Plants project

Last updated 14:26 26/07/2013

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A horticulture student's landscaping plans and plant propagation assignments are designed to suit a re-vegetation programme at Momorangi Bay in Queen Charlotte Sound.

Sandra Koubek is in her final year of the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology course.

Studies are done largely online but Sandra is putting her practical hours to long-term good use on a restoration project at Momorangi Bay.

That is a 60-year project managed by the Department of Conservation and Sharon's work is done in consultation with Marlborough South and Sounds ranger Siobhan Browning. Forester Paul Millan has lent a hand, too, showing Sandra how to collect native plant seeds she can germinate.

In earlier years land at Momorangi was cleared for pastoral farming by repeated burn-offs.

Native vegetation was destroyed and few seeds have survived.

Following DOC's eco-sourcing policy, Sandra collects seeds and clippings from nearby Grove Bay in the Sounds.

Plants there are from the same genetic pool as those that once grew at Momorangi and have adapted to the same climate and soil.

Manuka has re-generated naturally in the bay, so Sandra is concentrating her project on other plants like podocarp, rimu, kahikatea, tawa, tree fuchsia, hinau, miro, matai, nikau and swamp maire.

All these once commonly grew at Momorangi.

NMIT has a tunnel house, potting shed and shade house at its Blenheim campus for horticulture students to use so the seeds and clippings are grown and nursed in a protected environment.

Plants must be about 50 centimetres tall before they are returned to Momorangi and some seeds, like the matai, can take two to three years to even germinate, Sandra says.

"I hope I will have finished the course by then!"

Actually, her NMIT studies are finishing in September but she hopes to continue helping at Momorangi on a volunteer basis. People who use its camping ground are encouraged to get involved, too.

Public support seems likely, she says.

Originally from Germany, Sandra likes the way many Kiwis think "green".

"The community here, especially in the Sounds, are quite committed in wanting to keep and restore the vegetation."

She is an audiometrist, or hearing-aid consultant, and was working full-time in that position when she started the horticulture course in 2011.

Enrolling for that was less about wanting a career change than about planning for a lifestyle change, she says. Sandra and her husband David, a forestry contractor, eventually hope to buy a block of land so learning about crops and how to manage them seemed a valuable time investment.

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Online learning allowed Sandra to juggle course work with her day job then, 14 months ago, baby daughter Mia was born and her priorities changed again.

"I had a bit of a break," Sandra says, "but that's the good thing about doing it online. And [NMIT] are really good . . . Mia can even come to some lectures."

■ The certificate in horticulture is a two-year, zero-fees course that provides an introduction to nursery skills, landscape planning and native plant re-vegetation. For more information contact horticulture tutor Don Cross,phone 578 0214 or email Don.Cross@nmit.ac.nz

- The Marlborough Express

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