Arrowtown, the community that earned the title of New Zealand’s Most Beautiful Small Town in 2020, is getting more beautiful every day. We’re well aware our environment is one of the things that make it such an amazing place to live and visit, and we’re doing all we can to make sure it continues to improve.
A decade or more ago it became clear that in this highly modified landscape any biodiversity values that had managed to survive fires, gold mining and the introduction of pest species were under threat. Wilding trees were taking over the hillsides, and weasels, stoats, possums and rats were preying on native fauna. If we wanted to bring back endangered geckos and skinks, to have native birds in our gardens, we would have to take action.
What started as several unrelated projects – a Project Gold effort to reclaim Feehly Hill, the Wakatipu Reforestation Trust's natives planting programme, and a few friends with loppers and pruning saws called the Arrowtown Choppers – has become a much larger movement. Residents, businesses and landowners are working together to restore the landscape in a way that balances expanding biodiversity with retaining features that make Arrowtown special, such as the famous autumn colour.
The community-run Arrowtown Wilding Group is coordinating the massive project of removing invasive exotic trees from the hills around the village. First step was to begin the logging the Coronet Forest, the source of pine seeds, and getting contractors in to remove the conifers that were starting to blot out the deciduous trees that turn dazzling gold and red in autumn.
Of course you can’t just cut trees down – you have to replace them with more suitable species. The Arrowtown Choppers have trial revegetation sites where they’re working out which non-invasive species will do well in difficult locations and give a display of colour in autumn, but in the end it’s all about getting plants in the ground. That’s where the wider community comes in again, with the sponsorship and support of local businesses.
Hundreds of volunteers armed with sturdy shovels and an abundance of enthusiasm have planted tens of thousands of shrubs and trees over the last six or so years. There are about a dozen community planting days each year and just one can see thousands of seedlings planted, staked and protected. It’s a great family day out, with businesses putting on barbecues and donating prizes to add to the fun at the biggest events.
Want to get involved? In September, as part of Conservation Week, the Wakatipu Reforestation Trust has four planting days in and around Arrowtown. The Arrowtown Choppers will also be getting their hands dirty this spring, with the help of the Arrowtown Scouts and Arrowtown Primary School, as they plant 3000 trees behind the historic Police Hut and in Sawpit Gully. Get stuck in, you’ll have a blast…to find out more, follow the links to the Wakatipu Reforestation Trust and the Arrowtown Choppers Facebook pages.
We’re starting to see the benefits of the wilding removal and revegetation, as well as the trapping work of Predator Free Arrowtown. The green blocks interrupting the autumn colour of Tobins Face have gone, the spread of wildings into the mountains is under control, and our gardens are already being visited by more native birds such as tui and korimako/bellbirds.
It makes us proud to call Arrowtown home!
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