The Staveley Camp Forest (Sawmill Road Bush) is a rare remaining remnant of native alluvial plain forest in the Mid-Canterbury foothills and as such is of significant ecological value. It is seriously degraded due to early grazing and the consequential exposure to exotic (non-native) plant species which in the native environment are considered weeds. However in the last few years, restoration work has been undertaken including full-perimeter fencing, weed removal and possum and other mammal trapping.
This year Staveley Camp has secured generous funding from ECan for a Forest Restoration Project which aims primarily to protect and maintain the 9 ha QEII covenanted forest whilst also engaging schools and local community in learning about biodiversity and the need to protect our degraded natural spaces.
The forest has a number of exotic plants which are considered invasive weeds, many of which (notably contoneaster) are altering the fundamental structure of the forest. Where areas of the forest have been cleared of contoneaster it is obvious that when established it prevents the growth of any other species. We are currently developing a managed, long-term sustainable strategy to kaitiaki the forest.
This includes working with Kakariki Camps to develop a 'Heads, Hands, Hearts' environmental education programme. We see benefits for the forest itself and for the students and teachers in providing purpose built fun forest activities that can awaken interests in the students in subjects as diverse as ecology, history, creative writing, art and complex systems.
We intend to facilitate regular community events in which engagement in caring for the forest is celebrated and enjoyed. The camp already hosts an astonishing diversity of groups who all use and love the forest and we intend to inform every camp user about the sustainable management of Canterbury's biodiversity through information provided on the walls about the importance of the work taking place in the forest.
The Staveley Camp forest is ideal for teaching about different approaches to environmental weed control, with its impressive suite of environmental weeds (!) a forest that is big enough to understand the problem but not too big as to be totally overwhelming, and its cosy indoor learning spaces. Restoration of the Staveley Forest will undoubtedly benefit the local indigenous biodiversity, and can play an important role in the health of the wider ecosystem especially because of its potential impact on hearts and minds.
Some 'Before and After' pictures of weed control work...
Contoneaster and blackberry in foreground
Sycamore centre of picture
Sycamore on left, Darwin's Barberry spread throughout