Forest & Bird honours Golden Bay planter

 Forest & Bird today announced Robyn Jones of Collingwood has won its annual Golden Spade award for her work with the Golden Bay Streamcare project to plant stream banks on dairy farms in her area.

The national award was announced on World Environment Day and recognises Robyn Jones’ work as coordinator of the Forest & Bird Golden Bay branch’s Streamcare project, which has been replanting stream and river banks on farmers’ properties in the region.

“She is totally passionate - highly disciplined but also gentle and modest,” says Forest & Bird’s Golden Bay branch secretary, Jo-Anne Vaughan, one of the founders of the project. “She wants to leave a Golden Bay substantially more beautiful and ecologically healthy than when we started.”

The damage caused by dairy cows to river banks and the pollution caused by their waste is a major environmental issue throughout New Zealand, and the Streamcare project has been working with farmers to make a real difference to water quality in Golden Bay.

Robyn Jones runs a nursery behind Collingwood School. The nursery grows at least 6000 plants a year for planting on Golden Bay’s stream banks. She also coordinates the volunteers who do the planting and maintenance of the native plants in the riparian strips.

She is hoping to plant even more natives along river banks in 2012 and sees the value of the project going beyond improving the environment. “For me, the planting is an aesthetic thing, too. I have a vision of New Zealand with streams planted in a patchwork of vegetation in farming areas,” Robyn Jones says.

The Streamcare project started in 2005, with nurseries established in the backyards of project members but as the demand for plantings grew, the current nursery was developed by Robyn about four years ago.

She was the owner for two decades of an acclaimed begonia nursery in Golden Bay and after retiring from the business she relished the challenge of the Streamcare project. “Working with plants seems to be what I was born to do – it comes to me naturally.”

The nursery grows 12 types of native plants for riparian planting, including cabbage trees, coprosmas, toetoe and kowhai. They all share a strong root system, important for holding river banks together and sucking up excess nutrients from cow paddocks.

As farmers in the region have seen the success of the project, more have come on board and asked for help in planting their own stream banks. “Farmers are coming along and helping us, bringing their workers and using their machinery to dig holes. They can see what the project is about now and have more understanding about the concept,” Robyn Jones says.  

Aquaculture farmers also see the benefits of less pollution entering the sea and have become financial supporters of the project. 

Robyn Jones is the driving force behind the Streamcare project and has made a point of getting local school children and others involved. “I do seem to be quite good at hassling other people to come and help,” she says.

But she is also quick to give credit to others, including Jo-Anne Vaughan, the founding coordinator John Gilardi and other volunteers who give so much time to improving Golden Bay’s environment. 

This is the fourth year the Golden Spade has been awarded.