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  • Susan Strongman

255 trees planted at AUT in 2023

Reprinted with permission from Susan Strongman

More than 250 trees were planted across AUT’s campuses this year under the watchful eye of Grounds Maintenance Supervisor Niven Winder and team. 

The majority of these are native plants, with 83 trees planted at North Campus and 172 at South Campus – a total of 255 trees. 

In addition, Niven says the team has planted native shrubs and ground cover plants in various areas across all three campuses. 

He says the team is slowly working through long-term plans to revegetate various unused or underused areas of our campuses. 

“In so doing so, we’re reducing our mowing requirements and our CO2 footprint by carbon sequestration, and increasing biodiversity,” Niven says. 

“Students from Te Ara Hauora A Putaiao - Faculty of Health & Environmental Science’s Lifestyle and Nutrition course, part of the Bachelor of Sport and Recreation, have assisted by planting citrus, stone fruit, and some taro at north campus.” 

This activity is part of a broader Community Garden Initiative (CGI) spearheaded by the nutrition team in the School of Sport & Recreation. The CGI, which aligns with AUT’s sustainability plan showcases activities on its website,

He says students have also helped by gathering native seed from nearby Smith’s Bush, which is the last remnant of the original bush in the area, to propagate for use in future revegetation projects. 

“This is a key part of our long-term plan to revegetate all our campus with trees and plants that may have been growing in these areas’ predevelopment, preferably with locally sourced seed where available,” Niven says. 

“The larger puriri and kahikatea growing on North Campus, for example, were grown from seed I gathered from Smith’s Bush around thirty years ago. 

“These have contributed to us now being on the flight path of wood pigeons, something that did not occur on the original campus.” 

The native planting, started over thirty years ago, has accelerated over the last few years with support from management, staff and students. 

"We are now approaching a point where we can become almost self-sufficient, producing plants for much of our planting needs using seed gathered on site,” Niven says. 

Other course students have been planting and harvesting herbs and vegetables at both North and South Campus as part of their course projects, using the raised vegetable planters. 

“We also had another planting event in the AE area at North Campus as part of the annual Matariki celebrations,” Niven says. 

“The planting has become an integral part of our Matariki celebrations and has converted unused campus grassed areas into relaxing spaces with fruit tree and native plantings.” 

Despite the large number of plantings across the university, Niven says 2023 has come with great challenges. 

"By the end of October, we’d seen 589mm more rainfall than the normal yearly average, as measured in our North Campus rain gauge. 

“Besides all the flooding and leaks around our campuses, our gardens have suffered, especially on North Campus, where we lost several native and fruit trees due to sitting in water for far too long.” 

Niven says things are now slowly recovering as we gear up for a dry El Nino summer. 

He says the “new normal” of unpredictable weather certainly adds to the challenges for our grounds maintenance as we try to produce great outcomes for AUT. 

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