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From Pines to Podocarps: Embracing Change in Zealandia's Restoration Journey
ZEALANDIA Ecosanctuary
/ Categories: In the Valley, Conservation

From Pines to Podocarps: Embracing Change in Zealandia's Restoration Journey

From July 17-26, you may hear chainsaws in the valley. This is due to work happening on Valley View track to remove 30 exotic trees. This work is part of our next phase of restoration in the valley which includes removal of the exotic canopy. The pines at Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne were originally planted as a forestry trial, with the original stand of pines being about 80-90 years old and the youngest 30-40 years old. Because of their age, some of the trees are no longer structurally sound and are creating  a health and safety risk to people and a biosecurity risk if one of these trees were to fall on the fence. We have been working with an arboricultural consultant to determine what trees need to be managed and when.

When Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne was established, the pines were not removed as they were important habitat. Our forest is still regenerating and didn’t have any native tall canopy cover. These trees have played a really important role in this upper canopy, for example kārearea and kākā spend a lot of time in them. However, it is now time to start looking at how we manage these pines in regard to our 500-year restoration plan. This management will likely take place over a 50-60 year timeframe of removing the pines and returning the forest back to podocarp dominant canopy. We need to be careful in how we remove the pines due to wildlife living in and around them, and the health and safety of our staff, volunteers and visitors.

The pines willl continue to play a important role in this ecosystem. We will be trialing veteranisation techniques to provide habitat for different species and this time around we will be creating five kākā nest spaces in the remaining stumps. These methods has been used overseas but hasn’t really been tried or thoroughly researched in Aotearoa or with our native species yet.

The next stand of pines to be removed is scheduled to occur on 17-16 July. The work requires some machinery (and chainsaws) so while it won’t close the valley, it may impact daytime visitor experience. The second of the three valley surveys assessing exotic canopy risk will start in September 2023. Once this work in July occurs, we will be able to reopen the whole of  Valley View track which has recently been closed for Health and Safety concerns.

How will you look after the wildlife under the pines?

We are purposely scheduling this work for outside of the breeding season. Prior to removal of the pines, conservation staff will assess the trees and immediate area to look for nests (some species like kākāriki may nest all year round) and burrows. Areas will be assessed daily by trained people to ensure that no wildlife are at risk of harm from branches or trees coming down.

Can you use the wood for firewood?

The pines have been an important component of the valley ecosystem for many years. Much of the material removed will be chipped and returned to the soil to help replace the nutrients that each tree used to grow. Larger remaining parts of the tree will break down more slowly and become valuable habitat for fungi, invertebrates, plants and birds.

Will Valley View need to be closed again in the future?

Possibly. An ongoing element of this work is to assess the risk of these large old trees falling. We have a qualified consultant using an internationally recognised risk assessment framework so we can keep all staff, volunteers and visitors safe while they are visiting the valley. We will continue to manage these trees to keep everyone safe, which may include closing tracks until the trees can be removed.

Will the noise scare the wildlife away?

We expect that wildlife in the immediate vicinity will move away from the noise while it is occurring and return once the noise has diminished.

What tracks will be closed during this time?

In winter 2023, Valley View will remain closed until this work is complete. We may keep the track closed slightly longer depending on the track condition and if there is a need to do track work before it is re-opened.

Are you making hollows or putting in existing nest boxes?

The idea is to use the trees to create more habitat for all sorts of species. Cavities will be cut into the stumps but we are purposely cutting them into the dimensions for kākā and they will have a removable front, similar to a nest box. We will also be doing coronet cuts – instead of doing a clean chainsaw cut on branches, branches will be removed in such a way that ragged ends are left – creating hollows for plants, fungi and invertebrates to live.

Do you expect the noise to be ongoing and constant for most of the day?

No. The work is complex and some of it will involve arborists working in the canopy. This means there will be periods where they are roping up and there will be no sound.

Will there be chainsaw / noisy work on the weekend?

No, work will occur Monday to Friday between 8am and 430pm.

Photo Credit: Melyssa FT

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