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Tropical touch – Kāinga Ora gifts palm trees to local school

24 Aug 2021
Click the image to watch a video of the tree transportation

Five palm trees are thriving after being replanted in their new home at Waikōwhai Intermediate School, under the care of arborist Peter Whitehead. The mature trees were gifted to the school following removal from a nearby Kāinga Ora site which will be developed for public housing.

Kāinga Ora Development Manager Rebecca Allington says the goal is always to find new homes for mature and healthy trees growing in sites planned for development. “If we are required to remove trees from a site, we will continue to look at opportunities where we can transplant the trees elsewhere in the area. We know how important trees are to our community and we are delighted that we have been able to move these gorgeous palms somewhere they will be appreciated,” Rebecca says.

Jenny Chilcott, who leads the Urban Ngahere Project at Kāinga Ora, says the aim is to increase Ngahere coverage on Kāinga Ora properties and also work with other organisations to do the same. “This is a fantastic example of the Urban Ngahere Project in action – what can be achieved when we all work together to value and save trees.”

Arborist Peter from Asplundh NZ, says the trees, roughly 6 metres tall and about 20 years old, are doing well in their new home and have made a significant improvement to the look of the school. “Effective replanting depends on the health of the trees and following the correct processes,” he says. “By not removing too much of the root system, that’s how you know it’s going to be successful or not.”  

The replanting process took two days – one to dig and uplift, and another to replant, Peter explains, adding all five palms were transported down the block to their new home on one trailer. The exercise was supported by Piritahi, the civil alliance for Kāinga Ora, and took place during the school holidays.

Waikōwhai Intermediate School Principal David King says the students were surprised and delighted when they returned from the break. “You don’t expect to have a fully grown palm in place where it was just grass previously. There were lots of questions about it. I could tell them that it came from the house across the road. The kids loved it. It is in their neighbourhood” David says.

The five trees have been planted at several sites around the school, including the entrance, and their presence has significantly enhanced the environment, according to Property Manager Willie Loelu. “Everybody was absolutely rapt, including staff. It has changed the atmosphere around here. The area was just barren there was nothing there, but certainly having two by the entrance is a good, welcoming sight. It’s like being in Rarotonga right now.”