Dedicating the Carol Whaley Native Bush to the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy

On a soggy day in Auckland’s North Shore, QEII National Trust was delighted to host Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Sussex to dedicate 17 hectares of native forest to the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy (QCC). The QCC is a Commonwealth-wide initiative, set up to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s long reign and leadership of the Commonwealth. There were around 100 guests made up of QEII members and covenantors as well as riding club members past and present and lots of media – both New Zealand and international.

Met by QEII Chair James Guild at the entrance to the North Shore Riding Club, the couple were driven through the covenant, showcasing a beautiful native forest with a rich canopy and vibrant understorey.

During their drive to the event, James spoke about our members – landowners who choose to protect their land with QEII, people who have no incentives to do so other than the fact that it is the right thing to do. We were delighted when His Royal Highness later touched on this unique aspect of QEII in his speech.

As the skies opened in earnest Their Royal Highnesses were welcomed to our event by Joe Harawira, including waiata performed by children from Pinehill School. The Duchess was visibly concerned for the children singing in the rain, as QEII and Pinehill School staff scrambled with umbrellas and rain coats.

James Guild opened the formalities welcoming guests and touching on QEII’s achievements, future and connection to the Royal family. James reflected that QEII has had the honour of hosting Her Majesty the Queen at a QEII wetland, now her grandson to dedicate a protected forest to the QCC before stating that we would be pleased to see Her Majesty’s great grandchild back in New Zealand to check up on this covenant dedicated by his or her parents on their first trip to NZ together.

Judy Beavan from the North Shore Riding Club spoke about Carol Whaley, Club taonga and driving force for the protection of the native forest. Judy also lamented that there wasn’t time for The Duke to meet her horse, as she “would have loved for the two Harry’s to meet!”

During his speech, His Royal Highness The Duke of Sussex noted that New Zealand was one of the first countries to join the QCC, further commenting that “it is fitting that New Zealand’s contribution to the Canopy has been through its relationship with QEII National Trust. The trust was set up to mark the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977. Since then, nearly four and a half thousand covenants have been registered through the Trust”

The dedication to the QCC was a fitting way to celebrate the contribution of long-standing North Shore Riding Club member, Carol Whaley in protecting the bush. At the end of 2004, Carol and the committee started working alongside QEII to protect the native forest forever. Last year the Riding Club named the protected forest ‘The Carol Whaley Native Bush’ to honour Carols’ dedication and love of the forest.

Planting

Following his speech touching on the importance of conservation, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex joined the Pinehill School children to plant native trees.  They were supported by the team from Trees for Survival, an environmental education programme which partners with local schools and communities, businesses and Councils to work together to restore New Zealand’s natural heritage.

His Royal Highness planted a puriri tree, chosen to honour the stunning 300 year old puriri on the track running through the covenant. Kōwhai was chosen for The Duchess of Sussex to plant, a nod to her wedding veil, which included a flower from each of the commonwealth countries, with the kowhai representing New Zealand. Both their Royal Highnesses got stuck into planting with great enthusiasm, with Her Royal Highness offering gloves to Pinehill School student before grabbing a shovel to get started.

The Duke and Duchess discussed planting trees with the children, who impressed the couple with their knowledge, highlighting the importance of trees in erosion prevention, oxygen production and as habitat for native animals.

Gumboot throw

The children then led the couple to join them in a gumboot throwing competition, known as “welly-wanging” in the United Kingdom. The aim of the game was to throw your gumboot as close to the target as possible, with The Duchess securing the win for her team, by getting her gumboot about a metre closer to the target than The Duke.

We wanted to give the royal couple a small taste of something kiwiana rural and a gumboot throw seemed fitting, and a good way to have some fun with the kids!

The winning team was presented with a trophy – which was handmade by one of the talented QEII staff members and featured a mini red band gumboot to the top, which the pupils of Pinehill School were given by the Duchess to keep. The Duke commented that he looked forward to a rematch and vowed to win next time he had to face his wife in a gumboot throw.

Gifts

Before the Royal couple departed the Redvale property, they were given several gifts to celebrate the recent news that they are expecting a child.

The pupils of Pinehill School gave the couple a copy of a classic New Zealand children’s book, Hairy Maclary by Lynley Dodd.  QEII gifted a NZ merino wool baby blanket along with a pair of children’s gumboots from New Zealand company Gummies, depicting a scene of Kiwi birds exploring a nature scene.

The gumboots were a scene stealer with both Their Royal Highnesses gushing over the tininess of the wellies.

Following the baby gifts, QEII board member Gina Solomon presented Their Royal Highnesses with a piece of Ngāi Tahu pounamu (New Zealand greenstone).  It was a true honour for QEII to gift The Duke and Duchess a piece of their own taonga and gives them the opportunity to take a piece of the South Island, Te Waipounamu, with them on their travels back to London.

A fond farewell

A special moment was shared between the royal couple and Carol Whaley as they met and spoke about the beautiful forest, and importance of protecting our native bush. QEII board members then accompanied the couple back to their car after a brief stop for Prince Harry to meet former QEII Chair and All Black legend, Sir Brian Lochore. School children and attendees were delighted to see The Duchess wave a friendly goodbye as the couple drove on to their next appointment.

During the organising of this event QEII staff have come to love the beautiful piece of native bush, inquisitive horses and piwakawaka who were ever present onsite while planning meetings were happening.

We will miss the excuse to visit so often, and want to again extend our thanks to the North Shore Riding Club for hosting us and allowing us to take over one of their paddocks (and plenty of labouring hours!) for this event, we couldn’t have had a better venue. Regional Rep Chris Floyd will continue to visit the covenant and check in on how those plantings are going.

Photo credit: Malcolm Pullman

Trees for Survival helped us bring together the planting for this event, and we are looking forward to strengthening our relationship and doing more work together in the future.

The children from Pinehill School stole the show with their singing, gumboot throwing and planting prowess, everyone was impressed with their genuine love and respect for trees and conservation, a heartfelt thank you to these special kids who helped make our event such a success.