Tips on restoring Hamilton gullies

Target audience for this document; schools and people who own their own bit of a Hamilton gully. Rather than duplicating a lot of information already about, I have included links that will have more detail on the subject being discussed. This is not a definitive list but things that, I hope, will get you thinking and inspire you to start restoring your gully.

First things first. Every site is different so there is no template for your site.

Generally the starting point is flora, plants. What native plants are already present?  What native plants should you be planting? What weeds are there that need eradicating?

An excellent booklet has been produced by Hamilton City Council called  Gully Restoration Guide. This is the nearest you will get to a template. Council may still have hard copies available on request.
Professor Bruce Clarkson, University of Waikato, has researched the historic flora of Hamilton Gullies. This link is to the list of plants for wet gully floors and drier gully slopes that Mangaiti Gully Restoration Trust use. A more comprehensive list is available on request by emailing  

Stage one, weeding and planting

Do a quick survey of your site then;

Figure 1. Board walk, shingle path and bridge (back left)
designed for a wheel barrow
  • Identify any native plant areas that may already be there. These may only be understorey plants like ferns and tree ferns but they give you a starting point. 
  • Develop access tracks, ideally good enough to use a wheel barrow on. 
  • Start restoring from the good bush out. This may mean you do several different pockets within your area. Don’t try and do the whole area all at once. 
  • Restoring is not gardening. Leaving logs, branches and woody weeds to rot on the ground is not only acceptable but desirable. It is habitat for native invertebrates and skinks and saves you wasting a whole lot of energy and time removing them. 
  • If you are planting pioneer plants (the first shrubs planted into open ground) then 1 metre centres is considered the norm. However for canopy trees, 5 metre centres is the minimum. So many people make the mistake of planting canopy trees close together as if they are shrubs.  
  • Native trees are available at reasonable prices from Tamahere Community Nursery contact  Jan Simmons at DOC bus. 07-858-1010 ; Whatawhata, Betty Collins,  Ph 8478-271,, Ngaruawahia and Newstead, Full Bloom Nursery, 
  • You might like to grow some of your own native plants. Some are quite easy and quick to grow, others are hard to get a germination and can take a long time until they are ready to plant out (3 years or more). There are a number of sites on the internet that can advise you.

Stage two, native fauna (animals) 

Native fish in your stream (if you have a stream).

Figure 2. Banded Kokopu
These could be Shortfinned (common) or Longfinned (less common) Eels, Giant and Banded Kokopu (figure 2). All these are nocturnal so you rarely see them during the day. It would be a good assumption that they will be present in all Hamilton streams. Plant your stream banks so there is over-hanging foliage to give the fish shelter and a feed source of invertebrates.  In sunny aspects, Carex secta are excellent for this. They also shade the water keeping it cool. In a shaded aspect, encourage ferns and understorey shrubs to overhang the stream. You could plant Karamu, Coprosma robusta along the stream edge. Do not over-clear the streams of logs and natural litter.

You might like to consider feeding the eels. They respond well to regular feed times. Tinned jelly meat has been used for this purpose.

Ghost or Puriri Moths
These are an interesting part of the ecosystem
Figure 4. Exit hole ready for a
Weta to take up residence
Figure 3. Silk web covering the outlet
They make their homes in exotic trees like Grey Willow (figure 3) and Privet as well as natives and when they vacate, the Weta use the burrows they leave in the tree trunks (figure 4). Both the Weta and the Moth are favourite food of the Morepork Owl. So rather then cut down all the Willow and Privet, consider drilling a hole in the trunk and poisoning them with 100% Glysophate and let them slowly die and rot over a number of years. In the meantime, plant fast-growing trees like Lacebark, Hoheria sexstylosa, and Ribbonwood, Plagianthus regius, both of which the moth use as hosts.

Incidentally poisoning weed trees I feel is a far better way than cutting and clearing them. Leaving them standing gives the under storey of native's time to establish without the competition from annual weeds that thrive in sun light.

Figure 5 Weta homes available
from the Enviro Centre
Weta homes are a fun thing to install in your restoration area. They may not be required to enhance the Weta population but they are a talking point and Weta seem to quickly take up residence. They can be purchased ready made from the Hamilton Environment Centre located at Five Cross Roads (figure 5) or you can make them yourself

Morepork Nesting Box

Figure 6. Morepork nest box.
Note the metal band on the post.
Morepork have a large territorial range so it is unlikely that you require more than one box. They are not fussy where they build their nests. They have been found at ground level among tussock and even on the top of tree ferns. Not sure what happens when a new frond grows? They do not build a nest so if you do make a box put some straw or leaf litter in the bottom for them to lay their eggs on.

The size of our nest box   is 500mm high (top to bottom) and 300mm wide across the front, 270mm front to back with a 120mm diameter hole (figure 6).  All inside measurements. Wherever you install it, tree or post, you should try and prevent rats and possums getting up to it.  Metal band the tree or post.

Red and Yellow Admiral Butterflies

Figure 7 . The Red Admiral butter fly
These are a delightful native butterfly that are rarely seen these days. The Red Admiral is particularly striking (figure 7). They require a nettle as a host plant for their caterpillars and because the nettle has a sting to it if touched it has generally been eradicated. The preferred food plant of the Red Admiral caterpillar is Urtica ferox (ongaonga or tree nettle). The caterpillars also feed on other nettles such as U. incisa (scrub nettle), U. aspera and U. urens (Dwarf Nettle). As long as you know that they sting and manage the plants (that is, put them in an out-of-the-way area or fence them off) there is no reason not to consider planting them. Another option is to accept that a nettle sting is something we all will get over, and we will treat nettles with more caution in future (harsh aren't I). I remember getting stung by them where they grew openly by a stream behind our batch at Akaroa in the 60’s.
The Urtica ferox plants are available to purchase from Oratia Native Plants

Skink habitat

Figure 8. Copper Skink habitat constructed on a sunny slope
The native Copper Skink is under considerable predator pressure from cats, rats and hedgehogs in the city. They are also food for Kingfishers and Morepork but that is part of our natural ecosystem. You could consider  building a skink habitat   if you have a sunny dry aspect and the room (figure 8). This could be nothing more than a pile of old logs and branches or a specially constructed one with a protective fence to keep out cats and hedgehogs.  If you are introducing Copper Skinks into your habitat be aware that some parts of the city have the very invasive
 Australian Rainbow Skink  .You should clearly identify a skink before any transfer is done. If in doubt don't transfer it. The ideal is that the Copper Skink population in your habitat just grows naturally.


Figure 9. Long Tailed Bat.
Small and at risk of rat attack.
Hamilton is lucky in that it has the endangered Long Tailed Bat We don’t know a lot about it which makes it difficult to manage. What we do know is that they only reside in the south end of Hamilton. Why they do not move north up the river we do not know. It uses multiple roosts and is only semi-sociable. It does not seem to form large colonies like some bats varieties overseas do. Bat boxes have been installed in Hammond Park but we are not sure they have been used. If you wish to install a bat box and try your luck there are a number of overseas sites with designs or you can buy one from T.L.C Lawn in Auckland

Feedback, information requests or comments welcome:
Complied by Rex Bushell
Coordinator and Trustee
Mangaiti Gully Restoration Trust
Hamilton, NZ

May 2016

No comments: