“This is a 500-years-to maturity project to put back something representing the pre-European biodiversity of the Hamilton Basin, but it doesn’t daunt the enthusiasm of the many people committed to the project,” says Catherine Smith from Tui 2000 group..
“Volunteers turn up rain or shine for regular planting days; releasing plants from smothering weeds and potting and nurturing a variety of native plants specifically identified in the planting plan prepared by the University of Waikato following scientific study.”
For the partners in the 60-hectare Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park on the edge of the city - Hamilton City Council, University of Waikato, WINTEC and Tui 2000 group – protection of Lake Rotokauri and wetland edge is paramount. They recognise this is best achieved by excluding subdivision and replanting the surrounding hillslopes in native vegetation so that the wetland retains its function for water storage, filtration and wildlife habitat.
Volunteers brave the weather
Image: Catherine Smith ©
Over a 13-year period, half the park has been planted thanks to the thousands of volunteer hours contributed by the community. As many as 2500 people turned up for one Arbor Day planting, with close to 20,000 plants being planted annually
To meet the cost of eco-sourced plants, Tui 2000 has obtained funding from organisations such as Waikato Regional Council, Ministry for the Environment, DOC and Waikato Catchment Ecological Enhancement Trust. The group has been vigilant in advocating for protection of the wetland and is now a long way toward achieving its vision of a natural heritage park on Hamilton’s doorstep.
This project epitomises the World Wetlands Day message that urban wetlands make cities liveable in many ways. The park and wetland are part of a wider network of waterways though Hamilton, including the Waikato River and numerous creeks and streams in an extensive gully system, used for recreation and visual enjoyment.
As the park adjoins Hamilton Zoo, there is scope for education and wildlife programmes to be expanded and interpretive signage to be installed. Waiwhakareke is already included in a variety of Learning Outside the Classroom programmes run by Hamilton Zoo.
In the words of Catherine Smith: “This is a treasured urban wetland with huge potential for all to enjoy.”