June 18, 2024

The people behind KMR – Sarah Welch, Yvonne New and Jackie Nairn

Aucklanders Sarah Welch and Yvonne New have been after a bush block within easy driving distance from Auckland for many years.

When they couldn’t find one, they bought a 62ha of grazable grass hill country at Whakapirau, near Maungatūroto, and began planting pockets of natives to protect waterways, wetland areas and erodible hillsides.

With the help of on-farm manager Jackie Nairn, and through a partnership with Kaipara Moana Remediation and additional guidance from Rural Design, strong progress is being made healing the land – with Sarah, Yvonne and Jackie working hard on their environmental vision.

Jackie is busy daily checking on trees and giving them the best chance of flourishing by keeping weeds and grass re-growth at bay to ensure natives aren’t smothered. She also takes care of pest control, so hares have less opportunity to snip the tops out of trees and munch the life out of them – work she loves in between having built her own accommodation to live in. Jackie is a builder by trade and immensely versatile in her skillset and capabilities.

In a short space of time, there has been a diversity of planting, with plenty of different natives planted the past couple of years – mānuka, akeake, harakeke, tōtara, pūriri, karaka, tītoki, kānuka, cabbage tree, karo, lemonwood, māpou and more.

Included has been the planting of 2ha of stream on the southern boundary of the property at 10 metres either side. The trees are taking exceptionally well.

On such a wind-exposed site, plenty of consideration is given by the KMR team around what native species are most suitable for the different areas of the land and soil types. By the time a KMR sediment reduction plan has been signed off, there have been many sets of eyes across the recommendations, meaning really thorough planning before any on-the-ground work begins.

It is all about meeting the aspirations of Sarah and Yvonne to allow Jackie to best manage the outcomes of the various plantings.

Because it has taken several generations to remove the bush from the land, the efforts of several generations will be required to sustainably bring it back. But Sarah believes everything is well on track for what can accurately described as a legacy project.

The first year of planting in winter 2022 saw 27,000 natives planted, while 30,000 were put in the ground in 2023, with 1 metre spacing between plants near waterways and 2-2.5m spacings on the hillsides. Jackie says the progress of late could not have happened without the funding and planning from the passionate and knowledgeable KMR team. She says that input has been a gamechanger and working with KMR and Rural Design has been amazing.

Following Cyclone Gabrielle, there were numerous new slumps and slips and they were attended to with extensive native planting in June 2023.

Sarah says it is exciting seeing how well the trees are growing after only two years.

“I grew up in the country on the outskirts of Hamilton and my parents had a block of land in Coromandel where we did native planting and weka relocation, so I have wanted to carry on the tradition of putting something back into the environment and contributing to native regeneration,” says Sarah.

“Kaipara has become a bit of a sad harbour so it is exciting to think we can try to help restore the ecosystem a little bit. I feel pretty proud of what we have done so far. Jackie has good planning knowledge and was keen to move to the country, so it is perfect having her manage the land. I wanted a minimum of 50ha for carbon credits and within driving range of Auckland given how busy I am with my work as an Ophthalmologist, so this farm ticked all the boxes.”

Yvonne says she enjoys being amongst nature on the farm.

“Seeing the trees growing and the bird life is exciting. And my brother recently found kōura in the stream. Every time we go up there, we see something new and different. KMR has been amazing and has enabled us to do a lot more than we would have otherwise. It’s a fantastic project and I am pleased to be part of it. In a climate emergency the one thing we can do is plant trees to hopefully do our bit.”

Everyone involved in the programme on the land agrees on the concept that the process of native regeneration is a marathon, not a sprint – and that the land chooses how to heal itself.

Recent Posts