Reserve restoration stymied


Tamahere’s top environmental project risks grinding to a halt as local conservationists find their efforts to restore a native wetland hitting a wall of bureaucracy.

Hopes for a restored kahikatea forest in Tamahere are fading, says Leo Koppens
Hopes for a restored kahikatea forest in Tamahere are fading, says Leo Koppens

The 4.6ha Tamahere Reserve was a weed-infested, rubbish-strewn haven for possums and other pests when it was taken on as a restoration project last year by a hardworking group led by local man, Leo Koppens of Tamahere Gully Care.

But despite significant progress on the ground the group was so frustrated by a lack of collaboration from the Waikato District Council and the Conservation Department that it was considering its future, Koppens told the Tamahere Community Committee this week.

The committee has supported the project, describing it as “one of its most important long term environmental projects”.

The Tauwhare Rd reserve presented “an opportunity to restore an example of a rare Waikato ecosystem which, because of its location in central Tamahere, could be an easily accessible and much valued community asset,” TCC noted last August.

Despite being neglected for decades, dominated by overgrown, unpruned pine trees and choked by weeds, vestiges of native plants had survived, including small remnants of kahikatea swamp forest. One giant kahikatea was estimated by Waikato University ecologists to be at least 400-years-old.

Koppens told the committee that many weeds had been dug out or sprayed, more than 500 native plants had been planted, around 20 possums trapped and a management plan prepared for a strip along the margins of the Mangaone Stream, which borders one edge of the reserve.

But the Department of Conservation (DoC) now wanted a plan of where each plant would be planted, he said.

“This is impossible to do given the terrain and the logistics of getting plants to the site never mind the time line. The goal posts keep shifting,” Koppens said.

While the local workforce was making progress toward forming a trust to be in charge of restoration the council insisted an operational plan be prepared before any agreement could be entered into with the care group.

Describing a Catch-22 situation, Koppens said the group had been asked to prepare the operational plan but it had no money to do so. A professional quote had put the cost at $4800 and the time it would take at three months. Yet until there was a plan there could be no agreement between the group and the council.

Meanwhile, DoC had asked the council to halt the group’s work in the reserve. It believed there could be rare native bats and mudfish in the reserve and required monitoring to be done to determine whether they were present or not.

“Who will fund this [monitoring]? Koppens questioned. “Our group has almost had enough and is considering its future.

“The concept of council let alone DoC working collaboratively with us is just not happening.”

The care group had planned to provide at least 1.2km of walkways and boardwalks for locals to enjoy a reserve where, over time, weeds and pines had been replaced by native trees and shrubs in which native wildlife flourished.

The project had attracted a number of supporters, including Tamahere School which had long wanted a conservation project nearby the school.

Earlier stories:

Reserve restoration gets green light

Reserve tour impresses

5 thoughts on “Reserve restoration stymied

  • April 1, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    I have given this gully restoration some more thought.
    With DOC retrenching and staff going I have played a scenario that would have been a win win for everyone.
    DOC comes to the TCC and comes with a proposition to restore the Gully.
    TCC has a whip around and find 30 to 40 volunteers with the project.
    Donation of time spent doing the restoration THOUSANDS of hours.
    Donation of timber for walkways Many Thousands of dollars.
    Donation of Plants many thousands of plants (figure the dollar value for yourself).
    Donation of pegs and stakes for the trees $1.5 for every tree.

    The scenario that is before Friends of Tamahere gully group is as follows,
    Talk to council, talk to DOC, talk to Council, talk to DOC and on and on and on.
    Put in safety plan,Put in planting plan. put in plan for almost whatever you can dream of.
    DOC are saying stop because you might upset a mudfish ( the group were hoping to have thousands of Mudfish)
    Doc says “leave the dead trees They may have a bat or two (they found no bats at Titoki when the trees were cut)
    WDC are running scared of DOC who no doubt have made threats of prosecution if this continues.
    Meanwhile there is not a lot happening in this Gully, but then DOC have never done anything with this gully since owning it.
    It seems that the basic objectives Of DOC is to do nothing and should some good people wanting to do good for the community you will no doubt have many, many obstructive people standing in your way.

    I am not a gully person I have never been into the Tamahere gully but am quite happy to donate materials to this great Community spirited project.

  • March 12, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    How dare DOC treat the gully restoration project with disdain. I would like to know what responsibilty Doc have taken over the site or are they just playing the locals as suckers. The WDC does not have the b–ls to stand up to Doc and I would like to know why they always love to be spoilers.

  • March 12, 2013 at 7:25 pm

    We have been in this area for ten years and spent a lot of our time cleaning up rubbish that has been dumped down in the reserve, soiled nappies, furniture, household rubbish, building rubbish, bottles and anything that does not fit in a rubbish bag but easier to dump in the reserve than paying to take to the council recycling centre/dump. DOC has never asked for a plan from us about the cleaning up of such rubbish,
    It is so disappointing and frustrating that Leo and the care group have got to the point of wanting to give up. I have not seen anyone work so hard in the reserve as Leo does. The reserve is looking great and a real delight to walk around it now.

    I suppose DOC and Council have a reason why they wanted the reserve to be kept as it was, (heavens know why) over grown weeds choking remaining natives, untamed pine trees, breeding rats and possums and a wonderful dumping ground. Now they talk about protecting native bats and mud fish. Why can they not do the operational plan, if they can read them they can write one up.
    For goodness sake why can they not work with the community instead of fighting such a caring and hard working group. Time to take a chill pill before I explode.

  • March 12, 2013 at 9:25 am

    What a tragedy it would be if the project was canned. When volunteers like Leo Koppens and his team are prepared to recognise and restore this valuable asset, it seems shortsighted and irresponsible for it not to be backed and celebrated by the district council and DOC. We need more projects like this. We need councils to assist and promote people who are committed to those projects. The Tauwhare Rd Reserve is much more than a community asset – it is a living history. If it is let go, it will be lost for ever.

  • March 12, 2013 at 9:20 am

    This is really sad, even shocking news. Community-led development is crucial to healthy and resilient communities, and attempts by top-down authorities to force a process that fits their rules and says ‘no’ before even considering the possibility of ‘yes’ is so damaging. I just hope that your community group working on this plan can have the fortitude to stick it out and keep arguing your case until they ‘up there’ see reason. (From a Motueka man who is fighting similar battles in his home town.)


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