A recent Facebook post urging Ōpōtiki people to plant masses of kōwhai trees has had a strong response from the community, with 57 comments all in favour of the plan.
The poster says the reason for the planting is that according to Whakatōhea legend, the original visitor to the land, Tarawa, named it Pa Kōwhai, because of the abundance of kōwhai trees here.
“Our town has seven main hapū now, but had way more back in the time. These seven hapū of Whakatōhea will have their own version of events but all based on this short version. This indicates the environment here is perfect for this species of tree.”
The poster hoped the planting of kōwhai would bring more tui back into the area and suggested the planting of kōwhai by the skate park and cycle track and the renaming of Volkner Island Reserve as Tarawa Park.
Ōpōtiki District Council planning and regulatory group manager Gerard McCormack says kōwhai is one of the native trees being considered in the planting plan around the reserve.
“Council has a hardworking gardening team and they are committed to using natives, particularly local natives, whenever possible. They do bring a lot of birdlife and vibrancy to our green spaces.”
He says there is a lot of planting work being done at the skate park and most of that is native planting.
“I have spoken to the gardening team and kōwhai will definitely be considered in the planting plan around the reserve. The team leader noted that there are eight varieties of kōwhai, ranging from small shrubs to large trees, so choosing the right kōwhai is important. We even have three types of kōwhai planted right out the front of the council building and a few varieties in town.”
He says the gardeners say that for those planting at home, kōwhai like being in neutral ph or sandy well-drained soil and in full sun.
So, because the water table is quite high around the skate park, they would have to be planted on mounded bunds for the best results.
“Of course, it is great to see enthusiasm for planting kōwhai. They are a beautiful plant in the right location and certainly well suited to most parts of the district. We’ll always keep an eye out for more opportunities to get kōwhai established in community spaces.”
McCormack says that trees are a common issue in neighbour disputes so it was also important to consider other factors above and beyond growing conditions before planting a tree near a boundary.
“That is also true for our public spaces – we all appreciate our green spaces, but trees can’t be planted on public land without permission. Trees bring shade and birds, amenity and improve the air. But they can also block the drains, break pipes, raise footpaths, hide views, block driver vision, cast shadows, and sometimes fall down in high winds. It is important to consider all these things together before planting.”
-Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air