Friday, July 30, 2010

Protecting NZ's biodiversity from the ground up

It was a nice break from the office yesterday as I had the opportunity to visit some community conservation projects taking place just North of Wellington. I organized an outing with a journalist from Radio New Zealand and the Manager of our Terrestrial program to check out a project that WWF-New Zealand has recently supported through our Habitat Protection Fund. For the past 10 years, WWF has been supporting over 200 community groups across New Zealand with one common goal - to protect nature in their own backyards.

We drove about an hour North through the mountains to a town called Greytown where a group has been working for the past four years on restoring their local stream. The group is involved with planting native trees to protect the Papawai stream from the nutrient runoff in surrounding farmland. The spread of invasive species like crack willows and sediment build up has caused the stream to change its course in a number of places and so the community has come together to ensure that this area is protected and well taken care of for future generations to enjoy. Everyone has gotten involved; landowners, the town council, local Maori, and students form the local schools. The project manager took us down to the stream to check out the beautiful clear water that has returned as a result of the fencing (to keep livestock out) and replanting (to help restore the banks and filter the runoff). While we were there some eels came and fed on some breadcrumbs that he dropped into the stream. They were massive! Easily 2 metres long. Based on their length he estimated that they were about 80 years old. And because of the hard work that they had all undertaken to restore this area, the eels were starting to return in abundance. I wouldn’t want to take a dip in there but it was nice to see the ecosystem returning to its natural state.

On our visit, we met with a local apple farmer who showed us how the restoration program has benefited his land, as the stream runs right alongside his orchards. A few students came out and showed us where they had recently done a big planting. And a land manager from the regional council joined us to talk about the importance of these groups working together to ensure a successful outcome for everyone.

We also had the chance to check out another reserve in the area - Fensham Reserve - and take a quick hike through its 50 hectare trails, situated right in the middle of kms of farmland. This area has been restored to its natural forest habitat and is now being managed by volunteers in the area.

We got some great interviews and met some fantastic people before returning to the WWF office. It was so inspiring to see people rolling up their sleeves and contributing to help protect their local streams and forests. That’s what it’s all about – helping protect your own backyard and the wildlife that call it home. Imagine how different the world would be if we all did that!

Pics below:
- Radio New Zealand interviewing the program manager of the Papawai Stream Restoration Project
- Students from Greytown high school who recently replanted along a section of the wetland
- A local eel comes to say hello
- A section of the stream that has been newly cleared of invasive weeds and replanted with native vegetation
- The local Papawai marae where the stream runs past. A marae is a sacred meeting place for the Maori.

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