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New lease of life for Otukaikino

Story by Gina McKenzie
Images from Environment Canterbury
One of Christchurch’s last remaining wetlands, the Otukaikino, near Belfast, is being restored to a self-sustaining ecosystem thanks to $212 000 of funding from the Christchurch West Melton Zone Committee.

Thousands of native trees have been planted, along with stream fencing and the removal of pest plants including blackberry, willow and Old Man’s Beard using the funding from Environment Canterbury’s Immediate Steps programme.

With only 10 per cent of Canterbury’s wetlands remaining, the Otukaikino was earmarked as a key restoration project when the zone committee first formed five years ago says Christchurch West Melton Zone Committee chair Arapata Reuben.

“The Otukaikino has special value to the community from a biodiversity, recreational and cultural perspective so it’s been a priority for us right from the get go.  People want to connect with each other and the environment and with all that we’ve lost in Christchurch it’s important to protect what we still have.”

Christchurch City Council park ranger Arthur Adcock credits the collaborative efforts of landowners, the zone committee, Fish and Game, DOC, the Corrections Department, QEII Trust, Te Waihora Trust and volunteers with transforming the Otukaikino.

“We’ve planted 75 000 native trees over the last 10 years and we wouldn’t have been able to do that without the funding and without everyone working together.”

Local landowners have supported the project by giving up extra land for a wide riparian margin with fencing up to 50 metres back from the stream’s edge.

“They’ve been really generous about giving up more land which has allowed us to go back 20 to 50 metres from the stream. We’ve used this extra space for native planting and walking track.”

Increasing numbers of native birds have returned to the wetland and stream since the project began with an ongoing fish monitoring project expected to reveal similar results.

“We’ve definitely seen more bird life returning to the area. The native planting along the stream’s edge provides insects for birds and the plants also provide protection for fish spawning before they return to the Waimakariri River.”

The efforts of Arthur and his team were recognised when the Otukaikino won a New Zealand River Award for most improved New Zealand river in 2014.

Arthur says receiving the award reinforced the importance of protecting and improving areas with clean water like the Otukaikino to ensure they remain pristine.

“There are lots of places where we’ve lost clean water but here we’ve got a clean waterway and we’re looking after it and trying to improve it.

“Our vision is to restore the Otukaikino back to what it once was. We want people to come here and enjoy all the recreational opportunities that this special place has to offer.”