Paul Kington, chairman of the Otama Reserves Group, is not only excited about their progress the past 12 months, he is also keenly looking towards the future. “We’ve recently become an incorporated society and we’re seeing the impact our predator control efforts have on the reserves in and around Otama Beach, especially the Otama wetland,” he says. “Bitterns are among the birds we spot more often at the wetland now. In a way the bittern became our mascot.”
The group is responsible for maintaining the five Otama reserves and although they are experiencing a steady increase of addresses on their email list, more volunteers are needed for a busy few years ahead. “We’re at the moment running traplines of approximately 100 traps in total, 35 of which is in the wetland,” says Paul. “We’re servicing the traps every two to three weeks. We’re also doing weed control and have recently commissioned a wetland restoration plan with support from the Department of Conservation’s office in Whitianga. The plan will look at the ecology and hydrology of the Otama wetland, as well as how riparian plantings can prevent siltation. We need to thank DOC manager, Nick Kelly, for all his help.
“We’ve also managed, with the very generous help of the neighbouring farmer, to move the fence on the eastern side of the wetland back to its original position. That’s giving us an additional area of approximately 10ha to restore.
“Once the restoration plan is completed, we’ll have a lot of plantings to do.
“We have a Project Kiwi conservation block behind the wetland and Otama’s famous unspoilt sand dunes between the wetland and the beach. Our ultimate aim, if we look 10 or 20 years ahead, will be for the wetland to be a bush to beach corridor, a refuge for local wildlife without any predators.
“I live in Otama. The Otama wetland is my backyard. Healthy wetlands are an extremely important part of nature. The sad reality is that there aren’t many wetlands left in New Zealand. I personally find it extremely satisfying to not only see bitterns in the Otama wetland, but also oystercatchers, fern birds, shags, herons and even a pair of nesting pateke, and to know that what our group is doing may well contribute to their wellbeing.”
Another project the Otama Reserves Group is working on, is the establishment of a harakeke pa (a flax plantation) on a part of the Otama Village Reserve. Agapanthus and blackberry have been cleared and a variety of heritage harakeke has been planted. “We hope local weavers will utilise the plantation,” says Paul.
Two pouwhenua, carved by Kuaotunu-based artist, Chris Charteris, will be installed at the harakeke pa. Paul, who’s also doing a bit of carving in his spare time, is working on a third pouwhenua that will be installed at the Otama wetland. “The pouwhenua will give spiritual significance to what we’re trying to achieve,” says Paul.
The Otama Reserves Group’s website, otama.org.nz, is regularly being updated. Paul urges everyone interested in supporting the work the group is doing to pay the site a visit. “We’re on an exciting journey,” he says. “The more people joining us, the more amazing the things we’ll be able to do.”