Gore seat unveiling

From left : Peggy Snoep, Vic Herring, Norman Dickie, Trish Conradsen(nee Lamont), and Arne Clelland with the memorial seat.

A memorial seat in honour of Margaret and Don Lamont was unveiled at Gore on Saturday   with ( left) Southland Forest and Bird representative Peggy Snoep, Gore and Districts  Amenities Charitable Trust chair, Vic Herring, Norman Dickie, Trish Conradsen(nee Lamont) and  Gore Re- afforestation project organiser, Arne Clelland all involved.

It was a day of memories and reflection as a group of about 35 gathered at the previous Gore landfill site to unveil a memorial seat acknowledging the vision of Margaret and Don Lamont. They wanted  to turn the area in to forest habitat, close to Gore township, for people to use for recreation, to relax and listen to the birds.

The plaque on the seat, unveiled by their daughter Trish Conradsen and long- time friend and Forest and Bird Southland member Peggy Snoep, states 'Margaret and Don Lamont- They had the vision of a forest restored'.

Gore Re- afforestation project organiser, Arne Clelland, said people attending including family, friends, Forest and Bird Southland members, Gore River Valley Lions club, well- wishers and people who use the area, coming to help, including children.

"After the unveiling we planted  a totara close by the seat area for each of Margaret and Don as well as for their long- time friend Norman Dickie who is in his 100th year and was present to lend a hand," he said. "After some short speeches we gave a few instructions about planting methods before everyone got involved in putting in 204 plants, as well as surrounding them with protectors."

While they were working people enjoyed hearing the birds, especially tui, singing in the eucalyptus trees nearby.

Gore’s Ian Withers made the seat out of macrocarpa and his woodworking skills were appreciated. Kevin Marshall from Gore created the brass plaque.

Forest and Bird member Gay Munro said the first native plantings along the Waikaka Stream, done in 2008, now stand over three metres high. 

"The view from the memorial seat looking up the Waikaka Stream is stunning," she said. "I noticed a threatened species, Olearia fragrantisima, is well established and flowering which is promising."

Several Gore groups have made a commitment to helping plant up the area over the past few years, especially Gore Rotary and Gore River Valley Lions club. Gore Rotary put in 600 plants recently, over three nights, having been involved from the beginning. Gore River Valley Lions club has become involved as part of their Centennial Project to look after our environment.

"The previous plantings are coming along well which is very encouraging," Clelland said. "On- going maintenance is essential and appreciated and people who want to help can contact me at Pukerau Nursery for instructions and dates of  working bees so we can continue to make the Lamont's vision a reality."

Exploring heritage and nature at Waipapa Point

Holly Cunliffe, 9, and Spencer Cunliffe, 11, from Invercargill  enjoyed planting the native sand binder plants, pingao, as part of the working bee near  Waipapa Point

The combined Southland Forest and Bird and Heritage South trip to Waipapa Point on the south coast on 8 March  saw about 60 people climb to the top of the historic lighthouse, with some helping plant pingao or watching the  four sea lions lazing on the beach. After lunch a smaller group explored the remains of the historic gold dredge behind the sand dunes further along the beach in calm, mild conditions.

Department of Conservation staff explained the history of the  Waipapa Point Lighthouse, built in 1884 after New Zealand's worst maritime disaster when the passenger steamer Tararua hit the reef there and sank in 1881, with 131 lives lost.

The first lighthouse keeper was Arthur Ericson, whose family later farmed in the area for several generations. The bequest made to Southland Forest and Bird by the Ericson family when they left the area has enabled the re- establishment of some native pingao.

Trip leader and botanist, Brian Rance said there were probably only three original plants left there but more have been put in over three working bees with 23 now quite well established and 20 more put in on Sunday.

"The issue is controlling the introduced marram so the pingao can extend naturally," he said. "The sea lions sometimes roll on them and the rabbits find them palatable so they struggle."

People, including many tourists  were interested in seeing the old system in contrast with the modern equipment. It has been automated from about 1977, using solar panels backed up by batteries, all controlled from Wellington  with a flash every 5 seconds, based on a light sensitive system.

Ivan and Bev Harvey of Invercargill were especially delighted to have the chance to climb to the top of the lighthouse and get their family photo taken as they were holding a family get together, including a son from Adelaide. They had a strong connection to the light house as Ivan Harvey's grandfather, Henry Harvey, was the keeper there in the 1920s.

"Henry, born in 1889 and died in 1941, came home from the Boer War and this lighthouse keeping was his first job, going on to be a keeper for over 25 years, including in the Hauraki Gulf, Cape Brett, Taiaora Heads, Dog Island, Waipapa Point and Centre Island," I Harvey said. "Over this time they had seven children, including my father also named Henry, with the family going back to the family farm at Slope Point after their time at Centre island." 

"It was a real privilege to be able to see such a remote location and imagine what the wives had to put up with," B Harvey said. "We are so lucky to have the opportunity to get inside today when we were having our gathering."

Riverton Harvest Festival 2015

Matt Coffey advises Margaret Newton about choosing native plants to attract pigeons and tui as well as trees for bees to ensure pollination occurs.

The Riverton Harvest Festival was attended by people from all over Southland and beyond both during the day as people interacted with the many stall holders or attended workshops or enjoyed the Saturday night harvest dinner social occasion.

Coordinator Robyn Guyton said that the Harvest Festival event is going from strength to strength with over 100 registering for the various workshop options on offer and between 1500 and 2000  people coming to experience the atmosphere and learn from others.

"A full weekend of workshops, led by local experts as well as visiting specialists, alongside the  sales tables, displays, sumptuous food stall options and fabulous choices from the cafe  made this an event which was way beyond the expectations of us at the South Coast Environment Centre as the organisers,"  she said. "The enthusiasm, energy, knowledge and good will of people who contributed in so many ways, augurs well for next year."

Oreti Nursery owner Matt Coffey from Mossburn attended for the first time with his native plants and with appropriate species especially for riparian plantings and shrubs and trees to attract  bees.

"It was very positive from my perspective as it gave my business exposure to a new group of people, raised awareness of the need for riparian plantings and included income from sales which made the travel and time spent there worthwhile," he said. "I had a steady stream of people coming to talk, made connections and realised the potential is huge."

He met a core group of people who intend to continue planting natives on their lifestyle block or are keen to get started so they were pleased to get ideas and advice from Coffey, including how to attract native birds such as tui and bellbirds.

"People had been talking to the hobbyist bee keepers there who highlighted the need for plants for bees for ensuring pollination," he said. "People are realising the significance from the loss of honey bees, hoverflies, native bees and other insects needed for pollination  and are wanting to do something about it."

Co-organiser Robert Guyton said this has been the biggest and brightest Harvest Festival so far with the group members already thinking about next year and how they can build on the interest shown this year.

" We need to cope with the raised number of stall holders who have indicated they want to participate again next year," he said. "I noticed that people who came this year were very keen on the practical aspects of gardening, growing their own food and preserving the produce they have in abundance as a result of the bountiful harvest."

Templeton Flax mill museum open day

Vaughan Templeton shows the crowd some freshly scutched flax
at the Templeton Flax Mill Heritage Museum open day at Riverton  29 March 2015.

Trust members  and supporters of the Templeton Flax Mill Heritage Charitable Trust opened their working Museum for the public to be able to experience how the process of preparing the flax to be made in to twine happened over the years when the mill operating.

The open day was held in conjunction with the Riverton Harvest festival and was part of Southland Heritage Month programme organised by Heritage South.

The live flax fibre processing demonstration was repeated several times over the afternoon to enable a steady stream of visitors, about 350, to take advantage of the display.

Members of the Templeton family explained  the process using a video which involved their father, the late  Des Templeton outlining each step in the process of harvesting, stripping, washing, bleaching and drying, scutching and baling.

Supporters and Trust members were on hand to work the machinery which transformed the cut flax in to the raw fibre after the stripping and scutching done by the very noisy machines, with the explanation done by Vaughan Templeton.

" The fibre produced at this mill was sent to Donaghy's in Christchurch to be made in to twine," he said. " In its working life it needed twelve and a half ton of flax a day, producing one and a quarter tons of fibre a day."

The mill was started in 1911 at Waimatuku river mouth, shifting to its present site at Otaitai Bush after a fire in 1943, with the machinery still able to be used but necessitating rebuilding the mill. It was originally powered by steam until 1933 when it changed to electricity, closing down in 1972.

"This farm had 1000 acres of flax which produced about half the mill's requirements," he said." A top worker could cut 3 ton a day."

A group of women, led by harakeke ( flax) weaving tutor Winnie Solomon, were on hand to demonstrate  some of the ways it can be turned in to various useful and decorative items such as kits and flowers.

"It was a very busy day for our Trust members and volunteers but people seemed to enjoy seeing the mill operating and asked lots of questions showing a keen interest," Templeton said.

Sherwood Forest growth impresses

From left, Brian Rance, Gay Munro, Gordon Duston, Sally Duston, Chris Rance and Ron Munro are impressed with the growth of these native trees, planted in what was a grassy paddock.

A small group of Forest and Bird members were astounded to see the recent growth in plantings at Derek's patch at Sherwood Forest, Tussock Creek at their working bee last Saturday.

Co-organiser Gay Munro said that restoration began under the Pat and the late Derek Turnbull in 2003 with the support of their family, Department of Conservation ( DoC), Environment Southland and various trust funds such as Queen Elizabeth II ( Q E 11) and Biodiversity Condition Fund.

"Much of the work has been done by volunteers giving generously of their time, following the initial work done by the Turnbulls, "she said. "Sally Duston who was at the working bee on Saturday was one of those who helped with planting maintenance in the early days and was delighted with the results now."

Co-organiser Brian Rance said there are at least ten threatened plants growing naturally there so some of the rare plants have been added in the plantings to complement these natural populations.

"Sherwood Forest is one of the larger stands of flood plain and riparian lowland podocarp forest in Southland, he said. "We noticed the growth in the height of the trees which have been planted there with some even starting to flower now, so it wont be long before the trees form a canopy and the grass will be suppressed."

The Biodiversity Condition fund enabled some paid workers to undertake weed control, especially elderberry, and plant over 3000 natives in the corridor between Sherwood Bush and the nearby DoC reserve, Marshall Bush, taking about seven years to complete this programme.

Friends of Sherwood Bush group was established in 2010 and as volunteers they continued planting, maintenance and weeding monthly through the summer until 2012.

"Pat encouraged Hedgehope and Sacred Heart schools to be involved in the restoration of Sherwood Bush," Munro said. "Both schools have adopted areas which they are planting out." 

New owner, Rod Sinclair, said he would like to recognise the good work done in the past and will keep it going. He is hoping to host overseas Willing Workers on Organic Farms ( WOOFers) to keep up the maintenance.

"We were given a grant through Environment Southland from the Southland Environment Enhancement fund  which we will use for pest animal and plant control, including hawthorn, elderberry, aluminium plant and ivy," he said. "We are keeping the track open through the reserve and enjoying the birds it brings and I can recognise four different calls from morepork near the house which is very special."