With her charitable trust, Adele Fitzpatrick is encouraging Kiwis to plant native trees

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1 January 1970

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As chief executive of Project Crimson Trust, conservation queen Adele Fitzpatrick is transforming New Zealand’s natural landscape by planting hundred of thousands of native trees.

At the rump end of last century, Adele Fitzpatrick was living in the Israeli desert. It was the last stop of a five-year OE and although the 47-year-old loved Israel, something didn’t feel quite right.

“Being in the desert I realised how much I missed New Zealand’s native forests. I knew I had to come home,” says Project Crimson Trust’s chief executive.

If that was the awakening of Adele’s interest in all things green, it was cemented a few years later by trail running and mountain biking in Wellington’s 350km of trails.

“Being in nature, riding through the bush in the early morning when the birds were waking up, made me feel incredibly good. When you appreciate nature, you want to look after it.”

When you appreciate nature, you want to look after it

At the time, Adele was climbing the corporate ranks in marketing for Meridian Energy. It was here she first got involved with Project Crimson, which was set up to help save pōhutukawa and rātā trees.

“I used a picture of a rātā bloom floating down a river for a Meridian campaign and Project Crimson got in touch to use the image,” Adele recalls. That led to a sponsorship deal, and eventually Adele was asked to come on board as a trustee.

When the charity landed government funding to develop Trees That Count, a project aimed at increasing the number of native trees, Adele was shoulder-tapped to be the chief executive, a role the Wellingtonian has held for three years. She’s charged with encouraging Kiwis to plant around 2500ha of native forest a year.

Here’s how it works: individuals or groups fund a tree (or many) to be planted anywhere in New Zealand. These trees are then matched to planting groups, ranging from councils and schools to farmers and community groups, who plant the trees, with Adele’s organisation topping up the number planted.

“Not only do native trees provide a home and food sources for wildlife, many of which are becoming extinct, they also help the water and soil quality and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, helping to combat climate change.”

To date, more than 660,000 native trees have been planted across Aotearoa via the project which, over the next 50 years, have the potential to remove around six million tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

It’s a message that’s caught the imagination of Kiwis everywhere, especially for those using the gift registry to do their bit for the environment.

“We recently had a young couple from Christchurch who got married and instead of wedding presents asked guests to fund trees. There was also a 105-year-old couple celebrating their 75th wedding anniversary whose children organised for guests to fund trees instead of presents.”

Funding trees after the death of a loved one, to create a forest of remembrance, is also common, she says.

For Adele, who calls this her dream job, it’s what gets her out of bed in the morning. “It’s about helping people to appreciate how beautiful New Zealand is and how deeply important it is to keep it that way.”

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