In 2004 local residents had found their local area had become quieter. Most native birds had vanished from the land and sightings had become rare. Local citizens decided to do something about it, forming the environmentally aware and active community group The Uretara Estuary Managers.
Many problems were identified in the Uretara catchment, and step by step the volunteers began work on varying environmental projects. The scope of the enterprise is large and includes:
Uretara Estuary Managers objectives
- Protecting native birdlife along the Yeoman and Uretara Walkways and further round the estuary shore line by baiting for rodents during the nesting season
- Working with Western Bay of Plenty District Council to manage and extend planting of native plants along the estuary margin to enhance habitat and food sources for native birds and other wildlife
- Working with landowners, with funding support from our local authorities and other agencies, to restore and plant stream banks in the upper catchment in order to reduce siltation in the Uretara Estuary and Tauranga Harbour
- Working with WBOPDC Wild about NZ programme to support local schools to undertake environmental projects related to our estuary and catchment
- Eco-sourcing seeds and cuttings of suitable native plants for our planting projects and growing them in our nursery in the grounds of Lexham Park
- Working with the Bay of Plenty Regional Council to control mangrove spread across the estuary and into the salt marsh area at the mouth of the Uretara Stream
- Supporting WBOPDC Wild about NZ environmental monitoring at sites within the Uretara catchment and estuary
Some highlights 2015
Preston Drive estuary margin
- Some residents on Preston Drive came together last year and agreed to beautify and stabilise collapsing stream banks in front of their homes. UEM was pleased happy to take them under our wing and a happy relationship has grown. Western Bay of Plenty District Council assisted with weed clearance of the site and together we have planted the cleared areas.
- These keen volunteers are not stopping there. They are clearing weeds and making improvements all the time. Take a walk and see the rewarding result of their efforts and see what happens there next.
Growing our own
- Our plant propagation unit at the rear of Lexham Park continues to produce several hundred native plants each year, now mostly grown for reserves round Park Road Point.
- We are looking to future catchment work and starting to propagate canopy species which we intend to place in gaps throughout the retired areas.
Up the river
- We have continued to work with landowners, Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Western Bay District Council on reducing stream bank erosion. A total of 8.5 km of the banks of the Boyd and Quarry tributaries are now protected with only a few property owners yet to undertake stream bank restoration.
- We had a working bee on Murray Angle’s property on a rainy day last spring when we planted manuka and kanuka and in November Avalon workers joined in a planting afternoon to plant sedges they had propagated, also beside the Boyd Stream.
Lower catchment clean up
- Our volunteers have been using kayaks to pick out litter in salt marsh areas and recently helped the local Sea Scouts to collect an enormous pile of rubbish from the jetty to Haiku Reserve. The steep banks below the library and old firestation were strewn with takeaway debris and piles of RTD bottles. We were not impressed.
Some highlights in 2014
- Estuary reserves project. Supported by WBOPDC and the new Preston Drive sub-group we cleared the estuary margin of invasive weeds including pampas, blackberry, willows, Convolvulus, Tradescantia, honeysuckle and privet (the usual selection!) and made way for extensive plantings of native sedges, shrubs and trees to reduce weed spread, reduce estuary margin erosion and improve biodiversity. Rodent control is next on the list.
- Mangrove seedling removal within the consent area continued with five sessions but much more time was spent at the Environment Court supporting BOPRC’s regional policy on mangrove management. Ongoing monitoring using the NIWA protocols (part of the consent process) has confirmed that the cleared areas are firming and recolonized by crabs, mud snails and titiko. We have also seen increasing numbers of oyster catchers, stilts, herons, godwits and spoonbills. We expect this correlates to increasing food supply and high tide roosting sites.
- Our nursery volunteers produced over 1200 native trees, shrubs and sedges this year for three project areas – upper catchment bush and floodplain areas, and our estuary margin. Volunteers from the community and the Avalon Centre assisted with plantings.
- Uretara catchment guardianship continues to be a significant part of our work. Five years of hard work fundraising then planting over 52,000 plants along stream banks protected by 8.5km of new riparian fencing is being capitalised on through additional infill planting and ongoing weed management.
- There have been shocking results to a trial pest management project within one fenced riparian site (approximately 800m long x 20m wide) containing remnant canopy trees plus surrounding coloniser sp): 40 possums and 17 weasels in just over one month. Rat control will start in winter.
- The local Flaxroots Conference was enjoyed by all of our group volunteers – great to meet others doing the same sorts of projects and hearing from a range of environmental experts.
- Keeping a close eye on water quality has been a priority. Wild about NZ generates a lot of data when working with local schools (plus some additional monitoring at other catchment sites) and we are working on a new monitoring plan to support a ‘Uretara guardianship’ initiative, already two years in the making! BOPRC have provided updates on KK Quarry sediment management and regular visits to the quarry have provided useful insights. Despite these efforts high sediment loads are still occurring during flood events, and elevated levels are also being investigated in other tributaries.
- UEM morning and afternoon teas are achieving legendary status. Delicious food and convivial company following a lengthy session of hard work keeps our volunteers coming back for more! We are lucky to have such creative cooks and a friendly, conscientious team of workers.
Download a pictorial timeline detailing the various projects undertaken by UEM from 2004 to today.