Otematata wetland project gets funding boost

Otematata Wetlands Walkway volunteers Peter Kirk, left, and Graham Sullivan with Upper Waitaki Water Zone Committee ...
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Otematata Wetlands Walkway volunteers Peter Kirk, left, and Graham Sullivan with Upper Waitaki Water Zone Committee member, Lisa Anderson.

Volunteers are fencing, clearing willows, and planting 2200 native plants before spring for a wetlands restoration project at the head of Lake Aviemore. 

Another $15,000 has been granted for the conservation project as part of an ongoing Environment Canterbury initiative to fund biodiversity projects around the district. 

The Otematata Ratepayers Association received the grant from the Upper Waitaki Water Zone Committeeto enhance another section of the 50 hectare Otematata Wetlands at the head of Lake Aviemore. 

The wetlands site is a popular recreation area, and is being restored by the community-led group. 

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* Predator control, wetlands beneficiaries of $100,000 injection

Volunteer Graham Sullivan has been involved in the project since it started, 11 years ago. 

"It's not quite finished yet," he said. 

"When we first walked through it was very overgrown with briar and weeds and so we started by raising money to get landscape architect, Anne Steven, to create a plan. 

"We've opened it up a lot and created wide tracks and access, we've cleared old willows and then we've put in a lot of native plantings like carex, tussocks, flaxes and cabbage trees." 

The money followed a grant of $12,000 in 2016, also funded through Immediate Steps Programme. 

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An ECan spokeswoman said Immediate Steps Funding, available throughout the whole South Canterbury area, was mainly granted for work to protect biodiversity.

Immediate Steps grants were given out by the Orari-Temuka-Opihi-Pareora Water Zone Committee as well as the upper and lower Waitaki committees. 

There was $100,000 of Immediate Steps funding available to each water zone each year, as well as additional funding for the flagship Wainono Lagoon restoration project, which has received $150,000 since 2013.

Graham said families with young children and visitors to the Otematata region frequently used the walkway and thought it was "marvellous". 

He was also noticing more bellbird and pūkeko returning to the area.  

Upper Waitaki Water Zone Committee member Lisa Anderson said restoring the wetlands was "fantastic for our environment". 

"[It's] a great example of how a conservation project can also have recreational and educational benefits . It also complements the native planting many local landowners have been undertaking along their waterways and lakeside margins."

Volunteer Peter Kirk said every day he carried out a range of tasks, from fencing to weeding and watering.  

"Taking out the cracked willows is one of the biggest jobs.  They are so intrusive and they clog up the area. The area has really opened up now."

 - The Timaru Herald

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