The group has received $13,000 in the latest round of the Department of Conservation’s (DOC) Community Fund grants, which ORG Acting Chair Paul Kington says will be used to develop a robust restoration plan for the wetland reserves it is already working in – alongside partners Waikato Regional Council and DOC.
“We identified very early on that to achieve our goals and aspirations, we would require a comprehensive restoration plan for the reserve – one recognised by local government agencies, iwi, landowners and the community,” he says.
“The funding will go toward employing Natural Solutions to undertake a wetland restoration plan and as part one of our vision for connectivity of the reserves, giving us a clear direction and document to help with future fund-raising efforts.”
The restoration plan will also give the group a guideline on timeframes for a staged restoration approach over the next decade, and how the goals can be achieved.
Although there is a strong history of conservation and environment protection efforts in Coromandel, the ORG is a relatively new official entity, formed in 2016.
“The group’s first focus was the village reserve, retiring the foot traffic off the ancient Pohutukawa trees and installing new accessways to the beach, developing the hareke pa site with help from the TCDC and community fundraising and input from local flax weavers,” Paul Kington says.
“It was during this initial set-up period we started to become more aware of what we have here at Otama.”
The ORG’s focus has shifted to wetland reserves because members felt those areas were under greater pressure and had high biodiversity value. That led to physical work including pest and weed control, and more recently revegetation and restoration.
“While carrying out pest control we found out we have makutu, fern birds, pateke and scaup – along with many other bird species – and this is what inspires us to protect and preserve these reserves, along with what inhabits them,” Paul Kington says.
“We don’t want to be limited by our imagination: our vision is a predator-free, invasive weed-free, bush to beach corridor linking the DOC reserves at the rear of the wetland to the Otama sand dunes and lagoon.
“We want to recognise and protect and restore the historical sites on the reserves, create a strong community group and engage the whole community and create a sense of pride in our achievements.”
DOC’s Coromandel District Operations Manager Nick Kelly says the Otama Peninsula has long been a conservation heartland for the district, with a number of active community groups contributing.
“We’ve built a very good relationship with the Otama Reserves Group,” Nick Kelly says.
“The work the group is doing, and has planned, meshes really well with some of DOC’s efforts in this part of our district – in particular long-term sand dune protection initiatives and wetland restoration.”
DOC community fund
The DOC Community Fund was established in 2014 to support community-led conservation projects on public and private land. Funds are directed towards practical projects aimed at conserving New Zealand’s indigenous biodiversity. This includes initiatives focused on restoring natural habitats and populations of our native species. More than $33 million has been awarded to over 600 different conservation projects in the first five DOC Community Fund funding rounds.
The current funding round was opened in February 2020 with a call for applications focussed on projects that restore the diversity of native plants and wildlife, including, pest control, habitat restoration and weed management.