The wetland at Nick's Head Station at Muriwai, south of Gisborne, is a world-leading example of positive human interactions with the land, and of what vision and money can achieve.
General manager Kim Dodgshun has worked at Nick's Head Station since 1994, eight years before the current owners bought the property. "They inherited me and we've worked well as a team ever since," Kim says.
When Kim arrived, the land that is now the main wetland was being grazed with livestock roaming all over, and with cows wandering along the beach. "It was nothing like it is today."
Early on, Kim had the idea of creating a bird reserve on the property and ran it past wildlife ecologist and former Wildlife Service ranger Sandy Bull.
The plan, however, hit a snag when the owners at the time said they did not wish to proceed with something that would not produce financial returns.
Undeterred, in 1995 Kim managed to obtain a $15,000 Natural Heritage Fund grant from the local district council and, with Sandy's help, starting trapping. "We caught a big polecat down on the beach," Kim says.
They also put up "No shooting" signs – it had been a popular duck shooting site, fenced off 15 hectares and planted flax around the outside. The birds flocked in, bringing seeds from other wetlands in the area and the plants began to grow.
The story of the wetland took another turn in 2003 when the farm changed hands after the Overseas Investment Commission approved an application from a US billionaire to buy the land, in what turned out to be a 12-month-long process.
He had first visited the farm in 2002 and embraced Kim's plans to create a wildlife reserve.
The final step for the sale was to gain iwi approval. Kim says communication was the key and once the iwi knew what the owner planned to do with the property, the deal was approved.
In response to Kim's plans, the owner said, "Let's make this bigger and better", and brought out renowned landscape architect Thomas Woltz from the US to design the wetland, with advice from Kim and Sandy.
A previous manager who had farmed there for 35 years had set in place the foundations to drain the saltwater from the low lying areas. He put up a netting fence on the beach which collected all the driftwood and storm debris, building a natural wall with sand.
Next, he added another fence on top of that and planted it out with marran grass and other plants.
Later, in the 1960s, a drain was put in to get rid of the remaining saltwater but a narrow, shallow channel remained, with 700 acres of catchment running into it. In summer it dried up. The surrounding paddocks were all very wet with no drainage.
Kim had already planted some native blocks but as Thomas Woltz learnt more about New Zealand and its trees, "the master plan was to revert the land back to how it was 700 or 800 years ago, with a profitable farming operation, back when there were no predators and the land was covered in native trees", Kim says.
Planting began in earnest in 2003 and now there's almost 700,000 natives on the property – coastal varieties with "the big fellas" – rimu, matai and totara – planted among them.
The wetland project began in 2005 – plans were drawn up, the land was surveyed and work began, initially with six diggers.
Kim had warned the contractors that trucks with wheels and 20-tonne diggers wouldn't work in the boggy terrain, but they brought them in anyway and all of them got stuck.
Which left the six smaller diggers. Firstly, a wall was put in to stop the saltwater coming in over the original wall at the beach. "We put in some more small ponds up the valley and worked our way west."
Deep channels – "about 2½-cars deep" – were dug out to ensure the wetland had water year-round.
The material excavated from the channels was made up of a layer of Plasticine-like blue tacky soil sandwiched between shells and "rubbishy" soil. The blue material was used to seal the walls or build the islands, while the "rubbishy" soil helped shape them.
Diggers scraped up the topsoil which was carted on to the shaped islands by trucks with tracks to prepare them for planting.
However, when they came to seal the western side of the wetland, they ran out of the blue soil so plastic liner had to be used in some sections.
"We pegged out all the walls and had three diggers in a row, one digging the holes, another with a big roll of the plastic, working at snail pace, unrolling it, with a third quickly filling it in before the walls collapsed," Kim says. Thankfully, it worked.
"Once it was all done, we had to pump all the water out. "We got council permission to pump it out into the sea over sheets of corrugated iron to protect the beach."
In the process, they found some old kahikatea, big, old stumps of trees, leading them to believe that, pre-settlement, it must have been an old kahikatea swamp.
"There are some stumps on the beach visible at low tide that have been dated at more than 8000 years old," Kim says.
As well as dealing with the challenges presented by the terrain, during planting, they encountered another problem.
Holes were dug with an augur, and some crystal rain put in with soil over the top before the tree was planted with a fertiliser capsule.
Later they went back to one of the islands to put in stakes to mark where the native plants were but found that most of them had been pulled out.
"All the rats were just pulling them out and eating the fertiliser caps. They were having a ball."
The answer was to use about 100 bait stations with Pestoff rat bait, from Farmlands, and "there were bucketloads of rats coming in," Kim says. It's slowed down now.
"That was just another little challenge. I can't believe how well the plants have grown."
Now the islands are all finished and planted with native trees – 10,000 trees to the hectare. On the hills, it's 2500 to the hectare.
The wetland has two 1ha islands and several smaller ones. All the islands are in place of valleys, which was Thomas Woltz's plan, imagining erosion coming down and islands forming.
At its peak, 25 people were working on the project. The labour was all local and all the trees were sourced from the Muriwai area. "Now the locals come to get our native trees," Kim says.
The farm is 3300 acres in total with nine kilometres of coastline. It runs Angus cattle, 285 breeding cows and 3300 sheep. This is likely to be reduced to 3200, with the aim of getting more out of fewer stock, by doing things better, "by selling them when they are ready to go and when the market is ready to take them".
"We are looking at the possibility of going down the regenerative farming path, though the steep contours of Nick's Head Station add to the challenge – more investigations in this area are required."
Facial eczema is a problem so the farm focuses on sourcing facial eczema-resistant stock. The farm uses dicalcic phosphate fertiliser, not straight superphosphate, and nitrogen, which was seldom used, has not been used for about eight years.
The station employs a staff of 16, who look after conservation, including a former DOC worker who does trapping and twice-weekly night shoots by bike, general hands, stockmen, groundsmen, a secretary, a citrus manager and assistant, who have 50 hectares of citrus to tend, plus contractors.
Kim pauses, distracted by something that needs fixing. "Everything we do on this place, we got to maintain it.
"We've got this magic place that we've all had something to do with and created what it is today. We can't let it go back. We can't let wild pine trees start growing.
"We've got convolvulus – we've got to keep taking it out – we've got kikuyu grass on the farm that we have been spraying, we have got to keep at it. "
"The old place never sleeps."
President Ross Cottle welcomed DU members to the 46th Conference and AGM in Gisborne – the first time it has
been held there.
He said the turnout was better than expected after the Covid-19 lockdown. The timing of the conference, on the weekend of July 31 and August 1, turned out to be fortuitous, with the country facing further lockdown restrictions from August 11.
Ross thanked Kees and Kay Weytmans for organising everything at the Gisborne end.
Ross said it had been another relatively quiet year of activity, not helped by Covid-19.
Wairio continued to be a major focus for DU in the Wairarapa. The attempt to get a permanent water supply from Matthews Lagoon had not been very successful, with the wall of the diversion canal blowing out last winter.
It was yet to be reinstated although DU hoped it would be completed next summer.
DU was still seeking opportunities to advocate for wetland construction, and the promotion of environmental issues where needed.
"Our membership is holding, although there is noticeably more grey hair, and in some cases no hair at all, showing up to events each year," he said.
It was reported at last year's AGM that the Board had decided to offer scholarships to university students studying in the
wetland environmental area.
There had been a much slower uptake than expected, but in July, Adrienne Longuet-Bushell, Jim Law and Ross presented
Victoria University student Shannon Bentley with $5000 to continue her studies in carbon sequestration in wetlands.
Ross concluded by thanking the Board members for their work over the past 12 months.
Donations have come from the Wetland Trust, the Pharazyn Trust and Treadwells, and a one-off private donation.
Members' subscriptions and donations, along with last year's raffles and auctions contributed to the rest of the income, Treasurer John Bishop said.
DU accumulated $75,000 for the year and, once expenses were deducted, it was left with a surplus of $30,765, though a big portion of this is earmarked for work at Wairio.
John was this year’s Bill Barrett Trophy recipient.
WATERFOWL AND WETLAND TRUST
David Smith said that at the end of the trust's financial year, which is on December 31, it recorded its highest net assets at $522,000, but then there was Covid-19.
On March 23, the funds had taken a dive of just over $72,000, though this was also partly because of Donald Trump's trade war with China.
The trust sat tight and, as at July 22, the trust's funds were back to $505,000 as sharemarkets recovered much of their losses.
ELECTION OF OFFICERS
Three Board members – Adrienne Longuet-Bushell, Gill Lundie and Emma Williams – had completed their two-year
terms. All were re-elected unopposed for a further two years. Liz Brook has retired from the Board.
DU assisted with two projects this year, both in the Masterton area.
Matt Wyeth, of Spring Valley Enterprises, is creating a wetland and pond of about 2 hectares which will complement the already extensive areas created in the past 20 years.
The cost would be more than $10,000, and DU would contribute $5000 towards it. It was due to be completed but had been delayed by Covid-19.
John Murray, of Kainga Mauru Trust, has also created an approximately 2ha wetland and pond. DU has contributed $5000 towards the $10,000 work required to do the excavations.
Will Abel said that sadly, there was nothing more to add this year, with no swans available.
"The breeding birds we have had over the years have departed the scheme, and we are having no success in replacing
them," he said.
"Even our strongest suppliers, Peacock Springs, are now needing breeding stock. We don’t really have any ideas how to
reverse the trend as importing birds is still not possible."
About 10 pairs had been seen on Henley Lake in Masterton, but there was no easy way to capture them.
Ducks Unlimited is stable with 275 members, of which 80 are non-paying or life members.
Reminders will be sent to those with outstanding subscriptions.
The website is now mobile-friendly and the number of people accessing the site through their phones is nearly as high as those using desktop computers.
More copies of Flight magazines have been added to the website with 100 issues now online.
Jim Law said the Wairio project was moving from a development stage to maturity.
The site was being visited by more people taking advantage of the grassed walkway around the wetland.
"Just watch your boots" because waterfowl are fond of parking up on it, he said.
DU continues to work with iwi who will be more involved with the management of Wairarapa Moana once their Treaty settlement is signed. "Our relationships with them are very good," Jim said. Greater Wellington Regional Council had taken over responsibility for the Matthews Lagoon and Boggy Pond reticulation project, but it had failed.
"We believe it will be fixed this summer." There was also debate within GWRC about the need for a fish passage at the site and this needed to be resolved.
The fantastic partnership with Victoria University was continuing, with students regularly working on Stage 3 at Wairio.
In July, the first Wetland Care scholarship was presented to a Victoria University student. The university also has another student who is likely to apply for a scholarship in the next two to three months.
DU has a five-year Wairio strategy which now needs to be updated. Also, its management contract with DOC expires in December 2021 so next year members will be asked about whether to continue that contract.
"There will be less work – we are just waiting for the trees to grow, some repairs and some planting. Our preference is most likely that we would continue," Jim said.
Ross applauded Jim's negotiation skills in dealing with the different Wairio partners.
Di Pritt asked the meeting to record a huge vote of thanks to Jim, Ross and the Wairio committee for their work. She said when they first visited the wetland 15 years ago, their first reaction was: "What are we doing?"
"It was the bleakest place – Siberia had nothing on it", and now it is a significant wetland, she said.
Fred Bailey asked how to access funds for predator control. It was generally thought regional councils should be the first point of contact.
Guest speaker Sam Gibson suggested contacting DOC's local relationship officer to tap into the DOC Community Fund and Jobs for Nature funding.
John Cheyne said Hawke's Bay Regional Council was the greatest source of resources in his region, as well as the DOC Community Fund.
For this year’s annual conference and AGM, Ducks Unlimited members will head east to Gisborne, land of the first light.
The venue for the conference, being held on 31 July and 1 August, will be the Emerald Hotel in the heart of the city.
A treat is in store for the field trip, with Nick’s Head Station in Muriwai agreeing to let delegates and their guests visit its wetland on Saturday, 1 August. Organisers are arranging for three speakers during the wetland visit.
Nick’s Head Station is by the ocean so an alternative may be required if the weather does not allow the visit to go ahead as planned.
At this stage it is suggested to have the speakers at the Knapdale Eco Lodge if the weather is too bad.
Knapdale is somewhat protected in poor weather so it may be possible to view the wetlands there instead.
But, with Gisborne having the second highest sun hours in the country, conference organisers are hopeful DU can visit Nick’s Head Station.
One of this year’s auction items was a two-night fishing trip in the Hauraki Gulf for four people. Kees Weytmans has been there, done that, so here’s what this year’s winners can expect.
At the 2018 conference auction in Hamilton, John and Diny Dermer and Kees and Kay Weytmans won the two-night fishing trip in the Hauraki Gulf on Brian and Wendy Simmons’ 40-foot launch.
It was an all expenses paid trip; food (breakfast, lunch and dinner), private cabins, wine, beer and all the fishing gear.
Late February 2019 was the date that suited everyone and so on a Friday afternoon, we were welcomed on to the launch.
Now, I have done many things in my life (some of which have not been done by many others...) but I never been on a “boat” this size – just MARVELLOUS!
Brian and Wendy were the most hospitable hosts you could have wished for. The conversation was lively, always interesting. We came well prepared with Sea-Legs tablets but we didn’t need them. The beer and wine flowed freely and the Drambuie was on tap. Wendy can make really nice meals in a reasonably small place and we ate well.
Brian, with his all encompassing knowledge about the landscape, scenery, history and who owns which boat and which bach was an ever-entertaining host.
We visited Governor George Grey’s mansion as well as an old copper mine.
The fishing was excellent in that we caught many, many fish. And that’s what’s it about – the thrill of the catch. Unfortunately we had put most of them back due to size. But there was plenty for the next morning’s breakfast.
We like to thank Brian and Wendy for them being most generous. We had a wonderful time with them.
And Kay and I would like to express our best wishes for a speedy recovery for Brian after his fall. Only at the last conference, did we hear about his accident. We wish him well.
This year the Weytmans and the Dermers won an auction for a night at Blue Duck Lodge.
This year’s Ducks Unlimited New Zealand’s 45th conference was held at the Collegiate Motor Inn in Whanganui, with just over 50 attendees. The weather was kind and, after a bitterly cold, wet and windy Friday, turned on the sunshine in time for the field trip on Saturday, 3 August.
President Ross Cottle opened proceedings at the AGM by saying it had been a reasonably quiet year, with only three members’ wetlands being developed, however work at Wairio Wetland was going well and good progress had been made.
He paid tribute to long-time DU supporter and Wairarapa Chapter Secretary/Treasurer Joyce Brooks who passed away shortly after the previous AGM.
Treasurer John Bishop, after his traditional warm-up joke, presented his report. He confirmed and reviewed the requirements of being a charitable trust, which include providing a mission statement, entity structure and a yearly report of income, expenditure, activities and volunteer support.
The information for the Charities Register notes DU is reliant on volunteers, with about 8000 volunteer hours a year spent on wetlands assessment and building, swan collection, and advice, education, field days, bittern project, supplying magazine content, Wairio planting and education, supporting schools, fundraising, auctions and dinners.
After running through the financials, which show a slight deficit for the year, John concluded:
“We are remain solvent, through support from membership subscriptions, auctions, grants from the Wetland Care Trust, and donations from Treadwells, Pharazyn Trust, Muter Trust, South Wairarapa Rotary and one-off grants.”
Election of Officers
The DU Board remained unchanged, with the two directors whose two-year terms were up, Jim Law and John Dermer, being re-elected unanimously.
Waterfowl and Wetland Trust
David Smith reported that the trust was in good shape thanks to the sharemarket, and despite paying out $40,000 to DU, was in a similar financial position as it was at the end of 2017.
He said the trust was doing exactly what it was set up to do: provide money to enable DU to carry on its work.
Will Abel said that in line with the previous couple of years, there had been few applications for new projects, with most of the wetland creation activities centred on the Wairio Wetland.
A large wetland in Pahiatua that DU committed $5000 to three years ago had been completed, and in Masterton, DU had helped created another large wetland, to which it contributed $4000.
Will Abel said it had been a disastrous year for the royal swan, with no cygnets available and even the wildlife centre at Peacock Springs, Canterbury, the usual source of swans, was looking for some new breeding stock.
“We have no idea why really, but anecdotally I suspect it is because it coincides with the 50th anniversary of the moon landing,” he said, tongue in cheek.
“If it improves next year, my supposition will be proved correct, and I will present a paper at the next conference on it.”
He said it was fortunate that there had not been many requests for swans.
Peter Russell reported that the breeding programme had had a good season, with 65 whio reared from captive pairs and 15 reared from wild clutches. A total of 72 were released.
In the North Island, 30 were released. Three older birds from last season were released on the Whakapapanui in December, and 12 birds, six males and six females, were released at Blue Duck Station in January.
The third release, on the Manganui a-te-Ao, was in early March, with eight males released at the Ruatiti Domain and four females released down the river where there was a surplus of males. Three male birds were released on Mangawhero stream on 20 March.
Peter said it was always a great thrill to take part in the releases out on the river. He has been doing them since 1997 and it has changed so much. In 2000 they released seven, compared with 72 in the past year.
In the South Island, 20 birds were released on the West Coast in January in the Wainihinihi, Arahura, Styx and Kawhake rivers; 12 birds were released on the Taipo River in March; in Tasman 10 birds were released.
Paul Mason reported that DU currently had 280 members, with 57 of those unpaid as at the AGM.
He said a second subs reminder would be sent out, following email and postal reminders subsequent to the initial subs mailout.
He noted that in the past three years, payment preferences were moving from cheque to internet banking. Credit card payments remained about the same and PayPal transactions were increasing.
More members were responding to the suggestion that DU communicated with them more by email, he said.
Paul said new articles were added as events occur, with the most recent being the planting day at Wairio Wetland. Flight magazines, from No 155 to the current issue, have been loaded on to the site. Issue 29 has also been scanned and added as a PDF file.
Articles from more recent Flight magazines are being transcribed and loaded as searchable items – so far back to issue 159. Old issues are being scanned and loaded as PDFs.
He noted a drop-off in website visitors in the past three months and in response had upgraded the site-mapping software and re-registered the site with search engines.
The main files being downloaded were Flight magazines and people were also accessing the educational resources files (from Quack Club), he said.
Jim Law reported that the wetland was in good heart, benefiting from continued restoration work, albeit at a more modest cost to DU ($4455 versus $9500 in the prior year). Work focused on more bund wall improvements ($1700), tree planting ($2000) and noxious plant control ($755).
At last, significant progress was made by the Greater Wellington Regional Council to reticulate water from Matthews Lagoon and Boggy Pond to Wairio. Earthworks have been completed but after a “weather event”, remedial work is required. This will be done this summer.
“We had provisionally budgeted to fund a portion of this work but GWRC assumed full responsibility,” he said.
Total expenditure by the Wairio Restoration Committee, not counting volunteer time, since inception 14 years ago, now stands at $220,000.
The Victoria University of Wellington School for Biodiversity and Restoration Ecology remain focused on their research at Stage 3.
The Restoration Committee is still holding funds (lodged with DU) from fundraising efforts totalling $10,807. A further $15,000 grant was recently received by local donors. These funds are also being held by DU on behalf of the project committee.
As mentioned last year, Wairarapa Moana, which includes the Wairio Wetland (administered by DOC on behalf of the Crown), has been included in a Treaty of Waitangi settlement with Wairarapa iwi. “Whilst the settlement has been delayed, the local iwi has assured us that they want us to continue our good work restoring the Wairio Wetland.
“We remain of the view, though perhaps slightly biased, that DU members should be proud of this project,” Jim said.
Jim Law reported on DU’s new initiative offering scholarships to students doing research in a relevant area. A trial offering a total of $25,000 over three years in grants of $5000 per student so far had had little response to date.
Four universities had been approached and it was likely the first recipient of one of the $5000 grants would come from Victoria University working on the Wairio site.
The President, David Smith, welcomed members to the 38th Annual General Meeting.
Many thanks to Di Pritt and Waimarino Wine Club for a very enjoyable evening last night.
David spoke of the end of his presidency – but still a lot of work to be done. DU faces a crisis in interest and membership.
He spoke of the Boards time spent looking at alternatives in the drive for younger members. Advice was sought and some possibilities have come out of that. We could look at the possibility of getting together with all like organisations, e.g. Forest & Bird, Fish & Game, National
Wetlands Trust, and Waterfowlers to form umbrella group to go to Government. This means that we would retain identity with no merger. There is a large amount of cross fertilisation over these organisations. However DUNZ could become a member with a stronger thrust on a national basis. As a result of the discussions at Board level David and John Bishop met with Tony Roxburgh some three weeks previous. They see some merit in the idea. DUNZ is seen as having the wetland expertise. Tony Roxburgh, from National Wetlands Trust, was introduced to the AGM and gave his background. He reinforced David’s comments and said that the idea of an umbrella group had a lot of merit. It had been raised with the Trust and they were comfortable at this stage of discussion. The forming of an alliance would give all individual small groups a voice. David then asked members to talk to Board members throughout the day and give some feedback. David now needs to step back and Ross Cottle has agreed to take over his role as President.
Lady Isaac, Kevin and Vietta Campbell, Alan Wilks, Ossie and Mary Latham, Euan Bidwell, Chris Bindon, Barbara Hanbidge, Gordon Pilone, Rob and Robin Borthwick, Lorraine Jensen, Wendy Simmons, Shonagh Lindsay, Myra Smith, Janet Denny, John and Diny Dermer, Graham Gurr, Dawn Pirani, Andrew Fulford, Sharon Cottle, Ken and Jacqui Barnes, Pam & Brian Maunsell, Adrienne Bushell, Peter and Anne Russell, Raeleen Mabin.
Motion: That the apologies tendered are accepted.
Moved: John Bishop, Seconded: James Martin. Carried.
Minutes of the last AGM:
Circulated in Flight #150 and copies
available at the AGM.
Motion: That the minutes of the last AGM be accepted as a true and complete record. Moved: Ian Jensen, Seconded: James Martin. Carried.
Matters arising from the 2011 minutes: There were no matters arising.
Thanks to David Smith to be recorded and congratulations on appointment as Judge of District Court.
Presidents Report: David Smith As circulated in Flight #150 and tabled.
Motion: The Presidents report is accepted. Moved: John Bishop, Seconded: W Abel. Carried.
Matters arising from the Presidents 2012 Report: There were no matters arising.
Financial Report: John Bishop
Presented at the meeting – as at March 31, 2011.
Current Account $19,854
Rapid Saver $9
Term Deposit $46648
Accounts be accepted subject to the review of engagement.
Due to the timing of the AGM this year the 2012 accounts are not yet finalised. Motion: That the 2011 financial report be accepted.
Moved: John Bishop, Seconded: David Smith.
Waterfowl and Wetlands Trust Report: David Smith (tabled). Reiterated that the nature of this investment means that it is a long term one that fluctuates, however we are almost back to the position of 2007 and the next 9 months should see an improvement. Moved: David Smith, Seconded: Jim Law. Carried.
Election of Officers:
The President read out the following Statement:
The Constitution states that the Board should consist of not less than six, of which half, but not more than two thirds shall be permanently appointed Directors.
As of right, the permanent appointments are the Chairman, President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. Other permanent appointments are Neil Candy and William Abel.
Nominations for the Board:
New nomination from Jim Law for Andrew Fulford. Has been a long term member of DUNZ and works in wetland restoration. Moved: Jim Law, Seconded: Ross Cottle. Carried.
Are there any other nominations from the floor? None.
Wetland Care: William Abel (tabled). Moved: William Abel, Seconded: Ian Jensen.
Website Report: (tabled).
Michelle Cooper (webmaster) covered off her report. The website is getting a lot of hits – what is being looked at? Through the background information I am able to see the mostly looked at are news, duck facts and wetland facts and 69 percent of people are coming to DUNZ website directly.
Quack Club now has 80 members. Five schools are using our resources.
Moved: Jim Law, Seconded: William Abel. Carried.
Jim Law (Full report tabled).
Covered off report. • Have raised profile and credibility • Maintaining good coverage in media • Looking to ratchet up project due to success • Need to update strategic plans • Making a case to DU Board for further funding. Moved: Jim Law, Seconded: John Bishop. Carried. Jim Campbell proposed a vote of thanks to Jim Law for his energy and hard work with Wairio and said that without Jim it all wouldn’t happen. Pateke: Full report tabled
John Bishop - This project is in abeyance.
Received an email regarding DUCs 75th anniversary at Oak Hammock Marsh
DUNZ AGM – to go back to winter time scenario. July/August. Aware that we need to keep costs down.
Dart competition at Di Pritts last night raised $46 with the winner getting 102 points in 2 shots!
Ian Jensen spoke of Pharazyn Reserve - a KCDC project for the rehabilitation of an old wetland in Waikanae. Local schools are heavily involved but very light on members.
Thanks to Liz Brook for Flight magazine.
The President thanked the Board for their work throughout the year.
The meeting closed at 10.20am.
Hawke’s Bay Regional Council was delighted to receive a Distinction Award from the New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects at the NZILA Resene Pride of Place Landscape Architecture Awards for 2013 in April.
The citation for the award states that Pekapeka Wetland provides a range of experience opportunities for users and acknowledges the contributing work of Shannon Bray Landscape Architect.
Stephen Cave, HBRC’s Operation Environmental Manager said “This is one of three awards for Pekapeka Wetland since 2009, realising its champion value and raising the awareness of wetlands throughout Hawke’s Bay.
“The award from NZILA is a great reflection on the restoration work happening in Hawke’s Bay and we are very honoured. It is estimated this award puts Pekapeka Wetland in the top five percent of landscape architecture projects undertaken throughout New Zealand in recent years.”
The award recognises Pekapeka Wetland as a high quality interpretive site for wetland restoration. It is noted for integrating public accessibility with educational features, using local materials and stories.
Stephen is quick to acknowledge a number of the project’s key supporters, particularly Shannon Bray, Waa Harris, Peter Dunkerley, the Community Foundation, Rotary Club of Stortford Lodge, Eastern and Central Community Trust and the preliminary work of Titchener Monzingo Aitken Ltd.
Iwi groups plus many children from schools (particularly Pukehou School) and Kiwi Conservation Club all played a key role in planting areas around the swamp.
Two successful auctions, one silent, the other noisy and very lively, kept members alert with lots of laughter to boot.
Auctioneer Dan Steele successfully filled the big shoes left by Bob Wood who sadly died in February this year. Dan’s banter was every bit as funny as Bob’s had been, and he cajoled many a bidder to go “just that little bit higher”.
The main auction raised $5255, the silent auction plus the raffle raised $1540. All thanks to those members who donated some amazing items for the auctions and the raffle.
Our intrepid group of AGM attendees visited the Pekapeka Swamp, squeezed in between the railway on the Eastern side, and State Highway 2 on the West. This area is well known to travellers who use SH2 south of Hastings. Older people who passed this way remember the swamp as being totally overgrown by grey willow. Steve Cave, Operations Environmental Manager for the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council (HBRC) explained the 98ha site is being restored to protect the cultural and historical value but also to help people understand the significance and important part wetlands play.
When Maori arrived in the area about 1530 this peat swamp, part of the limestone area, would have been very different. Its trip down hill started in 1873 with the dumping of rubble, fill and waste. The rail line was built in 1875. Between 1942 and 1970 channels were dug to drain the swamp, and in 1955 SH2 was straightened, cutting through the western side.
In 1970 Pekapeka was made a reserve. Willow control started in 1984 and finally a management plan to restore the wetland was approved by the HBRC. Helicopter and ground spraying targeted the willows. Community and school groups have put in many volunteer hours at the swamp. A clearing programme improved the flow of water through the wetland, and controlled animal and plant pests.
A plain to restore the wetland was approved by the HBRC in 1998. Work included a weir with a fish passage, to manage wetland flow, and funding allowed the site to be developed as a public reserve. Illegal dumping had continued at Pekapeka for many years and as a reminder of how wetlands had been treated it was decided to leave some rubble and reinforcing rods exposed as a reminder of the past.
Pekapeka opened to the public in 2010. Board walks, observation decks and even hides provide access and viewing points. Information boards give background and there is a picnic area. No toilets though. During duck shooting members of a local club use half the area and it is closed to the public. Club members are also involved in a predator control programme.
Steve said red tape, and resource consents often hold up restoration. So far it has cost them $60,000 for consents, eating into the small amount of funding they do receive. Thank goodness for volunteers.
Tony Roxburgh, chair and trustee of the National Wetland Trust provided the AGM with a glimpse of happenings with wetlands in Waikato.
The Trust plans a state-of-the-art interpretation centre, with research and educational facilities, wetland gardens and heritage trails on land next to Lake Serpentine in the Waipa district. This is one of 69 peat lakes in Waikato.
Issues to be worked through include highway access and formal agreement with the Department of Conservation. DoC has already given approval to construct a 1.4 km predator fence around 10ha of the reserve at Lake Serpentine near Ohaupo.
Tony said the plan includes a visitor concept plan, an interpretation plan, business plan and landscape developed for the site. These were funded by grants from Transpower, Trust Waikato and Waikato Regional Council (Environmental Initiatives Fund), and supported by Waipa District Council.
They are looking at the best way to restore wildlife, including the feasibility of a predator exclusion fence. Funding from the Waikato Catchment Ecological Enhancement Trust, and a grant from the DoC’s Community Conservation Fund allowed them to produce a re-vegetation plan to restore vegetation and habitat.
Students of Te Awamutu School have been searching for native and exotic fauna, and have been the first to confirm long-tailed bats at the site. Other species confirmed include Australasian bittern, North Island fernbird, Black mudfish and Spotless crake.
The pest fence was completed in June this year and they now need sponsors and donations to help with pest eradication and re-introduction of native species.
Other work in the Waipa district includes Lake Ngaroto one of the peat lakes. It currently floods the peat and Tony said this could be one of the larger projects for the Waikato basin aimed at reducing loss of wetland and preserving the quality of the peat lakes.