Young and old working together - 23rd Jul 2012

light logs on a 'zip line'
Soon to be published in Heritage New Zealand –  the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT) magazine

An exciting youth initiative has enabled young people to learn some practical job skills while giving them an opportunity to interact with some of New Zealand’s oldest historic places.

Northland based arborists Kent Thwaites and Joe Cooper recently led a team of young people carrying out pruning and other arboricultural work on some of the country’s oldest trees at a number of NZ Historic Places Trust properties around Northland.

Kent – who works for private training provider Thoughtplanters Ltd – is delighted by the impact the programme has had on the budding arborists and landscapers.

“Many of these young people have found that formal education isn’t really for them, and so they’ve been in the position of looking for training opportunities to enable them to get a job and start a career,” says Kent who specialises in working with heritage trees and is involved with the NZ Notable Trees Trust and Northland Tree Climbers Association.

“Thoughtplanters worked with the NZ Historic Places Trust to provide an opportunity for these guys and girls to learn some skills, while also proactively managing some of our older trees in order to keep them healthy, and to remove any potential danger to the public from falling branches or limbs.”

As well as using their new skills, the nature of the project meant that trainees worked in gardens and public places where their efforts were appreciated by the community.

“The result was a lot of positive feedback and affirmation from people who saw the work that they were doing. For some kids experiencing this kind of positive interaction was a first,” says Kent.

“Trainees also learned a lot about some of our older trees – including New Zealand’s oldest oak tree at Te Waimate Mission, which really blew them away. Experiences like these ‘plant a seed’ in their minds about the importance of respecting trees for their heritage value. When they’re older, many of these kids will return knowing that they have been a part of the heritage of these trees.”

As well as working with trees – which Kent describes as “living, breathing links to the past” – many of the young trainees discovered family links to the historic buildings they were working near.

“Mita Harris, the manager at Te Waimate Mission, was able to talk about some of the family links many of these guys and girls had to the house through their tupuna. That just added another dimension of understanding and appreciation for them.”

Using ideas like whakapapa also enabled the trainees to pick up the concept of botanic nomenclature, which assigns Latin names to trees, enabling them to be classified according to their relationships and links with other trees.

“Basically, we were able to present this concept to them in the context of understanding a tree’s whakapapa within its wider botanic ‘family’,” says Kent.

“That approach makes a potentially daunting subject like tree identification and classification understandable and accessible.”

In addition to working on New Zealand’s oldest oak at Te Waimate, the trainees also worked on historic trees around Clendon House in Rawene, and Pompallier Mission in Russell – all properties cared for by the NZHPT.

Kent’s team were also able to experiment with new techniques, like the zip line – the equivalent of a large flying fox – which enabled logs to be removed from their source without damaging the ground, and potential archaeological features.

“We are very grateful for the work that Kent and his team of trainees have carried out on these important trees over the past few weeks,” says the NZHPT’s Northland Project Manager Tony Pickard.

“Not only have we been able to do some proactive pruning and maintenance on some of the oldest and most significant trees in New Zealand, we’ve also been able to allay any potential risk to the public. We’ve also been able to support Thoughtplanters in passing on expertise and experience to a new generation of potential arborists and landscapers while fostering a strong appreciation of heritage as well.”

For more information on the NZHTP visit:

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