Posted By QEII National Trust | April 30, 2024

Central Hawke’s Bay farmer Jeremy Cullwick takes great pride in his family’s 11.5-hectare covenanted bush block and is excited to see new plantings and naturally regenerating seedlings flourishing inside secure deer fencing.

Waterfall in Jeremy Cullwick's covenant surrounded by rock
Waterfall in Jeremy Cullwick's covenant. Photo credit: Troy Duncan

“As a family, it gives us a lot of satisfaction to see it preserved for generations to come,” Jeremy says. He is grateful the combined resources of the QEII National Trust, the Pōrangahau Catchment Group, Trees That Count and the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council helped them make it happen.

“We had been seriously considering fencing it off ourselves but it would have been cost prohibitive to deer fence if we did it on our own, as well as planting the area out. It wouldn’t have happened as quickly, if at all,” he says.

Former vets Jeremy and wife Kate took over the 740-hectare sheep and beef farm, Tapahia, south of Waipukarau, from his parents in 2019 and have since established an Angus stud. Jeremy was brought up on the farm and used to play with his sisters in the bush block, which contains a large number of mature kōwhai trees, ngaio, tī kōuka and kānuka amongst about 30 other native plant species.

A stream with a small waterfall – home to a population of kōura/freshwater crayfish – runs through the block. Stock had previously grazed in the bush and increasing numbers of feral deer prevented new seedlings becoming established.

Inside the forested area of the Cullwick covenant
Cullwick covenant. Photo credit: Troy Duncan

The Pōrangahau Catchment Group was keen to help after receiving Ministry for the Environment funding to help protect bush blocks in the catchment. The family decided to permanently protect the land with QEII, and it was decided deer fencing was needed to protect the bush block, which was implemented with additional help from the regional council’s Jobs for Nature (J4N) funding.

“I have respect for landowners who have a long-term commitment to the bush and species they’re protecting. For us it’s a no-brainer to support QEII covenants because we know it’s a big commitment to do it,” says Pōrangahau Catchment Group coordinator Hannah Morrah.

Due to the steep geography of the site and the threat of erosion, 11.5 hectares needed to be fenced and QEII Hawke’s Bay rep Troy Duncan suggested Trees That Count could help with planting in the 5 hectares not already in bush. Trees That Count provided 2,500 of the 5,000 trees planted in 2023 and will provide another 2,500 out of 4,000 trees to be planted in 2024.

“You put all these groups together and you get a good outcome for what would be a massive job for landowners to do on their own,” says Troy.

Trees That Count, a national charity that raises funds for native tree planting around New Zealand, has so far provided more than 2.1 million native trees for planting since being founded in 2016. Planting partnerships manager Emma Giesen says Trees That Count supports around 250 to 300 planting projects around the country every year, ranging in size from 500 trees to 30,000 for the largest project this year.

“Our goal is to support ecological restoration, biodiversity outcomes and working with people who have a lot of passion for what they’re doing and will take a lot of care of the trees,” Emma says.

“We’re one piece of the puzzle and it’s positive if applicants have support from other organisations, who may be able to provide additional funding for fencing and other things along with technical advice.

“QEII has a fantastic network of experts who are out in the field and know what we’re looking for. Some of them have worked for us in the past and some of our advisors have previously worked for QEII.”

Emma says QEII covenant protection is an advantage for Trees That Count because the permanent protection aligns with Trees That Count’s goal of creating permanent native forest.

“Where there’s remnant bush being protected that can be expanded, that has great outcomes. They’re much easier to say yes to than ones that are in the middle of fields with no protection, or could come under development.”

Cullwick covenant. Photo credit Troy Duncan

The catchment group’s Hannah Morrah says collaboration with other organisations allows conservation dollars to go further and getting the different organisations and landowners around the table develops robust decision-making.

Jeremy is delighted with the outcome of the collaboration between his family and these organisations, as well as the work of local businesses such as the nursery that provided the eco-sourced plants, and the fencing and planting contractors.

“Without any of these parties it wouldn’t have been possible and it has been a fantastically positive group of people to be part of,” he says.

“We’re really looking forward to seeing the covenant progress over time with birdlife flourishing in there, water quality improving and providing an even better habitat for our population of kōura.”

Cullwick covenant, forest and grassland
View of Cullwick covenant. Photo credit: Troy Duncan

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