Nelson man Ian Price has been nominated for a Pride of New Zealand award for his efforts planting on the Paremata Flats Reserve in Cable Bay. Photo: Andrew Board.

Restoration of Cable Bay flats earns award nomination

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As a farmer, Ian Price remembers with horror draining swamps and cutting down forests. Now he’s trying to make amends to the environment by planting trees – thousands of trees.

The Nelson man has been the central figure in efforts to plant 80,000 trees on the ecologically-supreme Paremata Flats in Cable Bay. He has another 45,000 trees to go in within the next two years. When the planting is finished, it will be the first steps in restoring an alluvial forest in the extremely fertile flats, which are owned by Nelson City Council.

For his efforts, Ian has been nominated for the Pride of New Zealand Awards in the Environmental category.

Ian started his working life as a farmer in the King Country and is open about his destruction of the environment. He then moved to Auckland and slowly immersed himself in environmental projects, in an effort to make up for the damage he did while a farmer.|

“I was a farmer and I’ve drained swamps and cut down forests, but I’ve since learnt about the mistakes I made. I’ve done a lot of damage to the environment in my past and, before I go, I want to give something back. It’s as simple as that,” says Ian, who moved to Nelson six years ago.

Paremata Flats have been ranked by Nelson City Council as the most ecologically important land it owns or manages and, as a result, has been happy for Forest and Bird to continue with the planting. Ian says the reason the land is so important is that it’s an interface between estuary, land and river.

Ian first got involved when he went along to a planting day on the flats, organised by Nelson City Council and Forest and Bird. There he saw his skills could be used to push the project ahead.

“They were planting between 500-700 trees. So I offered my skills and suggested that we increase the planting from 700 trees to 10,000 in the first year. The council told us they had no money for it so we raised it all ourselves and the second year we planted a further 20,000 trees.”

After some delays, Ian says he plans to plant a further 12,500 trees next year and 20,000 the year after that. “It’s all subject to us raising the funds, but it’s been a great community project with almost 500 volunteers giving up their time to plant the trees and create this environment.”

The forest was originally cut down by settlers for grazing because it was the most fertile land.

By replanting the forest, Ian hopes the rare flora and birdlife that once lived there will return. Although it will take 100 to 200 years for the forest to reach maturity, the benefits of the forest being restored have already started. “We are creating a habitat where these rare species can breed and expand. It’s a very unique ecology and there’s nothing like it in the region, so it’s very good work we’re doing and we’re already seeing rare native birds coming back.”

Although Ian will never see the forest at the peak of its powers, he says knowing that he’s done something worthwhile is satisfaction enough for him. “I get an element of peace within myself for giving something back. If I can do something for the next generations, that’s what matters to me.”

Nominations for the Pride of New Zealand Awards have closed, with regional finalists to be announced this month.