Building a river bank home for skinks

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All hands to the job: Sophia Maw, 8 and Nikita Burton,10, work the shovel, while Stella Hamilton, 7, prepares to drop a food boost tablet into the hole that Sam Totty, 8, will place this native 'creeper'.

By Mick Jensen

Students from Lauriston School have lent a hand with a planting project that will enhance and develop a habitat for skinks and will help nature flourish on the banks of the Rakaia River.

Around 40 students and parent helpers descended on the arable and lamb fattening farm of David and Emma Maw at Barrhill to plant around 600 natives.

The natives included muehlenbeckia, swamp flax and half a dozen other plant varieties.

While the volunteers provided the labour and skills for digging holes and planting, the project has been funded by the Barrhill Chertsey Irrigation (BCI), which runs pipes through the Maw’s property and others along the Rakaia River as part of its scheme.

The idea to help with the land regeneration and to boost the skink area came from the Maw’s eight-year-old daughter Sophia, who is a pupil at Lauriston school.

The project was tackled as part of a school READY challenge, which encourages students to be enterprising and achieving at school and also to take interest and ownership of extra curricular activities.

Sophia said the project was about creating a nice habitat for skinks and their food sources.

The new natives would also encourage birds and bees, which could feed on pollen and nectar from some of the flowering varieties, she said.

“We did get a day off school to help out, but we learnt a lot about planting, lizards and the environment, so it is a very positive and worthwhile experience.”

BCI will fund a drip line irrigation system to water the natives and also comb guard, which will help protect them from predators.

Before starting work at the planting day, students got up close to possums that had been trapped that morning on the farm.

The hands-on field trip experience included a spot of possum fur plucking.