Rob McCreath

Kia ora , greetings.

Look out for the Australian Rob McCreath, a farmer defending land and the environment, coming to Southland as the key note speaker at the ‘Keep the Coal in the Hole Summer fest- Theme-‘ Shaping our Future. We have options!’ with the festival running between Fri 18 Jan and Mon 21 January. 2013

He says he used to be quite a good farmer before he spent so much time fighting mining companies.

Rob McCreath

Rob was founding president of Friends of Felton, a community group that recently won a four and  half year long battle against a proposed open-cut coal mine and petrochemical plant in the highly productive Felton Valley, 30km SW Toowoomba, on the Darling Downs. This is the first time a coal mine has been stopped in Queensland by a community group.

Rob and his wife Sally farm 1000 hectares at Felton, where they grow crops and fatten beef cattle and occasional tourists. Crops are grown under a zero tillage controlled traffic system to conserve moisture and minimise compaction. The main crops are wheat, barley, oats and chickpeas in winter, and sorghum, sunflowers and mungbeans in summer.

In an earlier life, Rob and Sally were dairy farmers in Scotland and emigrated to Australia in 1994 with their 3 young children.

Rob has a degree in agriculture from Reading University (UK) and is a director of Lock the Gate Alliance.

He is key note speaker on Sunday 20 January at the public education day  at James Cumming Wing, Ardwick St, Gore with his topic ‘ Our land, our water, our future - worth fighting for; He will challenge us and give us campaign strategies which worked for them as we gear up our campaign to stop new coal mines in Aotearoa/NZ and in particular the proposed lignite mining in the Mataura Valley.

The website with all the details of the programme, guest speakers and registration information can be found at

Blessings, jenny

Green roofs and walls fascinate

Sean Hogan experiencing some high country natural green roof plants in New Zealand on his recent tour here.

An enthralling talk to Balclutha Garden Club in mid May by Sean Hogan from Portland, Oregan in North America enlightened about 30 people about green roofs or eco roofs .
This is not a new concept but it is exciting to see it being developed on a garage, house, shed, commercial building, public spaces and even house trailers, caravans and bus’ roofs. ‘’It is a nice way to enliven many areas with interesting plants,‘’ Mr Hogan said. ‘’ I have been working on green roofs for a long time and am interested in their aesthetics as well as their functionality.’’

Coming from Western Oregon which is quite dry in summer, leading to a water shortage then, makes it ideal for water conservation methods with green roofs one way to ensure this happens. Portland city on the coast has an increasing number of green roofs as they catch the water and release it slowly, helping it trickle down so easing the pressure on storm water systems in winter.
Europe has been doing this for some time but America is developing its own model. Pioneers and old derelict houses develop green roofs anyway through neglect.
Mr Hogan works for Cistus Design Nursery in Portland, doing planning, design and consultation. When designing green roof gardens he mostly uses a variety of drought loving native plants, specific to the local area. 
‘’We can actually use any plants which are not weeds, poisonous, or cause a rash,’’he said.’’The plants need to be able to cope in dry conditions whether that is for a season as it is at home or for a few weeks as it might be here in New Zealand.’’

A green wall design with fascinating plants and colours creating an artistic effect.

People can create green walls as well.
‘’ This a lot of fun if you have a blank wall,’’ he said.’’ You put some layers of mesh on it with soil in between and press succulent plants in to it to make a collage of colours.’’
They use pumice rich substrate and organic soils along with legumes to build up nitrogen. These gardens have to be able to cope with any weather. The green wall can be any depth up to 15cm, with the roots intertwining and holding it all together. It can be treated as a piece of art.
Drought resistant plants which are suitable and survive well in these conditions include phlox, penstemon, sedum, milkweed, ferns, bulbs, orchids, bulbinella, trillium, epilobium, lewisia, agave, delphinium, salvia, carex, hebe, astelia, iris and yucca.
Succulents and ice plants are excellent as they need very little soil and don’t dry out.
Mr Hogan reminded the audience that the nearest green roof is at the Otago University Psychology building, all planted up with natives. This is an excellent local example of how effective these roofs can be, with visitors welcome by appointment.

‘’I do general garden design but my particular passion is in encouraging people to do green roofs,’’ he said.’’One of the significant green roof buildings is M Financial Building in Portland which covers almost a 30m by 30m city block, which is quite impressive.’’ 

M Financial Building in Portland with an impressive green roof.

Anti asset sales protest Saturday 12 May

People wore black armbands as a sign of sorrow and most carried placards with clear messages of their displeasure at the proposed selling of up to 49% of Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power, Genesis Power, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand by Government at the anti- asset sales protest march.

Whetu Parata's sign summed up the general feeling

 Toots of support accompanied the walkers as they moved from Otepuni Gardens , up Nith Street to Kelvin, Don and Tay Streets before gathering for speeches at Wachner Place. Representatives from the organising alliance of community groups, the Labour Party, the Greens, Grey Power and unions gave a strong message of solidarity with a ‘stop asset sales’ theme.

 David Lusby added to the atmosphere by singing some country folk songs with appropriate protest ditties. Signs included concise messages such as ‘Our Assets are not yours to sell Mr Key’, ‘Ours not yours’, ‘Don’t sell our future- children’. "You have no mandate to sell our assets and they are not yours to sell Mr Key,"

The crowd with placards and messages

Labour Party speaker Lesley Soper says."This land is our land." At the gathering a start was made on collecting signatures for a citizens initiated referendum about the proposed sale of assets with 300 000 needing to be collected nationwide to ensure this happens.

SERN Field trip to Curio Bay and Waipapa Point 5 Nov 2011

Inclement weather conditions of hail, rain and wind were braved by about 30 members of Southland Ecological Restoration Network ( SERN) on 5 Nov as they explored sites on the south coast.

Environment Southland’s Nathan Cruikshank explained the work they are doing at Black Lagoon, in the Titiroa area with fencing, removal of crack willows and riparian plantings of about 1250 natives such as broadleaf and Pittosperum to date. ‘’More plantings are planned later around the lagoon on this Mataura River flood plain area with the biggest issues being pest management, releasing the plants from weeds as they grow and keeping stock out, ‘’ he said.

The Forest and Bird Ericson memorial pingao restoration site, adjacent to the Waipapa Point lighthouse, was the next stop with botanist Brian Rance sharing information about the need to ensure this native plant’s special features and habitat are recognised and extended. ‘’ We are encouraging this native pingao to replace the introduced and rapidly encroaching marram,’’he said.

Brian Rance shares information about the pingao restoration project
at the Waipapa Point lighthouse site with warmly clad members

One of the Equity Managers involved in South Coast Dairies, Lyndsay Stratford explained their commitment to riparian fencing and native plantings and fencing off a wetland and native podocarp bush area which have all contributed to improved water quality. Changing from a beef and sheep property to dairy has brought new challenges but installing a stock water scheme, doing native plantings around a reservoir and ensuring they have 120 days storage for effluent rather than just the mandatory 90 days gives them more options. ‘’We can wait until scientifically monitored soil and weather conditions are more suitable before we irrigate meaning we can manage effluent discharge effectively,’’ she said.’’ We try very hard not to cause any bad effects, doing it right from the start and teaching by example, with a lot of help from local authorities staff such as Environment Southland.’’

At Curio Bay, South Catlins Development Trust has purchased an area of about 15 hectares of podocarp forest, fenced it and are planning to put a walkway through with interpretation panels. This newly protected area of living forest is adjacent to the Curio Bay petrified forest, making it more significant as a link. Trust Chair Greta Buckingham explained the differences they have seen already in the regeneration of the rata, manuka and rimu forest, now stock has been removed. ‘’Pest control and fundraising are the main activities at present with everyone welcome to join in the mystery challenge event soon,’’ she said.

‘’It was a very informative and enjoyable day ,in spite of the weather , ‘’ SERNs Chair Gay Munro said. ‘’We appreciate the financial support from Environment Southland which enables us to have a bus and to talk to people as we travel.’’