> The initiative
Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington has partnered with Wellington City Council to reforest an 11-hectare block of land in the Outer Green Belt of Wellington. The project – ‘Growing Our Future’ is enhancing the biodiversity of the city; strengthening the connection between the University and the city; providing volunteer opportunities for staff, students and alumni; generating applied teaching and research opportunities; and sequestering carbon.
The project is part of the University’s Zero Carbon Plan – a strategic initiative to achieve net zero emissions by 2030. The University, which has urban campuses and no available land, leased the block from the City Council for $1/yr over a 33-year term. The University is funding and managing the restoration activities. Any carbon credits generated are shared evenly between the University and the City Council. This marks the first time in New Zealand that public land has been entered into a carbon credit sharing arrangement.
The block of land was previously gorse-covered pasture and was recently acquired by the Council to add to the Outer Green Belt. The Council does not have the resourcing to actively re-establish the native forest cover, so without partnering with the University the land would have been left as pasture.
The project builds off a long history of collaboration for forest restoration. Prior to the ‘Growing our Future’ project, the University and Council had jointly organised an annual tree planting day on Council land over a period of eight years. ‘Growing our Future’ is a significantly larger endeavour – a much larger area, more volunteer opportunities and greater site management responsibilities for the University.
In July 2021 the first volunteer planting event occurred, launched by the Vice-Chancellor and a City Councillor. 200 staff, student and alumni volunteers planted 2,400 trees over three days. The next volunteer event will take place this July (2022). In total, the project will plant 11,400 trees and support natural regeneration through the gorse in large areas of the site.
The University’s Centre for Biodiversity and Restoration Ecology have been key stakeholders in undertaking research at the site, including measuring site characteristics, assessing growth rates and investingating the effectiveness of manuka and kanauka as nursery crops, as well as communication to the public about the project. This has provided academic opportunities for staff and students through both coursework and summer scholarships.