When in 1990 the President of Rotary International, Paulo Costa, announced ‘Preserve Planet Earth’ as the theme for the year for Auckland’s Pakuranga Rotary Club took up the challenge by launching the Trees for Survival (TfS) programme in New Zealand.
Initially the aim of the programme was to grow native seedlings to plant out on unstable land to prevent erosion and improve stream flow and water quality. Subsequently the programme goals were extended to include increasing native biodiversity and offsetting carbon emissions. It was also recognized very early on that growing and caring for native trees had significant educational outcomes as well.
Starting small, the club designed a permanent shade house known as a Plant Growing Unit (PGU) and established them in three Pakuranga schools. The PGU has an irrigation system and accommodates up to 1000-1200 seedlings for a year or more, until they are mature enough to plant out. However, later schools had the option to use a PGU or design their own shade houses.
In 1994 the Trees for Survival Trust was established with responsibility for running the programme and five years later there were 63 schools involved, nationwide.
As well as environmental restoration additional advantages grew from the programme, especially beneficial teaching and learning outcomes. Clearly school students not only enjoy working to preserve their environment but they also develop valuable horticultural skills together with an appreciation of native trees and their role in maintaining healthy environments.As leaders of tomorrow, these students come to understand the balance which trees bring to the natural habitat .
Parents and the wider community welcome the opportunity to become involved as volunteers, by helping students and their teachers to grow healthy plants or assisting on planting days. There is also enthusiastic support from local Councils, local businesses and community groups as well as the landowners whose land is improved by the planting programme. In addition to environmental education, the programme established the role of Trees for Survival as a genuine community partnership.
By 2002, with a 100 schools participating, some 350,000 trees had been grown and planted by school students and their helpers. The value of the programme was established in the community and the environmental impact clearly demonstrated. Five years later, TfS sponsored for New Zealand the world-wide Billion Tree Campaign, coordinating the planting of 1.7 million native trees as this county’s contribution.
Initially, the programme was administered by a part-time National Coordinator based in Auckland, but since 2008 a National Manager has been assisted by an Administrator and Field Officers, based in Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Wellington – all part-time.
The Trees for Survival programme receives funding support from our key sponsors, known as Champions, Accor Hotels, Multistrut Industries, Carbon4Good and New Zealand Steel. However, school funding is the core of the programme where community groups, local businesses or schools themselves are School Sponsors or Unit Sponsors.
Twenty years on, in 2010, students from 165 participating schools throughout New Zealand celebrated the achievement of a remarkable milestone by planting the one millionth tree within the programme.
Last year TfS received an important grant from the Community Environment Fund which will allow the programme to be consolidated in several North island regions. This grant requires that TfS raises its own funds to ensure that the innovations resulting from the Community Environment Funding will continue into the future. As a result Trees for Survival launched their Supporters Campaign – our next million trees will be achieved with your help! Get involved now!