One of my favourite trees, Kahikatea (a member of the podocarp family) grow throughout New Zealand. They are most abundant in high rainfall areas, and are most often seen as residual pockets of what were once large swamp forests. These trees reach up to 60 metres (200ft) in height with a 1.5 metre (6ft) diameter. With their prolific production of edible fruits, they are important for biodiversity, attracting our native pigeon, the Kereru, as well as Tui and other birds. Traditionally Maori used the fruits as food, as well as to treat bruising, urinary and other internal complaints . Kahikatea wood was used for carving, sadly not many pieces have withstood the test of time due to its perishable nature. Colonial New Zealanders used this wood before cardboard was invented to wrap butter as it imparts no smell or taint. Due to its lightness and ease to work it is still used in boat building as well as for siding in construction.
There is a stand of Kahikatea trees (white pines) in the paddock next door to me that is several hundred years old. As a child it was the place I played. With their gnarled and mysterious roots I imagined a world of elves and goblins. As an adult it has been a place I have gone to connect and centre myself, a place to find inner peace and immerse myself in the strength of nature. The stand is an intrinsic part of our local landscape.
Recently, the sound of a chainsaw nearby drew attention. Instead of standing by and watching in horror, several people staying with me at the time went to talk to the farmer who had begun felling some of the Kahikatea. He seemed unaware of the age and value of these trees to the community and the ecosystem. It transpired the actual reason for dropping these trees was to use the timber to shore up a bank where bulls had been undermining a fence line. This two second decision took out hundreds of years of growth and some of the last historical survivors of our once tree-covered landscape.
I was left speechless and wondering what factors encourage land managers to make the choice to keep these ancient residents for today and future generations? Left with more questions than answers I called the farmer to better understand his reasoning and to see if I could ensure the safety of the remaining trees
In this moment I discovered my own inner strength in speaking up and taking responsibility for the health of our planet – whether we own land or are simply people in tune with our locale and community.
In speaking with the farmer I offered a proposal; to front the cost of fencing to keep stock from preventing the regeneration of the understory, which was generously accepted. Fencing the Kahikatea has been taken on with another neighbour, with them gifting the posts for the fencing. Together as a community we have managed to secure the longevity of these stately trees and the life they support. Equally important, we now have a neighbouring farming family who feel partnered in protecting what will become the legacy they pass on to their children.
By Jules Matthews
Jules is available for coaching to help you achieve your regenerative agriculture goals and can be contacted by phoning +64 21 681 220 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org