BRINGING BACK THE BIRDS
We purchased our 13.6 hectare block ‘Te Rakau’ in 1992 with the desire to create a small lifestyle farm that would be sustainable and support us in our retirement.
We planted most of the steeper hill in pinus radiata for timber with eucalyptus and acacia for firewood. These species have also provided valuable shelter for stock later on.
The few stock we do carry provide meat for our extended family or, as in the case of the pet goats, for weed control
We also planted various native plants such as flax, cabbage trees, kowhai, pohutakawa, titoki, ngaio, rimu, beech, kahikatea, and rata to name a few. We used the existing kanuka as well as tagaste/ tree lucerne and ngaio as nurse trees for the more vulnerable species. Wetland areas were also created – all with the intention of “bringing back the birds”. With the help of the Wellington Regional Council we have virtually eradicated possums on our block and have greatly reduced other bird predators, but the battle against rabbits, rats, mice and mustelids (ferrets, stoats and weasels) is ongoing.
As gardening is a passion we developed a large garden area using the existing contours to minimize the disturbance to the land. We have also used pathways to connect the various parts and again planted with a view to providing food for birds.
We are thrilled with what we have achieved so far and are now enjoying the many native birds that frequent the garden and trees year round. We have identified tui, bellbirds, kereru, fantails, kingfishers, grey warblers, shinning cuckoo, grey heron, kahu, karearea, ducks, bitterns, pukeko and dabchicks at various times as well as some common introduced garden birds.
We also have a small accommodation business in the form of Te Rakau Cabins – two self-contained converted railway carriages. Many city visitors have enjoyed the environment we have created and we hope many more will do so into the future.
However we are aware that there is still more to achieve with further native plantings planned to fill in the gaps that are not being grazed by stock. We also have some more pathways and fencing to complete so that the property has complete walking access for us and our visitors to appreciate the wonderful views we have here.
Our mission to “bring back the birds” to Te Rakau is already a great success, but will always remain a work in progress.