It’s a popular image of the New Zealand summer, when pohutukawa and rata are bursting with blossom. Yet by 1990 it was clear that these trees could become wiped out in some parts of the country. Project Crimson was established to restore pohutukawa and rata to New Zealand’s forests and coastlines.
Led by a bunch of enthusiastic and committed volunteers, Project Crimson initially set out to replant areas of the Northland coastline with pohutukawa. Over 26 years that mandate broadened to a national focus, to include rata, and now a wider ecosystem focus.
Hundreds of thousands of trees have been planted, and Project Crimson has played a major role in turning around the health of the metrosideros species.
Today Project Crimson is a leading conservation organisation, with support from our fantastic partners and the help of thousands of New Zealanders around the country.
We work with organisations, schools, iwi, communities and individuals throughout New Zealand through our restoration and environmental education programmes.
Whilst pohutukawa and northern and southern rata are no longer so threatened, they remain our hero species and their protection and continued renewal is still vital. Work remains to be done to restore the Bartlett’s Rata species, with very few adult trees known to be in survival.
In 2015 we received the annual Green Ribbon Award for protecting our biodiversity, awarded by the Ministers of Conservation and Environment.
New Zealanders actively connected to nature and contributing to healthy and sustainable ecosystems
The initiative for Project Crimson grew out of a Forest Research Institute investigation (1989) into the health of pohutukawa. Scientists discovered that more than 90% of coastal pohutukawa stands had been eliminated. The tree had entirely disappeared in many areas along the west coast of Northland.
Disturbed by these findings, staff from Northland Department of Conservation, supported by New Zealand Forest Products (now Carter Holt Harvey), came up with the idea of creating a community-based project to help pohutukawa. In 1990 the Project Crimson Trust came to life.
Initially focused on the pohutukawa, because this species was considered to be significantly endangered, the Trust extended its mandate in 1996 to include the pohutukawa’s cousin – the rata.
While there are a number of different species of trees in the genus Metrosideros, to which pohutukawa and rata belong, Project Crimson focuses only on the mainland pohutukawa, and three tree rata: northern, southern, and Bartlett’s – these species are considered to be the most threatened among Metrosideros.
Much of Project Crimson’s stock was originally raised in prison nurseries. This partnership provided sound horticultural training for inmates while Project Crimson supplied community groups, schools and councils with a guaranteed stock of quality, ecologically-sourced trees.
Project Crimson’s work has captured the hearts of thousands of New Zealanders who have given their time and energy to hundreds of community and school projects to help this national icon.
Project Crimson and the Department of Conservation (DOC) have been inextricably linked since the Trust started in 1990. The combination of DOC’s vast knowledge in the area of conservation and their regional network of area offices, visitor information centres and field staff, have meant a strong and enduring partnership.
The Department of Conservation is the central government organisation charged with conserving the natural and historic heritage of New Zealand on behalf of and for the benefit of present and future New Zealanders. Their vision is “New Zealand is the greatest living space on Earth”.
In 2007 the Mazda Foundation partnered with Project Crimson to bring the ‘Treemendous School Makeovers’ to Primary and Intermediate schools throughout New Zealand. Four New Zealand schools each year are chosen to have their grounds improved and enhanced through the planting of native trees.
These Treemendous School Makeovers are completed by the travelling Treemendous Team, who along with the school community will create a beautiful native tree garden that everyone can enjoy for generations.
With the support of Mazda New Zealand, Project Crimson has two hardworking utility vehicles which are prominently adorned with pohutukawa images, and the words “renewing pohutukawa and rata” splashed across them. Frequently loaded with trees and equipment for plantings, they are a roving billboard spreading awareness of Project Crimson and give us the opportunity to travel to some remote and very special parts of the country.
In 2011 Project Crimson partnered with The Tindall Foundation to deliver Living Legends, our conservation project which saw 170,000 natives planted to celebrate New Zealand’s hosting of the Rugby World Cup.
The Tindall Foundation has been a wonderful support of Project Crimson, and we’re thrilled to be working with them again on Trees That Count, a major new initiative to plant native trees to mitigate climate change.
Ata Rangi vineyard is owned and managed by Clive Paton, his wife Phyll and sister Alison.
Clive planted the originally bare, stony 12-acre home paddock at the edge of the Martinborough village in 1980 and, in doing so, was one of a handful of people who pioneered grape growing in the area.
Ata Rangi Pinot Noir is now widely considered a leading New World example of this challenging variety.
Clive’s tree-planting work at the family Bush Block inspired the idea for Crimson, a younger vines Pinot Noir sold in support of the work of Project Crimson. Check out Ata Rangi’s work on this Youtube clip here.
Rātā is the Queenstown flagship restaurant of Michelin starred chef Josh Emett and highly regarded local restaurateur Fleur Caulton. Rātā takes inspiration from the southern landscape and everything that epitomizes New Zealand.
Rātā restaurant partnered with Project Crimson in 2012 and through their fundraising efforts are helping Project Crimson to plant native trees in the Queenstown region, with a particular focus on regenerating southern rata in the Wakatipu Basin.