Plans under way to replace native trees lost in Christchurch's Port Hills fire video

Charlie Gates

A flythrough showing the impact of the Port Hills fire in Christchurch.

Conservation groups are starting back at square one after years of work to restore native forests to Christchurch's Port Hills went up in flames.

Local conservation groups are preparing recovery plans following last week's blazes which destroyed more than 2000 hectares of scrub and forest, including significant areas of native bush.

The Summit Road Society manages more than 600ha of land in the Port Hills at Ohinetahi Bush Reserve and Omahu Bush, and lost more than 80ha to the fire.

Fire burning down towards Governors Bay from Summit Rd. Ohinetahi homestead can be seen in the bottom of the image.
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Fire burning down towards Governors Bay from Summit Rd. Ohinetahi homestead can be seen in the bottom of the image.

"All the work and tender loving care that's gone in that bush by those amazing volunteers has literally gone up in smoke," president Bill Woods said.

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The loss of "some of the finest native preservation work on the Port Hills" was devastating to the group and the community, he said.

Blackened bush in Ohinetahi Reserve in the hills above Governors Bay.
MARTIN VAN BEYNEN/FAIRFAX NZ

Blackened bush in Ohinetahi Reserve in the hills above Governors Bay.

The society was working to re-establish native plants in the affected areas "as quickly as possible", and would work alongside local experts.

Summit Road Society member Tony Edney said the new plants needed to be sourced locally, so the society would collect seeds from nearby, undisturbed bush for propagation as soon as cordons around the fire-affected areas were lifted.

"At the moment, native plants are seeding and so we need to be able to go in and collect seed . . . for next year's planting," he said.

"Time is of the essence."

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Trees for Canterbury project coordinator Robin Stove said the fire destroyed "decades of work", particularly at Marleys Hill and Eastside Bush.

The annual volunteer planting days scheduled for May and June at Marleys Hill, Bowenvale, Dry Bush and Eastside Bush were "up in the air".

Losing native trees impacted on the wider area's ecosystems, Stove said.

"It will take decades to recover."

Christchurch City Council park rangers worked extensively with local groups to maintain native bush on the Port Hills, but their priority at the moment was to extinguish the fire, council regional parks manager Kay Holder said. 

"When the fire is out we will be working with the communities to provide further planting opportunities."

 - Stuff

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