"St. Peter’s College came on camp to Borland Lodge in May 2004. They mentioned that they would like to work on a conservation project close to their school. The enthusiasm of the students and their passion for the outdoors came across so strongly I was not surprised when they adopted a project close to home to start to harness that passion.
Initially John Adams(the leader of the St Peters Weedbusters) met with the Department of Conservation weed control rangers to discuss the state of weeds in Croydon Bush and Dolomore Park Scenic reserves and share strategies and tools for dealing with the reserve. Croydon Bush and Dolomore Park Scenic Reserves are in the spectacular Hokonui Hills only 10km northwest of Gore. There are several weeds at the site, sycamores, broom, elderberry, Chilean flame creeper.
St. Peters Weedbusters have been focusing on stopping the spread of weeds through the reserve by teachers and students giving up their own time to spend evenings and weekends in Dolomore Park and Croydon Bush Scenic Reserves identifying and eradicating weeds. The main culprits that they’ve been hunting down have been Chilean flame creeper (cfc) and elderberry.
Chilean flame creeper is a perennial climber with blue/green five-fingered leaves up to about 15 mm across. It can grow to at least 10m tall, and is covered in bright red flowers from November to April. The creeper can suppress and replace native species by shading and smothering. It can also invade endangered species’ habitats.
The creeper produces seed that is spread by birds, but can replicate through its tuberous root system, and is difficult to control.
Under supervision and after training the weed busting team began by systematically doing follow up work in areas of Croydon Bush previously controlled by DOC. After expert detective work identifying cfc and elderberry the next step is to control the weed by applying vigilant gel. In the follow up areas where they have been working it’s been great to see that the previous control work has been very successful. Due to the great spotting skills of the students the remaining weeds have been removed.
The weedbusting team has now moved on to also work on Dolomore Park which adjoins Croydon Bush and is managed by the Gore District Council. The Council has little money to work on in this area and therefore without this groups help weeds (predominantly cfc) would grow more vigorously and enter the DOC estate. Good detective skills are essential in order to track down the culprit.
The Saint Peters Weedbusters are using a gps in order to record sites of weeds that they find, feeding this information back to the Department of Conservation and then it is entered into Bioweb
The work that they are doing is definitely slowing the influx of the weed throughout the park. They have also been making the wider community, the Council and DOC more aware of the weed infested state of the popular bush and scenic reserves. By putting their own time into battling the weeds the greater community see the value placed on our native bush and the work needed to protect it. “Residents taking pride and an active role in the betterment of our reserves for the benefit of locals, tourists and the wider community has a benefit to all. Noxious weed control is a very labour intensive process and requires a lot of ongoing follow-up attention after the initial effort,” Mr Soper says.
“The Parks and Reserves Department is receptive to all offers of assistance on this types of work and thanks the Weedbusters programme for getting actively involved and including younger members of our community in this effort.”
The days they spend in Croydon Bush are thoroughly enjoyable. There is lots of plant identification and checking out past weed control sites to measure success. It has also been discovered that the roots of cfc taste a bit like radishes."
Therese Jackson, DOC (nominator)