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TfS Patron, Ruud Kleinpaste, talks of his move to Christchurch:
In hindsight, our shift to Christchurch has turned out to be OK. We arrived a few weeks before the big one; our house survived and, apart from a few frayed nerves, we got on with what we were going to do anyway. It’s not that we really hated Auckland, it was more a choice based on fluttering hearts when seeing the South Island scenery, but the crazy decision to base ourselves Christchurch had more to do with International airports and decent secondary schools.
And that’s exactly why Canterbury is such an interesting place to live! To be frank, there’s nothing here. I can show you the last remaining totara that survived hundreds of years of Maori occupation, burning and expansion, followed by industrialisation and Pakeha expansion.
This place is seriously modified, with virtually no original botanical cover left. Even the Port Hills and Banks Peninsula are scraping by with a few remnants of grazed forests, invaded by exotic weeds and damaging predators.
The tui (yes, the tui!) went extinct a long time ago and now a few dozen repatriated birds are clinging on around the peninsula. Whereas in Auckland and Wellington just about every garden has a colony of tree weta lurking in the native and exotic bushes, here the local Canterbury weta is so rare that they all run around with personalised number plates. These insects, together with their relatives (Banks Peninsula weta) are now encouraged to re-invade small restored pockets of native vegetation by providing them with weta motels that keeps them out of reach of mice and rats.
So, we have a blank canvas. This is where the youngsters are ready to go on field-trips to see what the scenery actually looked like, many decades ago.
A quick trip across some of the Peninsula passes will show them the carcasses of magnificent trees, some still standing tall and proud! It really wasn’t that long ago when everything was felled on the farms.
And the nicest discovery of all (for me) is that our Canterbury kids are absolutely ready to rock. They understand the issues and can see the historical damage. Whenever I visit a school the eagerness is palpable: they want to go out and discover stuff; they want to dig in forest dirt and roll over some native logs.
They like to see regeneration of new forests, with songbirds, raptors, centipedes and wetas!
I reckon the time is right. There are many initiatives to re-plant old Christchurch in the native greens of swamp forests and estuaries. The Government has some dosh too and all we now need is a small organisation that can hook into the curriculum, devise a heap of lesson plans and deliver the “live learning lessons” to the schools of the wider Christchurch scene.
I think I know exactly which small organisation would fit perfectly.
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