Toby with Robin Smith from the DOC — Fonterra Living Water projec

Young conservationist acknowledged

by Ann van Engelen

Toby Benison, from Springston School, has received the New Zealand Plant Conservation Network Award for his significant contribution to a local waterway through Enviroschools Canterbury.

“Toby is a young plant conservationist and last year he was involved in a riparian restoration planting pilot as part of the Living Water Project in the Ararira Catchment,” says Enviroschools Canterbury facilitator, Matt Stanford.

“The school focussed on a 50m stretch of waterway near the school to plan and implement as they saw fit in line with the project outcomes. Toby was the team leader for planting, taking on this leadership naturally.”

The team researched, which plants to use and why considering both the value to the water quality and the ecosystem services they may provide.

“Toby conducted in-depth research for the species list and the planting plan he submitted to DOC. It was subsequently included, unchanged, in the formal proposal to Selwyn District Council. He demonstrated his understanding and passion for his role as the plant consultant.

“He also explained to me and the DOC project lead Robin Smith that he had selected native plants based on the project outcomes to restore a biodiversity corridor.”

Toby used his research skills, plant knowledge and passion for the project to think laterally about natives to complement the existing exotic trees. “On the planting day itself, he ensured the contractor followed the planting plan. At an Environment Canterbury Youth Zone Committee meeting Toby explained the project outcomes, planting plan and species list to the assembled group of adults.”

He also explained why he chose grass sedge on the margin to filter any run-off, shade the waterway preventing macrophyte growth, provide habitat for fish and stabilise the bank. In response to receiving the NZPCN Young Plant Conservationist award, Toby said: “it feels like a big deal because it’s for the whole of New Zealand, but it was only a small project. I guess if everyone does a little bit — it becomes a big action.”