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A tiny forest starts with mighty tōtara

23 Nov 2022

Sixty tamariki from Mangere East Primary School performed a moving waiata as they welcomed a six-metre tall tōtara tree to its new home, next to their school playground.

The tōtara is the first to be rehomed as part of the Mangere ngahere (forest) project, a collaboration between Kāinga Ora – Homes and Communities, Mangere East Family Services and Uru Whakaaro, that aims to increase ngahere and canopy cover in Mangere, South Auckland.

One of the project’s signature initiatives is the ‘Tiny Forest in Schools’ programme. The initiative will see six local Mangere schools, receive six native trees each, along with help from the Mangere ngahere team to plan and plant their own tiny forest.

Where appropriate, the schools will also be considered as potential recipients of established trees that can’t be retained at nearby Kāinga Ora development sites and need to be rehomed.

Schools have welcomed the project, including Stephanie Anich, Principal of Mangere East Primary, who recently became the first school to receive one of the established trees.

“Initially we were just all surprised at how tall and full the tree was when it arrived – a true mighty tōtara,” said Anich. “It was a special experience to watch the tōtara be replanted here at our school, where it will provide much needed shade for tamariki as they play, for generations to come.”

Jenny Chilcott, Ngahere Lead at Kāinga Ora, says rehoming established trees is practical way the organisation can balance its role as an urban developer, with the need to protect and enhance the environment.

“We know it takes a long time for new trees to mature, so although we always replant more trees than we remove, our first step is to assess whether established trees can be retained.

“If a tree is in good health but can’t be retained at a site we are developing, most often due to infrastructure or access requirements, we look to rehome where appropriate.

“Working with local schools through the Tiny Forests programme presented the opportunity for some to also receive an established tree identified for rehoming – another small, but not insignificant step towards increasing Mangere’s canopy cover,” said Chilcott.

Plans are already under way to rehome another established tree to a school from the Tiny Forests programme, with Waterlea School in Mangere set to become home to a puka tree in the coming weeks.

The rehomed tōtara was originally located on a Kāinga Ora development site in Ōwairaka, which will deliver 60 new houses for local whānau in need.

The trees that couldn’t be retained at the Ōwairaka development site but that are suitable for replanting, have now been removed and are being temporarily kept and cared for at the Te Whangai Trust nursery while arrangements are made to rehome at suitable locations.