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Arsons sabotage tree planting programme

By Rick Jordan for the Christchurch Mail

Southshore residents are battling to re-establish a local native reserve in the face of repeated arson attacks.

The 20ha reserve at the far end of Rocking Horse Road has been set alight at least seven times this year, and was last torched only four weeks ago.

Southshore Ratepayers’ Association chairperson Bill Simpson said the fires were disappointing, especially given the volunteer hours that had gone into planting the reserve

the reserve “has always been important to Southshore people,” and usually 80 to 100 people turned out for the association’s planting days, Simpson said.

Christchurch Ctiy Council park ranger Jason Roberts said the native reserve, which was first planted 19 years ago, was crucial for re-establishing biodiversity in the area, which would otherwise be covered in the pest species marram grass.

But regular plantings by the community, in tandem with the council, were not maturing because of the repeated arsons, so were unable to seed new growth to increase the coastal reserve’s biodiversity.

Trees for Canterbury donates 1000 native plants each year for the reserve planting days and manager Steve Bush said it was “devastating” every time a new planting was hit.

One fire eight years ago had destroyed more than 4000 plants.

“We could have a wonderful reserve down there if all the plants had survived,” he said.

“One little fire puts it back majorly.”

Bush said the reserve needed about 8500 plants per hectare to be able to regenerate, and the fires have meant the reserve was still unable to survive on its own.