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The children of Kopuarahi School have been spreading mulch, marking out a nature and bike trail, and preparing to plant over 900 seedlings. It's all part of their project to restore the bush and make the school a haven for native wildlife. Photo: SUPPLIED

School brings the bush back to Bush Rd

Kopuarahi School is on a mission to bring the bush back to Bush Rd, and it needs some help. 

The rural primary school, located on the corner of Bush Rd and State Highway 25 in Pipiroa, has more than 900 native seedlings ready to plant along its 1.26 hectare boundaries. 

The community is being invited to bring along their augers and spades to assist with the planting on May 7-9. 

School principal Chris Patel said the planting was part of its five-year project to learn and connect with the surrounding environment, helping the school’s 18 students grow into “environmental champions”. 

“My dream is to see Bush Rd become a better corridor for the movement of native birds,” she said. 

“The only native birds I’ve ever seen in four and a half years on this site are kingfishers, white faced herons and seabirds. I’ve never seen tūī, fantails, kererū – the usual suspects that I have in my own home garden in Thames.”

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The seedlings, a mix of mānuka, kānuka, carex, tī kōuka (cabbage trees) and māhoe, were donated to the school by Trees For Survival, a charitable trust teaching students how to become involved in the regeneration of their environment.

A further 100 seedlings have also been offered by Restore Natives. 

The school already has one boundary planted with around 250 trees after receiving a grant from Countdown’s Growing for Good programme in 2021. 

Some of the school's seedlings. Photo: SUPPLIED

There is still much to be done, however. 

“We started clearing the boundary of the school, which was pretty overgrown with blackberry and tobacco plants, nightshades and gorse, thistles, convolvulus: you name it, it was there,” Chris said. 

“The idea is to have our school field surrounded by native trees… and also to have a nature trail that other people can use, and a bike track.”

The project has also been helped along by construction company Higgins, which donated a pile of mulch to the school. 

“This is native tree mulch that has come from SH25A where it slipped,” Chris said. 

“We’ve had about 40 truckloads delivered around the perimeter of our field and we had a Bobcat in on Tuesday to spread that, and that will be where these 800, 900 seedlings will be planted, within that mulched area. That’s going to save a little school a lot of time and weeding – it’s our taonga, our treasure.” 

The mulch has been spread in preparation for the plants. Photo: SUPPLIED

Along with the native plantings, the school will be establishing a small wetland, wildlife habitats such as weta hotels and worm farms, fruit and vegetable gardens, and nature trails. The project’s final touch will be an all-weather, multipurpose track with a pump track, suitable for bikes and other school activities. 

“If we can create the environment that suits New Zealand native animals and insects that are in the ecosystem, then I think I’ve done part of my job here – which is ensuring that our kids go out of here with a sense of understanding of who they are and what they are about. This is their place.” 

DETAILS: Tree planting event, May 7-9 at Kopuarahi School. To volunteer, contact or 07 867 5048. 

Kopuarahi School students with some of the newly planted seedlings. Photo: SUPPLIED
Native plants almost ready for planting. Photo: SUPPLIED