Our Wellington

News | 11 December 2020

Welly Walks: Planting for future generations

Standing on Tawatawa Reserve, surrounded by native bush and a small flourishing wetland, it’s hard to believe it’s a former landfill.

Annie Yeates, holding her Fox Terrier, and Jenny Hartley standing in the sun on the top of Tawatawa Bush Track in Owhiro Bay, with housing and the ocean in the background.

With a dozen or so dogs joyfully splashing about on a puddly flat grassy paddock, Jenny Hartley and Annie Yeates pass by making their way to a nursery nestled in the trees, with Annie’s adorable sidekick Poppy – a sweet one-year-old fox terrier – in tow.

They are members of the Southern Environmental Association [SEA], a volunteer organisation working alongside Wellington City Council to rejuvenate Tawatawa Reserve.

“When I was first here 24 years ago, it was all gorse and old dumped car bodies,” recalls Jenny, of Owhiro Bay.

“This was an old rubbish tip from the 1970s, and then it was covered in gorse.

“Everything you now see on the flat has been planted by SEA volunteers over the past 20 or so years. About 15-20 hectares – we estimate there’s about 48,000 trees.”

The group plants on average 2500 trees and shrubs a year, raising the plants from seeds that are eco-sourced from within a 5km radius.

Thanks to their efforts, the Tawatawa Bush Track is covered in hardy ngaio tress, kōwhai, patē, Putaputaweta (a favourable habitat for wētā), and other plants native to the area.

The Tawatawa Bush Track circles the reserve and makes up part of the Tawatawa Reserve Loop, which joins the City to Sea Walkway.

Over the years Annie, an Island Bay resident, has been bringing her four-legged friends to the reserve to enjoy the 4ha dog park.

She walks the Tawatawa Bush Track once, sometimes twice, a day, and all she needs to do is step out onto the track behind the nursery.

Looking down at Tawatawa Reserve from the Tawatawa Bush Track on a sunny blue-sky day, with the south coast ocean and housing in the background.

“It’s just our little paradise.

“I’ve been coming to the reserve as a dog walker for the last 15 years. I remember when it was bare earth with some little shrubs. Now all these years later we’ve got big 5-6m ngaios and tūī are everywhere – they come from all over Wellington.

“For me this is kind of like my back garden,” says Annie, the SEA secretary.

A working bee is held 1-3pm every Saturday at the nursery, which even has a resident frog, and everyone is welcome. There’s about 20 volunteers, and the group has a strong Facebook following.

A few years back they fenced off part of the wetland from dogs, and the increase in wildlife has been dramatic. They have also established a special garden where native lizards can thrive.

SEA runs an ‘Adopt a Spot’ programme, where an individual, school, whānau or group can take responsibility for planting and caring for a small section of the reserve.

Jenny, who is the group’s chairperson, enjoys the wellbeing aspects of being in nature and says there are various tasks to suit different interests.

“We’ve got volunteers who are into trapping, we’ve got the planters, the volunteers who do the potting, and then those interested in the collecting of seeds.”

The pair say it is a rewarding journey, planting for future generations.

“It’s a fantastic local reserve and we just do our bit to give back to it.”

Thee packets of Bongusto Pasta and three pasta sauces displayed on a plastic yellow lid on grass.

This is the second story of six in our #WellyWalks series. Hit the Tawatawa Bush Track from 9am on Saturday 12 December to find the #WellyWalks treats!

Happy walking!