Date: 25 February 2010
A cute little village on the West Coast side of the Southern Alps called Otira is now the rata capital of the world - next time you are going through slow down and take a look.
This year was a standout year for rata bloom over the whole West Coast but more so at Otira where the mountains were ablush with a glorious scarlet bloom that is widely described as the best in living memory.
Rata in flower in the Otira Valley
The rata forest for thousands of hectares around Otira is a stunning example of beauty and abundant birdsong. In the early part of February the village hosted a small celebration that now marks their patch as the rata capital of the world.
With support from the locals, Jose Watson and Ian Gill from the Department of Conservation set up a marquee in the village as a pilot to see how passing motorists would respond to the idea of a Rata Day celebration.
“We had a steady stream of overseas and kiwi visitors and, apart from two anti-1080 activists, everyone was very interested to learn about the story of rata in this valley,” Jose said.
It’s a story about people in the 1960s having the foresight to get possum control underway in this area which has kept possum numbers down to acceptable levels. However, it’s a different matter in the adjacent valleys were possums were not controlled where there is an occasional survivor amid forests of skeletons.
Possum control happens once every four or five years using ground control at Otira itself and aerial 1080 in the rugged landscape.
“Otira is a great little community and the rata forest there is the best anywhere, it is really fitting that this village becomes the world’s rata capital, and is a great opportunity for a celebration on an annual basis,” Jose said.
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