Walks, mountain biking, horse riding, picnicking and the chance to savour spectacular views are on offer at Whareroa Farm on the Kapiti coast.
It opens to the public with a day of celebrations on Saturday 30 April.
View of Kapiti Island from Whareroa Farm
The 438-ha former Landcorp farm near Paekakariki was saved for the community by the Whareroa Guardians who will now work alongside the Department of Conservation, which is managing the Farm as a recreation reserve. It links to Akatarawa Forest to the east and Queen Elizabeth Park to the west.
Endurance and grit underpin the rebirth of Whareroa as public land. Following news that is was to be sold off for private development in the early 2000s, the community campaigned to save it as public land. This led to its purchase by the Government in 2005, followed by the formation of the Whareroa Guardians Community Trust to represent the community's ongoing interest.
“We really have the Guardians to thank for campaigning to keep Whareroa in public hands”, says DOC spokesperson Matt Barnett. “Not only have they secured Whareroa for public use but they’ve led 200 volunteers and planted 30,000 trees.”
Volunteers led by the Whareroa Guardians are planting native trees at Whareroa Farm
The Whareroa Guardians are delighted that Whareroa is opening again to the public - testimony to a community’s hard-fought battle for land with a special connection to locals.
“We can now focus on working alongside DOC to develop a first-class recreational and educational facility, demonstrating the restoration of bush and streams alongside sustainable farming”, says Whareroa Guardians chair John Lancashire.
Whareroa was important to Maori for cultivation and there were once pa in the area.
In the 1850s Alexander MacKay began farming there, and eventually the land passed into World War Two service, housing around 5000 US marines from regiments of the 1st and 2nd Divisions fighting in the Pacific campaign.
Today around 180 ha of Whareroa continues to be farmed, and other areas have been extensively planted in native trees by volunteers- enabling the public to see farming and conservation working side-by-side. Native forest remnants, water courses and wetland areas are being restored. Interpretation and education projects are planned for the future.