New funding for wetland walkway

Winter is providing no excuse to stay indoors for the hardworking volunteers behind the Otematata Wetlands Walkway restoration project, who have recently received funding for further development and planting.

This follows a previous grant of $12,000 in 2016 – also funded through Immediate Steps Programme and supported by Environment Canterbury’s biodiversity team.

Changing the wetland in time

Ten years ago, the wetlands site was a relic of the Benmore dam construction. What wasn’t covered in gravel pits was overgrown with weeds, like gorse and broom.

Now, the site is a popular recreation area and much closer to its goal of returning to native biodiversity thanks to the hard work of the volunteers that are part of the community-led Otematata Ratepayers Association and funding from grants and donations.

Volunteer Graham Sullivan has been involved in the project since it started.

"When we first walked through it was very overgrown with briar and weeds and so we started by raising money to get landscape architect, Anne Steven, to create a plan.  We’ve opened it up a lot and created wide tracks and access, we’ve cleared old willows and then we’ve put in a lot of native plantings like carex, tussocks, flaxes and cabbage trees. Since I retired, this is my forte now – my life!"

Little boy enjoying the wetlands A walkway for everyone to enjoy

Graham says the walkway is now a busy – and accessible – spot for anyone wanting to get close to nature.

"Well, now there’s toddlers on little bikes, there’s heaps of parents with prams, groups of families. Visitors staying in the area over the holidays also think it’s marvellous. Here in the summer time it’s just gorgeous and we also have a lot of tourists now come through."

He has also noticed more native wildlife returning to the area, including bellbird and pūkeko.

Supporting community projects

Re-established wetlands

Upper Waitaki Water Zone Committee member, Lisa Anderson, says supporting community projects such as the Otematata Wetlands is all part of creating a really great corridor of natives from mountains to the sea – ki uta ki tai.

"It’s fantastic for our environment to have these beautiful wetlands returning to their native state and a great example of how a conservation project can also have recreational and educational benefits .  It also complements the native planting many local landowners have been undertaking along their waterways and lakeside margins."

Peter Kirk is another long-term volunteer at the wetlands and he is on site nearly every day carrying out a range of tasks, from fencing to weeding and watering.

"Taking out the cracked willows is one of the biggest jobs. They are so intrusive and they clog up the area. The area has really opened up now."