There are many things you can do to restore and protect an area of bush. These include fencing the area to exclude stock, pest control, weed control and restoration planting.
Fencing and pest control
Secure fencing is essential to prevent trees being eaten by stock and to allow native plants to regenerate. It is a good idea to erect the fence before planting. A standard post and wire fence should be adequate unless deer or goats are grazed on adjacent land, in which case you will need a more substantial fence.
Possums and rabbits can cause considerable damage to trees by eating new shoots. If they are a problem, start a control programme before you plant and keep a close watch on the plants.
Newly planted trees will grow more quickly if you reduce competition from weeds in the first 2-3 years after planting. Early spring is a critical time when there is new growth on the plants. Weeds can be reduced or suppressed by adding a layer of mulch around each plant or controlled by hand pulling or with herbicides.
There are some persistent weeds that require serious control e.g. Tradescantia for instance, can smother the ground and prevent any natural regeneration from seed which in turn, halts succession.
When planting, choose plants that are naturally found in your area, are suited to the site and are ecosourced locally. Genetic pollution occurs when a native plant from a distant population hybridises with local stock.
Manuka is particularly suitable for colonising loose soil caused by earthworks, slips or excavation. Plant manuka from root trainers or PB1/3 bags 1 m apart. Alternatively, lay manuka slash (branches) over the bare ground when the seed is ripe. A dense cover of manuka seedlings should result with about 400 plants per square metre. As time passes, the quantity of plants diminishes through the process of competition.
If you have existing bush with sparse understory, plant around the bush edge first to create shelter for natural regeneration to occur. Plants such as karamu, koromiko and flax are ideal for this purpose and will quickly form a barrier against the wind. You may be surprised how quickly seedlings will appear in the interior of the bush.
Look at naturally growing forest in your locality as a guide to what to plant but remember succession stage, soil type, topography, moisture and pest control can influence what grows where. In some instances, DOC may be able to supply a plant list for a nearby reserve, which could be a useful guide for your bush. If there is a local botanical society it could be worthwhile making contact to see what information they have.
Collecting seed from a nearby forest remnant is a good way of ensuring that you have the right plants and at the same time, safeguarding the ongoing viability of that bush. It will also help you become familiar with the different species for restoring your own site.