Jul 11

Rooting for the Kaipara Harbour

Coolest trailer carrying seedlings poised for planting.

As the farmer set off to work with four professional tree planters, I thought about the behind-the-scenes effort that’s often required to produce results.

Years of grit, guts, luck, courage, team work and a heap of money was behind our thrilling America’s Cup win. On average, each race took a few minutes short of 25. I’ll set the average at 20 which is perhaps a tad low, but remember nose-dive day? It counted but we didn’t cross the start line.

Our fast and, as it turns out, frail Aotearoa set sail 33 times – 10 in the Louis Vuitton Round Robins, seven a piece in the semis and finals and nine nail-biters against Oracle. This multiplies tidily to 660 minutes or just 11 hours of racing after an investment of gazillions of dollars and labour hours.

Now let’s look at the Melbourne Cup. In 1990, Kingston Rule finished in a record three minutes, 16 and a half seconds. Even the slowest time is less than four minutes. Vast amounts of skill, work, luck and money got those horses to the starting line – then finish line first.

Now to tree planting, less sexy but ain’t that life. No shiny silver cups, no roaring crowds or pots of prize money.

To have professional tree planters rock up, as if by magic, and plant 1000 baby native trees in two hours on the shore of the Kaipara Harbour has taken years of work by man with a mission Mark Vincent, countless volunteers and the farmer who’s fenced the shoreline, bought trees, divided flaxes, planted, planted and planted – and got involved with Otamatea HarbourCare.

It’s the brain child of Mark Vincent who’s created a native plant nursery, acquired seeds and seedlings and all they require to grow, nurtured them, got sponsorship, organised working bees and planting days, inspired celebrities to get on the end of spades (Te Radar, Paul Henry and our Kaipara mayor), delivered trees to planting sites, dug too many holes and done too much more to list here.

All this earned Otamatea HarbourCare the credibility to get funding for professional tree planters. They came courtesy of Reconnecting Northland and its Go with the Flow: Northern Kaipara Harbour Project.

Reconnecting Northland is the first WWF-NZ and NZ Landcare Trust project of its type and is designed to restore “natural processes and ecosystems”, while Go with the Flow is about restoration and working with landowners.

And there we were last Thursday with potted plants jam-packed on the oldest and coolest trailer I’ve ever met. Odd fact that relates to this yarn – the farmer bought it from the second female to ride in the Melbourne Cup, Linda Ballantyne, who used to live nearby.

In just two hours the four guys planted 1000 plants. Snap! Job done! But mostly tree planting is DIY and not quite so speedy. On Wednesday 16 August we’re having a planting day here at Batley and need new blood in our team, even if just for this project. You needn’t dig holes. That’s the domain of strong blokes. I generally follow along and pop in trees. Easy.

Beforehand you’ll have morning tea and learn about our 150-year-old house at Batley on the Kaipara Harbour near Maungaturoto and afterwards we’ll gather for lunch. Please say yes.

The harbour needs you, you’ll help our beleaguered planet and make a positive difference. Questions are welcome and RSVP is essential. Please message the Otamatea HarbourCare Society’s Facebook page.

About the author

Rae Roadley

Rae is a journalist, freelance writer and writing tutor. Soon after returning to her hometown to work for Northland's daily newspaper, she met beef and sheep farmer Rex Roadley. He lived in a historic home at Batley on the Kaipara Harbour and after moving there, Rae reported on farming then wrote a newspaper column, The Country Side. Her wryly amusing tales of country life earned many followers and led her to learn more about the local people, past and present. She tells the story of her new life in 'Love at the End of the Road: Finding my heart in the country'.


  1. Amy

    oh how I wish I still lived in Maungaturoto, there’s a real sense of community there and Batley is one of my favourite spots, hope it went well 🙂

    1. Rae Roadley

      Hi Amy,
      It did go well – and we’ve had more planting days since. Yes, a lovely sense of community – and a late reply 🙂

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