The Kuku Biochar Project, October 2022

Weedmatt stencilling hui at Massey University, Wellington

October found us gathering at Massey University, in Wellington to stencil the first roll of hemp weedmatt for the Waikōkopu stream restoration project at Kuku. It was stencilled with our homemade biochar ink: biochar from the last burn at Kuku was ground by hand in a mortar and pestle, then mixed with methyl cellulose to create a non-toxic ink/paint. A hand-cut stencil was used to paint the image on to the weedmatt. The image is an interpretation of Waewae Pakura; a traditional tukutuku and carving pattern, based on the swamp hen’s feet – the footprints of the Pukeko.

This stencilled weedmatt drawing is a test run for a larger and more ambitious project; to line a large section of the stream with Waewae Pakura weedmatts. A seperate weedmatt will be exhibited at the Govett Brewster Art Gallery in Ngāmotu/New Plymouth , Taranaki, in their upcoming exhibition, Te Au: Liquid Constituencies. After the exhibition, the exhibited weedmatt drawing will return to the farm, and join the others, streamside, to support the revegetation of the Waikōkopu stream ecosystem.

Thanks to Advance Landscape Systems for their enthusiasm for this project. This weedmatt is made from NZ grown hemp and wool!

Special thanks to Lisa Munnelly and the Textile Design department at Massey University.

Heartfelt thanks, as always, to the Te Waituhi ā Nuku: Drawing Ecologies team; especially Emma, Jonathan, Lisa, Maria, Huhana and Ciaran who gave up their weekend to grind charcoal and make a mess!

The Kuku Biochar Project, November 2022

Waewa Pakura Test Install, Kuku

The Kuku Biochar Project is starting to come together! Biochar production, printed coffee sacks installed in the stream, weedmatt drawings, and now a test installation of Waewae Pakura, as part of the Waikōkopu stream restoration project. The aim is to line both banks of the Waikōkopu stream with multiple, 30m lengths of hand-stencilled hemp weedmatt, which will be planted with the appropriate lowland terrace and stream-edge planting.  

A mammoth effort has gone in to eliminating the troublesome weeds that lined the edge of the stream, so that we can proceed with this next phase of the project. We are aiming to create a shallow, wide stream channel, (encouraged by the installation of biochar-filled sacks - see earlier blog post), and to stabilise and shade the stream, with an appropriate and well-designed planting scheme.

The hope is that this stream restoration project will mean that the surrounding land will be better able to absorb increasingly extreme weather events (flooding and drought), and as the planting grows and shades the stream, the water quality should improve and a much great biodiversity of plant and animal life will make their homes here.  

Next winter we aim to stencil multiple lengths of weedmatt, install them along the edge of the stream and start Phase 1 planting design. Watch this space!

Te Waituhi ā Nuku: Drawing Ecologies are excited to exhibit this project in a long-term art project by the Govett Brewster Art Gallery in Ngāmotu/New Plymouth. OUr first iteration will focus on the Kuku Biochar and Waikōkopu stream restoration project. It will be part documentation and part proposal; for an ecological art project that practices what it represents.

Te Au: Liquid Constituencies gathers works by artists that engage in significant relationships with water. The exhibition is loosely structured around the rotating currents of Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa-flowing from the unique landscape of Taranaki, down Te Ika-a-Māui to Horowhenua and the Kāpiti Coast, coursing past Antarctica and Patagonia, before moving through the waters around Tuvalu and Tonga among many other island nations, and along the Australian coastline.

Thanks to Advance Landscape Systems for their enthusiasm for this project!

Special thanks to Huhana, Richard and Maija for their epic weeding, goat wrangling, blackberry muntering and Waewae Pakura weedmatt rolling.

Photos by Maija Stephens, documentary photographer for Te Waituhi ā Nuku: Drawing Ecologies group, working alongside the Deep South National Science Challenge, Phase 3: Manaaki i ngā taonga i tukua mai e ngā tupuna: investigating action-oriented climate change transitions to water-based land uses that enhance taonga species 2020-2022.