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Mark Vincent

Volunteer, Otamatea HarbourCare Society | Paparoa, Northland

Being made redundant provided the trigger for a change in direction in my life — I had a dream one night and woke to the realisation that my future lay in helping to improve the health of the Kaipara Harbour.

This harbour, the largest in the southern hemisphere, is a national treasure. However, the quality of its water and marine life are being damaged by run-off from the surrounding countryside.

I knew that riparian planting would help improve water quality and enhance the habitat for birds and benefit insects and aquatic life, so I started growing a few trees. This led to setting up a nursery at home by making use of an old flower-growing facility.

For starters, I got some local farmers on board to host planting events. In 2014 we planted about 2000 trees, most of them supplied by Reconnecting Northland (1). That has developed quite rapidly, so that this year we’ve planted 16,000 in total, 9000 trees grown at our nursery and another 7000 supplied by Reconnecting Northland.

My role is to find the sites, liaise with the landowners, and arrange and publicise planting days. I also run the nursery and do what I can to promote our organisation. 

We have support from local schools and corporate groups, as well as regular volunteers who get stuck in to planting and helping out in the nursery. Ultimately I hope that this will lead to a greater appreciation and care of our waterways.

Planting days are not just about getting as many trees in the ground as possible.  There is a social dimension too. We live in a virtual world, but there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction. When people are new to the area it’s a great way to introduce them to the community and to help them make connections.

I like to provide an enjoyable, memorable experience so people will come again. When we have working bees at my place, everyone stays for a coffee and some of my legendary fruitcake! 

(1) Reconnecting Northland is a large landscape project co-funded by The Tindall Foundation, Foundation North and HSBC Bank’s Water Programme.

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