The kōwhai is one of Otago’s best known and loved indigenous trees and is ingrained in our history and Maori culture. Kōwhai trees once flourished throughout Otago with golden flowers lighting up the hills in spring, attracting visitors and birds. Over time the agricultural development reduced the number of kōwhai to just a few stands in some of the less developed gullies and hillsides.
Project Gold is a Department of Conservation (DOC) initiated project dedicated to the protection and enhancement of kōwhai trees in Otago. In September Vineyard Manager Rich Williams and owner Andy Wilkinson attended a session by Department of Conservation on the process of establishing new stands of kōwhai in Central Otago and decided to purchase seedlings for spring planting.
Two areas have been initially identified – Ah Foos House – our replica gold miners hut on the rocky outcrop in the Top Block, and the entrance road into the vineyard. Ah Foos seemed the ideal starting point. A new irrigation line was installed and trenched into the hard rocky ground to ensure the kōwhai along with some other native bush species also planted in the surrounds would be able to get a good start. Rich and vineyard hand Sue Reid planted a perimeter of plants around the outer boundary and some more plants in alongside the walls of Ah Foos house. We hope the gradual development of these small stands of native plants will enhance the natural look of the vineyard and encourage native birds – tui, bellbirds and kaka to the hills.
As DOC has stated in its literature, this is a community program to encourage people and businesses to plant small stands in their gardens or on their properties. Just a few trees planted in every part of Central Otago in support of the larger programs along the Central Otago Rail Trial and in public areas will bring a new interest in this spectacular New Zealand native.