Poorman Valley Stream gets an upgrade


A huge collaborative effort saw rotating shifts of students taking part in streamside planting all day on Wednesday this week.

This week, a number of classes and additional volunteer students took time out of their day to help plant a range of native grasses, shrubs, and iconic species along Poorman Valley Stream as part of a collaborative work by Healthy Streams, Nelson City Council, Nelmac and Nayland College. 

Local artist Vicki Smith has been involved in the Healthy Streams initiative for quite some time, working with students around understanding stream ecology and creating responses to it. Last term she worked with some of our science students around the macroinvertebrates and their importance in the waterway. She also spent time with some of our art students to again understand about stream care and stream conditions and to create artworks in response, some of which will be put amongst the planting. The students have created some pou that are going to be lit up as part of the upcoming Matariki Celebration on 30 June. 

In talking to Vicki she explained more about the importance of the planting and how the project came about. 

“A lot of this initially is about creating cover,” she said. “It’s a riparian planting, which means it’s streamside. It’s good for stream health because it creates conditions of shade and trees also filter run-off. For example when people are washing cars and things like that, all of that sort of stuff goes into stormwater so anything that is running off across the ground should be filtered slightly by this. [The planting will also] encourage other species here… some of the trees are specifically bird attracting which will in itself add to more trees coming here because the birds will transport them.” 

“[The planting is] part of a project from the council to work on the esplanade alongside Poorman Valley Stream all the way from the upper reaches out to the sea… there’s only a couple of places where you can’t walk alongside the stream, but apart from that you can walk the whole way along the stream. So it’s part of creating an esplanade to encourage people to use the stream. When people start to pay attention to it and care for it then it will raise the mauri (essence/life force) of the stream and generally there will be less rubbish. Hopefully people will think twice before throwing stuff into it.”

“So it’s the beginning of hopefully an extension of all the natives that are already along here and that sense of [ownership]… this actually belongs to Nayland at this point on both sides of the stream so this is really your awa(river),” she said.

Image by: Gavin Millar

Kate Bryant and Sam Edens, two Year 12 Outdoor Education students helping with the planting, were inspired to hear more about the project their teacher Sally Josenhans had got them involved in. After listening to Vicki share the heart and vision behind the project, Kate lit up when asked how she felt about contributing. 

Kate Bryant planting trees along Poorman’s Stream — Image by: Sam Edens

“[I feel] stoked!” she said. “That’s, really really cool and it’s nice to know that in a few years hopefully they’ll be bigger and then more bird life, better stream health… Positive!”

Image by: Kate Bryant

Sam also felt really positive about being able to contribute saying, “Just good to be a part of something to help the community and help increase the marine biology and create a nice safe place for animals and a nice place to look at.”

Vicki Smith was keen to acknowledge the role that Nelmac played, especially the preparation work done by Andrew McMahon prior to planting day. Andrew came down to weed-eat the entire area to get the site ready and he will also be involved in the ongoing maintenance work as the ‘Esplanade Gardener’ for Nelmac.

“Planting it is one thing,” he said, “but you’ve also got to maintain them, you’ve got to keep the weeds off them to give them a chance to survive….It’s my job to keep them weed free.”

When asked how he found working alongside the students on the day he replied, “It’s good fun. My son was in one of the classes, so I got to see him… but I didn’t embarrass him too much!”

“Basically plants need to go in a certain place,” he added. “You wouldn’t put a huge tree down in the flood zone so we’re putting the grasses and things that can be parted by the water and recover, down low and then shrubs and then trees up higher, so we’re spacing them out [for the students] and making sure they go in the right place.”

Image by: Nayland College

Primary Industries teacher Esther Hancock played a huge role in overseeing and coordinating the classes and students however she was keen to pass the credit on to others. 

“[It’s] part of Nelmac thing to celebrate Matariki, to have some artwork and to replant the stream. So Vicki Smith got in touch with the school and because it’s something I’m interested in and because of the planting side of things, I took it on board to coordinate the classes. But there’s been other teachers who have been keen… along with the Tautīnei (formerly NEST – Nayland Environmental Sustainability Team) students and we got the Level 1 Te Reo Māori class in first of all to do a blessing for us to get the whole thing started off.”

All in all it was a hugely successful day and a great demonstration of how many hands make light work. All who took part can take pride in knowing that they have contributed to improving the mauri of our awa for the generations to come. 

By Sarah Luton