Running slips

and planting natives

Five weeks without access to the Hawkes Bay reserves has been nothing compared to the anguish suffered by so many after the devastation of Cyclone Gabrielle. So, we couldn’t run the hills for a few weeks. Not a big deal, in the scheme of things. Now the trails are mostly open again and frankly, I’m surprised at the speed of this considering the resources required – those same resources of machinery and planning and humans that are in such demand everywhere. Men with diggers, once again, I salute you.

I’m lucky to be able to run out of my back door to the Havelock trails. Te Mata Peak, Tauroa and Tainui reserves plus all the linking trails have had barriers up for weeks. I thought they were cordoned off out of precaution, until someone from the council could get a chance, amid all the other chaos, to have a squiz and check they were clear of debris. I stayed away, ran on the roads, reminding myself how bad it is for your body (particularly as you get older) to pound pavements. All that jarring and repetition. Until finally the barriers came down and we leapt like puppies up the hills again and we saw first hand how many of the trails were seriously smashed up.

There are scars from slips all over the peak. You can see them from the village, where giant fingernails have gouged at the skin of the hills. Up close, whole sections of trail have slipped down the open hillsides, seemingly at random, although the areas with mature native plantings have survived well. There’s one redwood down (only one!) and gigantic gums sawn in chunks and dragged from the path. Tainui has lost trees and slips and the beautifully replanted Tauroa reserve in the narrow gully, pride of the local community, has lost big chunks of path and recent plantings. But, all the incessant rain that caused the land to slump has given a boom to the native plantings over the last couple of years. The pines on Te Mata Peak came down in 2021. There were great community days replanting then, (pictured here) and now those smashed hillsides are covered in natives bigger than me. They’re growing up strong. Growing back better. And it’s still great running.

Author: Cristina Sanders Blog

Novelist, trail runner, book reviewer and blogger.

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