A silver anniversary for a crimson treasure
12/02/2015

The Project Crimson Trust celebrated 25 years of planting pohutukawa and rata in New Zealand at a reception at Government House on Tuesday 11 February.

After finding that pohutukawa was in serious decline in 1990, Project Crimson has overseen the replanting of hundreds of thousands of trees by communities throughout New Zealand.

Project Crimson Chairman, Devon McLean is thrilled with what the Trust has accomplished. “In 1990, led by a bunch of enthusiastic and committed volunteers, Project Crimson set out to replant areas of the Northland coastline that were depleted of pohutukawa. Over 25 years that mandate broadened to a national focus, to include rata, and more recently a wider ecosystem focus. Project Crimson’s model of working at a community level to energise people around the protection of native ecosystems has been both enduring and inspiring,” Mr McLean says.

“We’re honoured to have had the efforts of our volunteers, sponsors, staff and Trustees recognised by the Governor General, Lt Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae and the Hon. Maggie Barry, Minister for Conservation at our 25th anniversary celebration. In particular this event gave us the opportunity to specifically acknowledge some of the real heroes behind Project Crimson. People like Dr Gordon Hosking, who is a fountain of knowledge of the genus Metrosideros (the species to which pohutukawa and rata belong). Gordon has been actively involved in the Project Crimson Trust for the past 25 years – as a long-serving Trustee, an avid planter at events all around New Zealand and has also written a wonderful reference book on the species itself.” says Devon. “Then we have people like Graeme Atkins, who has personally replanted a staggering 14,000 pohutukawa trees on the East Coast and Clive Paton, who through his vineyard Ata Rangi supports Project Crimson financially but has also developed his own “Bush Block” in the Wairarapa where he is propagating and replanting northern rata.”

Devon McLean adds that a key part of Project Crimson’s success has been in environmental education. “One of the initiatives Project Crimson runs each year is a programme called Treemendous, where New Zealand primary and intermediate schools can apply to win a native garden makeover which incorporates conservation and outdoor learning opportunities. In conjunction with the Mazda Foundation we have transformed the grounds of 27 schools so far, we have another three to complete this year and applications are also open for next year’s Treemendous programme” says Devon.

Project Crimson Trustee, Ruud Kleinpaste (the Bugman) says when we lose native trees, we risk our unique biodiversity. He says our native bees in particular like pohutukawa. “The birds and the bees really do make the world go round in New Zealand and the more native plants we have, the better life in paradise will be,” Ruud Kleinplaste said.

“The ecological value of those little black native bees is priceless. They buzz around the flowers and pollinate a whole range of other flowers as well. Their relatives, the honey bee, also utilises pohutukawa nectar and turns it into luscious honey with a nice butterscotch flavour. The more pohutukawa we have, the more honey there is in the pot.”

“The kaka, bellbird and tui feed on the copious amounts of nectar produced from the flowers. The carbohydrates from the nectar fattens up the birds before winter when the weather turns bad. In spring they will be in great condition to commence nesting and egg-laying.”

“25 years on, we thank all the kiwis that have helped make new homes for the birds and bees and given new life to pohutukawa and rata,” Ruud Kleinpaste said.

Check out all the photos from the event on our Facebook page here.