“We’re really lucky to have Trees for Survival because they grow all the plants and plant them. That’s huge because labour is the main cost – paying for someone to actually plant and grow them.”
However, Nicky doesn’t just let others do the hard work. Her family home overlooks the gully and they have more than 160 hectares of land combined, some of which includes farmland for dairy heifers. The keen gardener has planted more than 400 trees on these lands and plans to keep on going.
“I love big projects. I’ve been involved in a lot of revegetation projects all over the country from commercial to residential areas. But it’s really nice to do it at home this time.”
Auckland Council Trees for Survival coordinator, Kate Lowman-Smith, says the owners have been very generous and well-organised, as the Aulds are required by the council to fence and maintain the gully.
Nicky says she now only enlists the help of local Ardmore fencer Gregg Holmes, after several incidents in which tractors fell into the gully.
Hiccups aside, the tree planting days are always well organised with Kate around, Nicky says.
Kate’s job is to make monitoring assessments of the area so that plants are positioned in the right place and that each plant is comfortable in its own little micro-climate zone. She returns two years after each planting to check the plants’ progress.
“We also have an educational lesson with the kids on why we plant and the meaning of trees in our lives,” Kate says. “The whole experience is warm and fuzzy. At the end of the day, people go away smiling because they’ve made a difference.”
With a hearty barbecue lunch accompanied by scones and pikelets, prepared mainly by Nicky’s daughter, mother-in-law and other helpers, this most recent group of planters was sure to be walking back to school with full bellies.
Without the lunch the experience isn’t quite the same, says Kate. “Most of the kids remember the lunch but may not remember the hard work they put in beforehand.”
Brookby Primary School Room 1 teacher and Nicky’s neighbour, Ngaire Takerei, says the children also learn the importance of community service.
“They get a sense of what it’s like to help the environment and their local community. They also understand team effort, coming together to help and achieve something that lasts. Trees for Survival is simply win-win for everyone.”
The teamwork also fosters deep friendships, as demonstrated by 10-year-olds Charlet Herholdt and Marika van der Voorn.
Grinning widely with only one glove on, Marika explained Charlet forgot to bring gloves to the planting day, so she lent one to her friend.
However, it wasn’t just gloves Charlet forgot, but gumboots as well. Her black school shoes were soon caked in mud, but the lanky blonde seemed unworried by her lack of preparedness.
“I’ve never done this before so it’s really exciting for me,” she said blithely while friend Marika was quick to add: “If you ask me, I’m really enjoying planting trees because I’m doing it with Charlet.”