Written by Vicki Holder
Andrea was concerned, particularly as she had tuned into the growing local food source movement which has seen the return of many backyard vegetable patches and community gardens. Both rely on pollinators for their well-being, something many people aren’t aware of.
“Today, a lot of people don’t know where their food source comes from because we’ve become so detached from it. But if we lose our pollinators, many of our plants simply don’t get pollinated.”
And pollinators need pathways to breed.
“If they get isolated in an island effect, they interbreed so their genetics aren’t as diverse. Their survival mechanism weakens. If they start to die, other pollinators take their place."
For example, on Little Barrier, she explains, plants such as Pohutukawa are still pollinated by native bats, one of the only mammals native to New Zealand. But they now rely on rats as the bats have almost been wiped out by the rats. That’s something nobody wants to encourage anywhere.
She points out that if food is grown in a massive mono-culture using lots of pesticides and herbicides – as we do these days – you’re killing and discouraging most of the insects that are natural pollinators to that area. “You have to truck in masses of honey bees because they’re easily transportable.” When that happens you interfere with the natural eco-system.
Andrea decided to dedicate her final year to researching how to design pathways that would link up so the pollinators could travel across the city more easily. When she graduated, she felt her work would be wasted if she didn’t turn it into reality. Andrea set the Pollinator Paths movement in motion with a vision to build a network of pathways that support a mix of flora and fauna through central Auckland, starting with her home territory in Grey Lynn.
Fortuitously, during her research, she met with like-minded people who gave her valuable connections that facilitated funding to get the project up and running.
In October 2016, she worked with the Waitemata Local Board, Gecko NZ Trust, Aecom and local community groups and neighbours to create the first pollinator park at Hakanoa Reserve in Sackville Street, which creates a halfway point for pollinators travelling between Grey Lynn Park and Cox’s Bay Reserve. A combination of planting supports different pollinators. The call-out to people to come help put it in place was surprisingly successful, she says. Their work was completed in no time as kids ran around collecting materials to poke into the pollinator wall. People in the area were clearly motivated to be involved.
Just as she and the locals celebrate the one year point with a party, Andrea moves onto her second installation in November on the berm at the corner of Tutanekai Street and Dryden Street. In collaboration with For the Love of Bees, this installation involves a flower layout designed and planted by the children from children from the Grey Lynn School Garden Group. A series of educational workshops on site will show this Enviroschool class which pollinators are needed to attract different kinds of wildlife. Together, they’ll experiment and come to conclusions about the best pattern to attract bees.
Andrea is also awaiting funding for a Butterfly Berm that will become a hub for butterflies, running 6.5 metres along the grassy strip outside Mitre 10 on Westmoreland Street West. It focuses on a range of plants such as swan plants, tussocks and muehlenbeckia to help specific types of butterfly thrive with nectar feeders and educational signage as well.
Since starting the Pollinator Pathways, Andrea has been encouraged by the interest from other schools, kindies and community groups who want to get involved.
She’s now looking at bigger projects to extend the Grey Lynn network in neighbourhoods across the city. She hopes Aucklanders start taking more responsibility for planting and maintaining their own gardens and berms outside their homes so over time, they’ll form continuous corridors that link to a congruous whole.
“Potentially, it will be huge. I’m just getting all the ducks in a row at the moment so that it’s not unmanageable and becomes more of a movement to improve Auckland overall. Potentially other projects might start up by community groups in other urban centres around New Zealand.”
To help with that process, she’s putting together a Pollinator Tool Kit which will be published toward the end of the year. It will show residents how to create their own Pollinator Pathway. Though it’s not as simple as you might think. Specific things are required if you’re planning to plant your berm as there are services below the ground you need to consider. Check what’s required with Auckland Transport and the Auckland Council. “It also needs to be in a good place to connect the existing habitat,” Andrea warns. “Depending on the area and the type of installation required, you can probably get funding.”
Contact Andrea about your options. She will work with you and your local street or community to design a solution that will enhance your neighbourhood while connecting up Auckland’s pollinator network so you can be part of the green revolution too.