Running for the trees

May 1, 2019

Running for the trees

Kauri trees will be planted along the trail runners race along. Photo: ARC events.

A Kauri tree will be planted for each runner competing in a race held in the Coromandel Peninsula this weekend.

Event co-ordinator Rita Stephenson set up the Great Kauri Run with her husband Keith and their good friend Andy 15 years ago after seeing a lack of outdoor events.

“There was a shortfall in events for off-road running and we’d had a lot of people ask about it, plus we had the perfect trail,” Mrs Stephenson said.

The 12km, 23km and 32km races start at Waikawau, go across the central divide, then across the back of the hills and then finish in the Coromandel township.

The terrain makes it a “pretty tough” run, but Mrs Stephenson says the spectacular views make the uphill slog worth it.

With the race drawing up to 300 people, the local businesses get “a bit of a boom” as the race boosts the local environment and economy.

“Not to mention the physical wellbeing of everyone that takes part!” said Mrs Stephenson, whose love for the Coromandel sparked the tree-planting idea.

“I’m fourth-generation Coromandel and this area was just covered in Kauri tree way back, then they felled them all to ship off and farmers came along…so they were decimated. We wanted to get something back,” she said.

For participant Bella Pollock, the initiative adds to the allure of the race.

“I believe in translating my own individual micro-action into greater macro change…in this case, I wanted to race and having that also aid Kauri restoration on a large level is wonderful,” she said.

A core group of about 10 volunteers go out and plant the trees, then continue to check up on them as they grow.

“You can’t just plant them and leave them. For three years you’ve got to go back and make sure that they are getting above the creepy plants on the ground that want to strangle and choke them,” said Mrs Stephenson.

The care being shown to the trees extends to other aspects of the community as well, with proceeds from the race going to the Spirit of Coromandel Trust, a not-for-profit organisation.

Although the event was initially set up due to a love of the outdoors, the trust also looks at long-term initiatives, with hopes to set up a bike park and outdoor area for children and families.

“There’s not a lot here for the youth, in fact, I’d say there’s pretty much nothing here for the youth,” said Mrs Stephenson.

“As well as the Kauri planting it’s about creating facilities where young ones or families can go ride their bikes and things.”

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