. As a tributary of Mill Creek that in turn runs into Lake Hayes, these riparian plants are now working to purify the water on its way toward the lake. Through Jobs for Nature funding, Mana Tāhuna is continuing the planting in this zone, in addition to other awesome mahi they’ve undertaken in the catchment to improve the health of the lake.

If you’re on the Countryside Trail today though, and pause to look beyond this riparian strip towards the top of Slope Hill, you’ll see a barren grass paddock, a part of the Trail to rush past rather than enjoy. Thanks to some game-changing grants and collaboration with other local organisations, that view will soon look very different!

In 2024 two significant projects will see a further 30,000 native trees and shrubs planted to kick off the revegetation of the hill above the stream that connects the Slope Hill cycle trail to Lake Hayes.

King Charles III Coronation Planting – 19-22 March, 2024

King Charles is well-known for his love of gardening and passion for conservation. So to celebrate the King’s coronation, the New Zealand government made a donation of $1 million to Trees That Count to allow the planting of over 100,000 native trees in He Rā Rākau Tītapu – King Charles III Coronation Plantings.

We were fortunate to be given funding for 7000 trees from Trees That Count for Slope Hill Reserve. Additionally, Simplicity Kiwi and Patagonia NZ are also supporting the effort with some generous co-funding.

WRT and Mana Tāhuna will again join forces to deliver a four-day community planting event involving local schools, businesses and community members.

Tuesday 19 March – schools

Wednesday 20 March – schools

Thursday 21 March – Tourism operators

Friday 22 March – Local businesses / sponsors / community

Keen to be involved? Email volunteer@wrtqt.org.nz

Hilton Global Foundation Planting Project

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.

WRT will project manage the planting of 22,000 native trees and shrubs by the Mana Tāhuna crew, to put this in perspective, it would take 10 years of our usual community volunteer planting to achieve the same outcome.

This is a very exciting project to be involved in. We think in biodiversity ‘corridors’ when we plan for planting and Slope Hill Recreation Reserve is central to the corridor between Arrowtown and Lake Whakatipu. With careful planning and ongoing maintenance – the work doesn’t stop once the plants are in the ground – we will create a well-established, thriving habitat and food source for birds, lizards and invertebrates, resounding with the native bird song that is so integral to New Zealand’s identity.

There are of course, many other benefits to restoring native vegetation to the hillside including climate change mitigation, land stabilisation and the sequestration of 8138T of carbon over 50 years.

This will be one for the history books!

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