Otatara Landcare Group (OLG) in Southland has just celebrated its 20th year and two other impressive milestones: OLG’s total volunteer effort has reached 15,000 volunteer hours and 30,000 locally grown native plants have now been planted at its flagship restoration project at Bushy Point! So how did Otatara Landcare’s volunteers celebrate? They planted more trees, of course!
“We not only planted 1000 plants by lunchtime but had a ceremonial tree planting for Russell Evans who passed away recently,” says OLG secretary, Chris Rance. “Russell’s wife, May, planted a special totara tree and our new kereru mascot was named Russell in his honour. This was followed by a BBQ (yes in Southland in winter!), cutting of the cake with All Black Living Legend Kevin Laidlaw and children’s activities.”
“The Bushy Point Restoration Project commenced in the year 2000,” says Chris. “The 16 hectare project, on Department of Conservation (DOC) land, aimed to link two native forest remnants – of nationally significant totara forest on sand dunes with kahikatea swamp forest – by planting out the bare paddocks between them. The linkage from forest to estuary benefits native birds and other species – but particularly fernbirds, tūī, kererū and bellbirds.”
As well as restoration planting, volunteers have created walkways and interpretation signage.
“The Bushy Point Project is accessible to the public at all times with access from Bryson Road,” Chris says.
For maximum benefits to birds, lizards and native invertebrates, restoration planting needs to go hand in hand with predator control, so with that in mind, OLG volunteers set up traps and bait stations.
“In 2007 the Bushy Point Project was extended with pest control covering the surrounding 90 hectares of DOC regenerating forest on the edge of the New River Estuary, Invercargill,” Chris explains. “A grid of pest lines was cut by volunteers every 100 metres and traps and poison bait stations placed along each line at 50m (rat stations), 100m (possum traps) intervals and stoat traps along boundaries. These traplines have been maintained by volunteers at two weekly intervals ever since and catches are logged with TrapNZ.”
The next step was to extend that predator control onto private land and neighbouring reserves.
“In 2010 local resident and OLG member Russell Evans pioneered ‘Otatara Pestbusters: Bringing Back the Birdsong to Otatara’, extending pest control out into the community on private land and other Otatara reserves,” says Chris. “Now over 200 private residents are doing pest control in their own backyards, covering about 45ha. Pestbuster volunteers also cover Invercargill City Council Bush Reserves in Otatara,” she says.
It’s all great news for the wildlife at Otatara. But if any birds did find themselves in trouble, Russell Evans had that covered too. Together, Russell and May set up ‘Bush Haven’ a bird rescue centre and, though May is still involved, the hands-on work was recently handed over to Kathy Morrison and Douglas Black in Otatara.