Does New Zealand need Arbor Day?

Does New Zealand need Arbor Day?

It started in Spain in the 16th century and arrived in the United States in the 19th, with New Zealand’s first recorded planting in 1890. Since then billions of trees have been planted. But did you get out planting this last Arbor Day? If not, then why not?

Every New Zealand bird lover is by default a New Zealand tree lover too. We take conservation and reforestation here seriously.

It’s widely acknowledged that planting trees here is best done in autumn or spring. In autumn you’re giving planting the longest time to get established before summer, which is usually the most testing time for saplings. Many trees are also suited to planting in the warmer, lighter months of spring.

While Arbor Day is an important calendar date in the Northern Hemisphere it’s problematic in our country. Coming in the middle of winter it’s not just difficult for trees in the cold frost – it’s a problem for the people trying to plant too.

Social media each year has plenty of last minute notices, from the hastily cancelled (“due to weather”) to the desperate (“Arbor Day is still on despite the weather!”) to the hopeful (“check the weather on the day”). You’ll be noticing a trend here.

That’s not to say we aren’t doing a part. There is a huge amount of stunning work from individuals and groups and their expertise ensures the right type of seedling is planted for this time of year. You can also find year-round guidance for native tree planting at Forest and Bird, Trees for Survival, Sustainable Coastlines and Project Crimson.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

But is it enough? In this interesting Spinoff article Joris De Bres writes, “Despite the efforts of some determined individuals, conservation groups and a few councils, the day now slips by largely unmarked.” He also highlights this 2016 report, which shows the “rate of forest removals since 2008 has been greater than our rate of forest planting, averaging around 8,500 hectares per year”.

We think such numbers calls for a party. A tree-planting one. Perhaps we could push for more plantings as part of our observance of Anzac Day or Labour Day? Or maybe we need to move Arbor Day to a more user-friendly date? How about making it a Kiwi wedding tradition?

Do you have any ideas on how to improve things? We’d love to hear from you!

In the meantime, it’s worth checking out DoC’s fantastic guide for planting trees that attract native birds. After all if you’re going to plant trees, they might as well be trees that provide year-round food for birds.