Tamahere Gully Project: From blackberry bushes to a native sanctuary

Tamahere Gully Restoration - Higher Ground Landscapes, Hamilton, NZ

A Tamahere family’s enthusiasm for native flora and fauna coupled with a wish for greater privacy has transformed a weed-infested gully into a newly accessible landscape of native plants and wetlands.

The brief from the client was simple: transform this space from an overgrown eyesore into something that complements the rest of the property and provides a native legacy that will benefit the property for years to come.

The owner also wanted more privacy from future neighbouring developments.

The approximately 3000 sq m gully makes up about a third of the property and was subsequently bought as an add-on to the original section.

The gully’s steep slopes were inaccessible and covered with a range of weeds including thick blackberry, gorse, hawthorn trees and willow weed and the stream that runs through the gully was clogged with weeds.

But the owner saw the potential to transform it from a wasteland to an attractive, low-maintenance feature of the property – and eventually a sanctuary for native birds.

The initial clearing was done by hand and machinery. A 5-tonne digger was used to clear most of the bank, some trees were felled by chainsaw; blackberry was sprayed, slashed and burned.

The wetland area was planted first. Some 250 plants including Phormium tenax, austroderia fulvida, cordyline australis and carex secta, all tolerant of wet conditions, were planted during late summer.

The bank planting, incorporating some 750 natives was done in autumn.  Each plant was surrounded by a square of coconut matting to suppress weed growth and keep moisture in the soil. The matting, which will eventually break down, also helps prevent erosion.

Pioneer plants included dodonaea viscos (ake ake), hoheria sexstylosa (lacebark) kunzea ericoides (kanuka) and leptospermum scoparium (manuka) plus various pittosprum and other varieties.

At a later stage, larger specimen trees will be planted to provide a canopy and privacy.

All plants were locally sourced and supplied by Full Bloom Nursery on Morrinsville Rd.

The first stage of the gully project took around three weeks to complete spread over late summer and autumn. The second stage of the project will be completed at a later date, when the client will also incorporate a path through the gully for better access.

Once the plants are established, the transformation will be considerable.

The clients are very happy with the result.

Higher Ground Landscape owner Mark Sherson, who is passionate about gully restoration, is pleased more people are seeing the potential to transform gullies on their property. “It is nice to make a difference. The plantings improve water quality, eliminate noxious weeds and bring in the birds.”

He says there are also good commercial reasons to develop gullies. “There is enormous added value for a property that has a restored gully with a path running through it.”

He quotes gully enthusiast and Tamahere real estate agent Leo Koppens: “A gully full of blackberry is like a swimming pool full of frogs. Much better to develop it to its best potential.”

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