Champion Trees have been identified among South
Africa's 1 700 indigenous species of trees and shrubs, and even non-indigenous
varieties, to be of national importance due to
their remarkable size, age, or aesthetic, cultural, historic and tourism value.
Some of them are majestic landmarks that have lived for hundreds of years. Global engineering and infrastructure advisory
company Aurecon has adopted all South Africa's Champion Trees, currently about
100, in a partnership agreement with the
Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF).
The partnership with
DAFF is an example of Aurecon's broader sustainable development initiatives.
Its Champion Trees mandate embraces engaging with local communities to create
an awareness of the value of trees in general and, in particular, the
importance of caring for the magnificent Champion Trees. DAFF's biggest
constraint in managing the campaign is funding and Aurecon has taken up the
responsibility for raising the necessary finance to promote, protect and
arrange any necessary preservation treatment for the trees.
Care for a tree and it will care for you
Aurecon is helping the
Nellie Swart Primary School in Queenswood, Pretoria, to have a large Eucalyptus
tree in the school grounds listed as a Champion Tree. Once listed, the school's
tree will be fully protected under the National Forests Act of 1998. In a
well-received knowledge transfer exercise, knowledge was shared with 400
learners on the Champion Trees of South Africa.
Dan Abrahams, a Civil
Engineer from the company's Eastern Cape office, and his team conducted a
similar exercise at the Nangamso Primary School in Stutterheim.
Integral part of our cultural heritage
At a recent official
ceremony, DAFF's Fairview Training Centre at the Isidenge State Forest in
Stutterheim, Eastern Cape, Aurecon officially adopted an iconic and rare
champion tree, the Monterey Pine. It is one of the oldest of its kind in South Africa,
located in a surviving old pine ‘compartment' (section) of the State Forest. Planted
in 1890, this magnificent specimen is believed to be the tallest pine in the province.
Adding to the special significance of the tree and the ceremony is its close
proximity to another landmark: the grave of Sandile, who was a renowned Chief
of the local Ngqika community.
Among the 45 guests at
the ceremony was Princess Ntombekhaya Sandile, the matriarch of the
Ngqika who narrated the rich history of the area and emphasised the importance
of celebrating heritage.
At the foot of the
imposing tree, an attractive and durable permanent signboard was unveiled
giving information on the history of the tree. It also carries Aurecon's
branding together with that of local businesses and local government, which
partnered in the adoption of the tree.
Thanking Aurecon for leading
the refurbishment of the area around the Monterey Pine Tree, the Deputy
Director of Indigenous Forest Management (DAFF), Mr Wiseman Yako, said, "The work Aurecon has done with the Champion
Tree here in Stutterheim is remarkable. They make it look so effortless and we
look forward to working closer with them on future Champion Trees projects"
Driving the awareness
a pioneering initiative for Aurecon's Champion Trees awareness campaign, the
company has partnered with South Africa's major toll road concessionaires to
hand out well over
150 000 flyers at their toll plazas, promoting the protection of Aurecon's
adopted Champion Trees. Longer term partnering projects for the protection of
these trees of national historic and biological value along our national roads
and concessions are being discussed, creating client goodwill and promoting a fantastic
"What began as an initiative to play a significant role in the
Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries' "Champion Trees of South Africa" campaign to ensure trees of
national importance receive the necessary care is already branching out into
other fruitful partnerships for sustainable development," comments René O'Connell - Quality, Environment and
Sustainability Manager, Aurecon. "To care for one is to care for all - is perhaps
the lesson these majestic Champions are teaching us."