Rehabilitation + Q&A
Answers to some commonly asked questions about the project:
1. When did you start to plant the Arboretum?
We started planting in earnest in the winter of 1992, about a year after we bought the site.
2. Why did you buy a disused quarry?
We wanted to plant trees and to live among the trees we had planted. We also wanted to be sure that
the land we bought was not valuable agricultural land. We had looked at many parcels of land, but the
constraints were manifold – too far from Hamilton – too expensive – over developed – too small – too noisy.
Then on a whim, we looked at the old quarry at Tauwhare. We were at once hooked, captivated and enraptured!
The workings from the hard-rock quarrying had created a landscape so different from the smooth,
rolling hills of nearby. The views over the Waikato flood plain to Pirongia, Karioi and the Hakarimata
Ranges weren’t too bad, either.
3. So, that was enough for you to buy the quarry?
Pretty much, yes; you must understand that the quarry had its own charm – it was a relic, a piece of industrial
history that had supplied the Waikato with gravel for about thirty years. The quarry workings had left
behind a place with a strange, skeletal beauty that could only come of human activity on a large scale. The
30m sheer cliffs, the steep, rock-strewn slopes and the sweeping curves of the quarry roads all tied into a
framework where form followed function.
So, from our point of view it had everything going for it – it had its own character, it was ideal for a rehabilitation
project, the Waitakaruru Stream ran through the lower parts and at 17.5ha, it was quite large enough
for us to grow into. It also had a burgeoning number of noxious weeds, all of which seemed to have thorns,
prickles or cutting edges
4. Ok, but what about the planting?
We were given lots of advice on what to plant and ignored most of it. There were about ten acres of land
with some original topsoil and this we planted with pines. They have grown very well and we have maintained
them in a silvicultural regime that one day could ensure some economic return. All other planting
had to wait until we had cleared the gorse and pampas, so we progressed bit by bit, year by year, until now,
when most of the property has been planted. There is still room for another few hundred trees and shrubs,
5. Many of the areas have been planted with geographical themes - why?
We did use a map to make an overall plan. Some of the geographical locations were mostly accidents of
history and occasionally by design; nonetheless, this method seems to have worked quite well, although
there are times when it is a bit of a limitation. For example, the Asian section is too small for the variety of
trees that interest us from China, Japan, and India. We chose that particular valley because of its misty
appearance in winter – a bit like a Chinese painting.
6. You have three small areas of native trees - this doesn’t seem very much.
No, it’s not; but remember that I am an arborist and my interest is in trees from around the world, and
The rehabilitation process has struggled with the
lack of topsoil, diffi cult terrain, strong weed growth
and poor water holding capacity. Apart from a few
pines, the predominant plants at the outset were
gorse, pampas and blackberry. The rehabilitation
has been undertaken in a sustainable and pragmatic
way as far as resources would permit.
- Recycling plants (gifts from nurseries and discarded plants from friends) to supplement our annual purchase of plants
- Propagation of plants from cuttings and in situ planting of seed
- Use of planting tools such as mattocks and tree shelters
- Mulching to retain moisture and replace nutrients utilising and enhancing natural features such as rocks and ponds
- Pest control (possum baiting and roundup for weeds)
- Sparing reuse of Waikato topsoil which has been stripped from new subdivisions and roadsides
- Composting of organic waste
- Installation of some irrigation from stream (since 1999)
- Tolerating lots of failures
- Low maintenance woodland gardens suitable for a great walk
- Multi-level provision for wildlife (Ruru, Tui and Kaka have returned in recent years)