About the Waiheke Schools Wetland Restoration Project, Surfdale, Waiheke Island
Waiheke is fortunate to have a number of intact wetland systems, which act as giant filtration systems as fresh water finds its way to the coast and eventually mixes with sea water. These wetland systems are unique to the New Zealand landscape. Many of these vital living wetlands have, however, been destroyed or severely modified when roads and bridges have been constructed and where the land has been developed by residential, commercial or farming use over the years.
This important wetland is situated in the heart of residential Surfdale adjacent to the main road. Until recently, this 2ha catchment was infested with all manner of weeds including willow trees, macrocarpa, privet and pampas. Former Hauraki Gulf Conservation Trust Trustee, Tony King-Turner, was the driving force behind restoring this wetland to a fully functioning and aesthetically pleasing micro-environment.
A motivated group was formed in 2007, consisting informally of members of the Waiheke Island Wetland Initiative (WIWI), teachers from Waiheke High School and Te Huruhi Primary School, Waiheke High School Board of Trustees and local officers from Auckland Council. Several acres of pampas were cut and mulched by a tractor and rotary slasher.
Since then, thousands of native plants have been planted by pupils of both schools and a weed control programme has been carried out by contractors and local volunteers including students.
Local earth-movers have provided machinery and their time. Cleanstream has donated large amounts of mulch, and a local couple plus another business have donated several thousand dollars towards planting and materials.
In 2012, the Hauraki Gulf Conservation Trust successfully helped secure funding from the ASB Community Trust (now Foundation North) which enabled the work to progress with both voluntary and paid labour. Weed control was carried out over the winter months. The spreading of mulch was completed and topsoil was brought in to create a more suitable environment for replanting. The gravel walkway was completed to enable easier access to the planted areas for weed control, pest control and watering.
A formal working party in partnership with the Waiheke High School Board of Trustees has been formed to oversee the remainder of the project. Contractors are used for work such as spraying, earthworks, spreading gravel on a walkway, while volunteers, including corporate eg NZ Media and Entertainment, are used for weeding, planting and mulching.
In October 2014 further funds were secured form the ASB Community Trust (now Foundation North) by the Hauraki Gulf Conservation Trust which allowed the next phase of the project including the replacement of gum trees with natives, ongoing weed control and mulching and the enrichment planting of appropriate native trees.
The wetland area is regenerating due to the re-vegetation with native flora and the clearing of intrusive noxious plants. This has improved the water quality which flows to a nearby beach and enhanced the habitat for a wide range of native aquatic wildlife such such as pukeko, kingfishers, tui and eels. Students now use the restored wetlands for environmental study projects. The wider community has also benefited by the retention and improvement of the quality of a valuable wetland asset.
In April 2016 the Hauraki Gulf Conservation Trust obtained further funding from Foundation North which will allow further weed control, the supply and spreading of mulch, further native planting alongside a part of the bridle path to create a broadleaf/podocarp forest, continuation of the track alongside the southern edge of the wetland and the construction of a small boardwalk across the stream.