Project Ti Kouka is a project aimed at rejuvenating the iconic cabbage tree (cordyline australis), but most especially at ensuring that it remains a characteristic feature over open farmland and around wetlands across the New Zealand landscape. Cabbage trees over our rural landscapes are usually well over a hundred years old as they initially survived the fires that the early graziers exploited to clear the land, and subsequent grazing has prevented the establishment of new trees. Today those old survivors are increasingly showing the effects of age through decline and death.
Publicity, with the aim of motivating landowners, is a key part of Project Ti Kouka. The underpinning objective is to develop a cabbage tree culture among the New Zealand public, but especially rural land owners. This plant species has a special place in the emotions of Kiwis; we intend to capitalise on this. A major benefit will be landscape enhancement by promoting an extraordinary and globally unusual plant which characterises our landscape. For that reason it will add to our attractiveness for tourists as well as enriching the lives of Kiwis. No Kiwi dislikes a cabbage tree (unless it is growing over your lawn, and the shed leaves frustrate the lawn mower!) It will also add to native bird habitat, provide shade for livestock and the flowers are greatly favoured by bees.
An important aspect of the project is the development and encouragement of effective means of establishment under livestock grazing. Trialling is being carried out at the On-Farm Research farm at Poukawa, south of Hastings. This includes electrified protection and experimenting with in situ establishment through pole planting, such as is commonly practiced with poplars and willows. Early indications are encouraging.
A nursery ( pictured above) is operated at On Farm Research where trees are grown on for gifted to landowners. Seeds are sourced from trees indigenous to different regions around New Zealand and after propogation and growing on are available to be returned to those regions.
Project Ti Kouka has been made possible by generous funding from etree, an environmental programme run by Computershare, an Australian company specialising in distributing company annual reports by email. The project is the brainchild of Ewan McGregor, of Hawkes Bay, who has run it to date. Funding assistance, mentioned above, was initiated by Rob Youl of Landcare Australia. I would also like to thank Fiona Elworthy for her enthusiastic support and the prestige that she has brought to the project, and to On Farm Research who have made land available for the nursery and trialling.