More than 90 years after our first New Zealand-born Prime Minister used the election slogan ‘Coats off with Coates’, students from his old school at Matakohe did just that as they planted trees at Ruatuna, the Coates family farm, now cared for by Heritage New Zealand.

This is the third year that Matakohe Primary School students have taken part in harbour catchment plantings under the guidance of Otamatea HarbourCare’s Mark Vincent.  “I look forward to the Matakohe School planting day each year,” he said. “They are capable country kids who make a lot of noise, have a lot of fun, and get the job done well”.

The property is one of 48 properties cared for by Heritage New Zealand nationally, though not usually open to the public.  Natalie McCondach (Heritage Destinations Manager for HNZ) said she enjoys working with Roger Taylor, the local Farm Advisor to Heritage New Zealand who has initiated the planting and links with Otamatea HarbourCare.

Ruatuna Volunteer Mary Stevens set the scene for the day by providing a brief history from the time the property was owned by the Coates family, and then took the students, teachers and parents on a special one-off guided tour of the homestead giving them a fascinating insight into what life must have been like all those years ago.

Mark Vincent and Roger Taylor are already planning next year’s planting programme. “It’s just great how a national organisation like Heritage New Zealand can work with the local school and our community group, Otamatea HarbourCare,” says Mark.  “I expect this to be the beginning of a long-term relationship connecting the future with the past while improving the local environment.”