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Ara Helps Prepare Ground For Return Of Tūi To Otautahi

On Wednesday May 12th, representatives from Meridian Energy, The Christchurch Foundation and Ara Institute of Canterbury braved the wet chilly weather to plant a tūi-attracting array of trees on the South Green at Madras Street Campus.

Over 300 native and introduced trees and bushes were carefully placed into hand-dug holes by Claire Shaw, GM of Corporate Affairs and Sustainability at Meridian Energy, Amy Carter, CE of Christchurch Foundation and Tony Gray, CE of Ara Institute of Canterbury. They were accompanied by a cheerful group of other Ara staff and students, including participants from the Institute’s Outdoor Education and Sustainability programmes.

The collaborative effort is part of a long-term plan to change Ōtautahi’s status as the only tūi-less New Zealand city. The increase of tree cover and the deliberate inclusion of species that form ‘nectar islands’ for birds as they pass through Christchurch is designed to lure the tūī back to the city, while also sustaining other birdlife, such as bellbirds, and encouraging them to regularly inhabit urban spaces.

The Department of Conservation and the Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust re-introduced a number of tūi breeding pairs to the Peninsula some years ago, and there is some evidence, such as the spotting of untagged birds, that they are starting to spread from their original habitat. As Amy Carter pointed out in a May Stuff story, "What we need is to have more food that they like to eat on this side of the hill, to bring them over from the peninsula."

This, the second "tūī tucker" planting, is one aspect of Meridian’s ‘Forever Forests’ planting programme which entails a commitment to plant 11,000 trees in Christchurch by the end of the year. The project started last September, when hundreds of volunteers descended upon the Port Hill’s Christchurch Adventure Park to populate it with 3000 native plants.

Dr. Allen Hill, Principal Lecturer in Sustainability and Outdoor Education at Ara, was an enthusiastic participant in Wednesday’s digging and planting efforts, and also encouraged his students to stop by, don some gloves and dig in a tree or two. He says "The tūī Corridor planting day is a great opportunity for us all to reflect on the importance of our relationships with the planet and all ecosystems. It’s also a useful metaphor by which to remember the destructive impact we have had on so many of Aotearoa New Zealand’s native flora and fauna, and that we can take steps to regenerate our ecosystems through effective partnerships and some hard work. Let’s look forward to the day that we can see tūī and other native birds flourish throughout our city."

Ara is has been recently working to revise its own Sustainability Charter, which seeks to widen and deepen the impact of a sustainability ethos across all aspects of what Ara does, while also referencing important bicultural commitments laid out within the Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Dr. Hill commented that "The Charter positions sustainability as 'everybody’s business'. The spirit of the charter, and our sustainability journey, is well articulated in the following whakataukī:

Toitū te marae o Tāne

Toitū te marae o Tangaroa

Toitū te iwi.

When land and water are healthy, people are healthy."

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