Planting a future  

Issue: Volume 100, Number 1

Posted: 15 February 2021
Reference #: 1HAGyZ

Schools can apply for a grant to plant trees in their grounds as living memorials to people who have made a difference in their local communities, and in doing so, help their learners forge stronger connections with their communities and environment.   

Nelson College for Girls is preparing to plant a commemorative grove of trees to acknowledge Kate Edgar, the founding principal of the college, who was the first woman in the British Empire to graduate with a university degree.  

Further south, Stirling School in Otago is honouring Old Boy and noted virologist Sir Robert Webster with their tree planting.

These are just two of many projects that have been made possible due to funding from Matariki Tu Rākau, a nationwide planting programme administered by Te Uru Rākau — Forestry New ZealandMatariki Tu Rākau provides funds for communities to plant trees on public land and marae to commemorate New Zealanders who have made a difference to their local communities.  

“There are so many fantastic Kiwis who make a difference to our communities on a daily basis and it is a really wonderful thing to be able to recognise this contribution in a positive way,” says Belinda Miller from Te Uru Rākau – Forestry New Zealand. 

She says they have had applications from schools recognising pioneering principals who set up their schools, the service of frontline staff during Covid-19 and New Zealanders who through philanthropic generosity gifted land for educational purposes. 

Bringing communities together 

Since April 2018, Matariki Tu Rākau has supported the planting of more than 100 living memorials nationwide. More than 500,000 trees have been planted at 250 planting events since the programme started in 2018. Funding is provided for native trees to be planted on suitable land, up to one hectare in size, that is accessible to the public or Iwi.  

This funding has enabled schools to plant trees to provide shade and beautify their school grounds. It provides a fantastic opportunity to teach children about the importance of trees and to bring school communities together,” says Belinda. 

Curriculum links 

The programme provides schools with a platform for their learners to actively engage with their local communities and make connections to people and events within those communities.  

In doing so, they have an opportunity to explore and develop the key competencies of The New Zealand Curriculum(external link), particularly the competency of ‘participating and contributing’.  

As noted in the curriculum: Students who participate and contribute in communities have a sense of belonging and the confidence to participate within new contexts. They understand the importance of balancing rights, roles, and responsibilities and of contributing to the quality and sustainability of social, cultural, physical, and economic environments.

Sustainability impact

Sustainability is an important aspect of the programme too. Planting trees on school grounds will have an impact on the current and future school environment, giving learners the opportunity to explore aspects of the social sciences learning area(external link) of the curriculum, particularly continuity and change, and place and environment. 

By planting the right trees in the right place for the right purpose, we can all influence climate change and improve our environment. Schools can decide where and what to plant and how they celebrate their planting event,” says Belinda. 

We prefer native, regionally appropriate species, but other species significant to the school and its community can be planted. We support the planting of tree species as well as rongōa [traditional healing] planting.”  

Creating a future 

Belinda says that through this grant they are also creating a future.   

We are creating a future with less carbon in our atmosphere, more birds and wildlife, more shade to play under and a beautiful place to learn. Your children and your children’s children will come to this place and remember their ancestors.  

They might remember planting their tree today or they might say, ‘My Nan planted that tree, that is her tree’. This grant is about connection – of your past, your present and your future,” she says. 

“We would love to help your school on its journey to plant trees to celebrate people from the past and invest in the people of the future.”  

 For more information, please visit the website at link) or send an email to 

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 12:15 pm, 15 February 2021

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