Barren land is a haven of life now


A family who have worked for nearly two decades to restore a slice of Marlborough Sounds bush shared their vision with young people from Marlborough and Nelson on Saturday.

The Plaisier family of Tui Nature Reserve, in the Outer Pelorus Sound, held an open day for students and hope it will become an annual event.

The family have transformed the 42-hectare reserve from a weed-ridden, barren peninsula into regenerating native bush largely through extensive pest control.

The Plaisiers breed kakariki, geckos and giant weta and plan to build a 1000-metre predator fence to block pigs and goats.

In the meantime, they have turned their focus to conservation education based on their experience, which the open day was a part of.

It also coincided with national Conservation Week.

Open day co-ordinator Leona Plaisier said 45 people including students aged 14 to 18 from Marlborough boys' and girls' colleges, Queen Charlotte College, Rai Valley Area School and Salisbury School in Richmond attended.

The students checked out the breeding programmes and did a bush walk where they learned how and why the forest had regenerated, Leona said.

"A lot of them were already working on [environmental] projects, but it was good for them to have a bit more awareness and tell them a bit more about conservation efforts."

Some even donated money for the predator-proof fence, she said.

Marlborough Boys' College student Daniel Goldthorpe, 17, said he learned "a tonne of things" during the open day.

"They've got so much going on there which they've done in the last 10 years. They've got their own dog control, they've grown their whole forest from nothing."

He also came away with ideas of how to preserve the patch of beech surrounding his Okaramio home: "I didn't know a few [pest control] traps could make such a difference."

A highlight for him and other students was a demonstration with the reserve's pest control dogs. Earlier this month Leona, 16, and her dog Chase became New Zealand's youngest fully certified rodent detection team. Kaikoura MP Colin King, Ngati Kuia representative Raymond Smith and Conservation Department Sounds area manager Roy Grose also attended the open day. Mr Grose said it was the first time in 10 years he had visited the reserve and the changes in the bush were amazing.

"There's no comparison. They were living in a little hut, pouring all their resource into buying traps and getting rodent and possum numbers down.

"They've just done a fantastic job. For us it really demonstrates how they've done it all on a shoestring, basically through their own volition, and [DOC's] input has been to help facilitate that through advice and encouragement."