Our project commenced in 2004 through the efforts of a group of locals in 2004, who noticed that the Waikanae Estuary Scientific Reserve had become an exotic weed wasteland, and they wanted to restore it as much as possible to its natural state.
The estuary reserves consist of an area of approximately 75 hectares – 65 ha on the south side of the Waikanae River which is managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC), and 10 ha on the northern side, managed by Kapiti Coast District Council (KCDC). The group has a Community Agreement with DOC (March 2019) and a MoU with Kapiti Coast District Council
We have been fortunate having input into our project by two experienced ecologists. The first one was the late Geoff Park who was asked by DOC to write a restoration plan for the estuary. His vision of establishing a seed source in the estuary by planting in small nodes was largely achieved during the first five years. More recently Isobel Gabites revised and updated the plan to provide direction for the next five years. In line with this new plan, we are looking at planting good successional plants, ie. lower ground cover and shrub species. The aim is to restore the estuary’s natural successional processes, given past human interventions and modifications.
A lot has been learnt on the way. Initially plants were bought for the project, however it soon became apparent that we needed to grow our own: to ensure plants were in fact ecosourced; to ensure most genetically robust plants were planted; to be able to harden plants in a shadehouse adjacent to the estuary; and to keep costs down. We have recently upgraded our nursery operation to be able to produce most of our own hardened plants and rely heavily on the services of the local seed bank run by the Kapiti Coast District Council biodiversity team.
The estuary is an extremely windy and salty environment, which also experiences frosts. Apart from that, our biggest challenge has been weed control. More effort is now being placed into site preparation. Common invasive weeds include: blackberry, periwinkle, bindweed, buckthorn, boneseed, boxthorn, pampas and gorse. A recent DOC Weeding Plan, created by Mike Urlich will direct how the Scientific Reserve weeds will be tackled to achieve our Vision.