Students from Kimbolton School have been involved in a range of Weedbusting activities over the last five years. They started by recognising there was a problem at the Kimbolton Scenic Bush Reserve and have been working there ever since. One of the major projects in the reserve was made possible with the support of the Ministry for the Environment funding.
A group of students became concerned about the number of foreign tree species growing in our reserve – predominately sycamore and blue gum. They noted that the edges of the bush, where these trees grew, were vulnerable to drying wind, sun, infestation from weeds and that the sycamores were in competition with the native species. They realised it would be necessary to remove the sycamores and blue gums growing near the edge of the reserve and replant new native trees and ferns, that are endemic to this area, if we were to solve the problem of the weed infestation.
Members of the local community have been involved in all the work done in the reserve but as a result of this project, they have become more involved and supportive, not only with our projects at the reserve, but also with the students.
This weed eradication project allowed students to extend and enhance their involvement with the Manawatu District Council and Horizons Regional Council. Meetings were set up with representatives from the two councils, students, staff and the community to agree on the plan for tree removal, weed eradication, fencing, planting and also to create a timetable for the work to be completed.
Students, staff and community members also met with Horizons Regional Council to select the most appropriate trees/ferns to replant in the cleared area. As a result, the students compiled a plan of the area to be eradicated and one of the planting that needs to be done. Students also eco sourced seeds and grew many of the trees that were used in the replanting.
A number of working bees were held in weekends and staff, students, parents and members of the community worked together removing the smaller trees. Funding from the Ministry for the Environment was used to purchase the services of a team of arborists who removed the larger trees. The whole school was involved in the removal of sycamore seedlings along with other weeds that had invaded the targeted area.
A special day with dignitaries, including David Benson-Pope, (then Minister for the Environment) was held to celebrate the clearing of the sycamores, blue gum and other smaller weeds and to replant the area that had been cleared.
Students continue to have one Weedbusting day a term at the reserve when they clear specified areas of any weeds. The students have become experts at weed recognition as a result of their ongoing work. This is a continuation of the work they have been doing over the years to keep large areas of tradescantia infestation under control. Many of the areas our students have cleared are now showing signs of fern and shrub regeneration. Community members and lately members of Forest & Bird join in for these sessions.
The students are showing increased responsibility for the environment through their work weedbusting in the local reserve. We have also noted an increased interest from other family members and the community. We also believe Kimbolton School has continued to develop and strengthen its association with the Manawatu District Council and Horizons Regional Council as a result of their weedbusting efforts.
Challenges faced include the wider than expected spread of sycamore seedlings, through the forest. These needed to be removed. Another challenge was the difficulty of getting into areas where the large trees had been felled, to remove small seedlings that had grown during the year. Staff and community members had to check that these areas were safe for the students to enter.
Although the sycamores and blue gums are weeds, students came up with ways to ensure they were not wasted. The felled trees have been cut into both fire wood for the school and logs that will be used for edging around the school organic garden beds.
The work the students and their supporters have done has enhanced the Kimbolton Scenic Bush Reserve through the ongoing removal of introduced trees sycamore and blue gum) and weeds (such as acacia, tradescantia and galeobdolum luteum). We believe the planting of native trees and ferns indigenous to this area will be beneficial to the rest of the native plants in the reserve and to the birds and insects that live there and also that the dense planting of the forest edge will help protect the forest.