This four hectares (10 acres) of public reserve, on the northern side of Waiheke Island between Oneroa and Palm Beach, had been a neglected pine forest since the 1950s. Following a report condemning hundreds of trees, 40 nearby residents organised their removal in 2005.
They have since planted more than 15,000 native plants and built over two kilometres of walking tracks that criss-cross the Reserve, creating a verdant oasis while helping to restore this strategically-located land to its former beauty.
With a pest-control programme also in place, the Reserve is seeing the return of many native birds. Early morning of as the sun sets, are lovely times to visit McKenzie Reserve as the birds are active and singing to their hearts content. While the Friends of McKenzie Reserve has a small committee overseeing its strategic vision, it has over 200 people on its database and on Facebook, who volunteer and participate in regular working bees tackling weed control, planting and track building and maintenance. This has been carried out through a unique partnership with Auckland Council, who own McKenzie Reserve. Auckland Council has provided consultation, materials and plants to assist the locals on this project and helped to co-ordinate and support the restoration of the Reserve.
The Hauraki Gulf Conservation Trust was invited by the Friends of McKenzie Reserve to assist their restoration work through funding applications to various organisations for grants.
To date, the Trust has helped secure over $75,000 for use in restoring this strategic public asset for the enjoyment of local residents and visitors to the island.
In 2012, a grant from the ASB Community Trust enabled the formation of an educational hub. The hub is centred in an area where there are a number of tall stumps of the former pine trees, with the idea that these are a visual reminder of what used to be there. The formation of the hub includes the installation of recycled power poles which is in keeping with the Friends sustainability goals.
Educational signage has been wrapped around the power poles and cover conservation and educational themes such as:
- the process of re-vegetation within specific ecosystems
- before/after/during the transformation…the story behind the Reserves
- it’s a people thing: how a few people can make a huge environmental difference within the community
- bird life – what there is and what it is hoped to attract with planting and pest controlling the creation of a rich native forest and identification of plant species
Many school and community groups enjoy time in the Reserve and the Friends of McKenzie Reserve Committee, has bold plans to increase the usage in the next five years.
The Reserve has an extensive network of tracks connecting to a lookout over the Hauraki Gulf, the education/information hub and the surrounding roads (Empire Avenue, Coromandel and Great Barrier Roads) including one that leads people to Enclosure Bay and one to Sandy Bay. One of the tracks forms part of the Te Ara Hura 100km walk around Waiheke Island.
The Reserve is also fortunate to be home to one of local Waiheke Island artist, Chris Bailey’s stunning pieces, Te Rerenga Wai O Tikapa Moana. It translates as the flowing waters of Tikapa Moana/Hauraki Gulf. Chris says that the eight pou represent, “Those that have been on the island for a long time – the hapu that were here, all the iwi that were coming and using these waterways. Even today, this island is really a transitional place.
“These waterways were highways for trade and warring parties. That’s what I was honouring – the Tikapa Moana, and it is really important to me that it is staying where it was created.”
The piece was purchased and gifted by the Sculpture on the Gulf Trust as a first, in the aim of having more art in community spaces on Waiheke Island.
Scattered along the tracks are six unique log ‘lift up’ interactive signs for children, that provide details about the creatures found in the Reserve.
The community now has access to an area of regenerating native bush and educational context that reminds every one of the transformations that are possible with dedication, will and financial support.
In 2018 the fourth five-year project plan was presented to the Hauraki Gulf Conservation Trust and we intend to maintain a long-term relationship with Friends of McKenzie Reserve, to see the completion of the restoration works being carried out in accordance with the plan developed by Friends of McKenzie Reserve and Auckland City.
Regular working bees for weeding, mulching, planting and pest control and fundraising activities have continued totalling over 500 volunteer hours per year.
The need for funds and volunteer help to continue the restoration programme is ongoing, so if you can assist as a volunteer or donor, please contact Niki Schuck on 021911332 or firstname.lastname@example.org and we will help you get involved. You might like to consider following them on Facebook, TFOMR or The Friends of McKenzie Reserve.