Habitat destruction from land clearance and fire damage have seen the native tree daisy or Olearia pachyphylla, become nationally endangered. This species of coastal plant was traditionally found from the Coromandel Peninsula to the East Cape.
We are fortunate to have the largest wild population of less than a thousand Olearia pachyphylla here on the Opape headland says Department of Conservation (DOC) plant expert Don McLean.
“There is a risk that the wild population could be wiped out by one catastrophic event, such as a fire, due to the majority of plants being on only the one site” says Mr McLean.
The revival of this native treasure has been a joint effort between the Ngaitai Iwi Authority and DOC for a couple of years now. In early October a community planting day was held to establish a further 250 plants at the Haurere Headland in Torere, adjacent to the wild population on the Opape headland. Private landowners of the Haurere Headland allowed for the plants to be established on their property, and DOC acknowledged their support for making the project possible.
“We aim to get locals on board to help maintain and revive the Olearia pachyphylla population with the planting day kicking off community efforts.”
“This threatened species is special to the Opape and Torere communities, with the planted area being an insurance to safeguard the wild population. Propagation of the plant has taken a couple of years of trial and error with Jo Bonner from Naturally Native NZ Plants Ltd in Whakatane managing to successfully ‘crack the method’” says Mr McLean.
The community planting day involved the private landowners, members of the Ngaitai Iwi Authority, Torere rangatahi (youth) and volunteers, Naturally Native NZ Plants Ltd and DOC.
“The planting was no easy task, with participants walking with tools up steep terrain, bush bashing through thick vegetation, but at the end of the day it was a huge thrill to see the plants in the ground. The plants themselves were transported by helicopter onto the steep hill” says Mr McLean.
Maintenance of the plants will involve watering several times during the summer to give the plants a good start. Mr McLean is hopeful that the initial planting day will be a catalyst to motivate local landowners to propagate Olearia pachyphylla themselves on their own coastal land.
DOC has completed the first plant watering and check with further day trips planned for December, January and February. Anyone interested in volunteering to help care for the Olearia pachyphylla plants contact the Department of Conservation, Opotiki on + 64 7 315 1001.