The View From Opoutere

Tsunami threat issued for Coromandel

FROM CIVIL DEFENCE WAIKATO Facebook page, as at 12.15 Thursday 17 September

Ok, so we have a tsunami THREAT issued for Coromandel. This is just a THREAT (this means that you all can still chill out because it just means we are going to keep an eye on it).
BUT you can do some things to make life easier for everyone:
– Stay away from sea, rivers and estuaries (don’t be an egg and go sightseeing…that’s just DUMB)
– Keep an eye on our page, NZ Get Thru and TV radio etc
– Tell your friends and whanau on the east coastline
– If your local Civil Defence gives instructions, please just do it (they want you to be safe).
The THREAT is in force until the big cheese at the Ministry of Civil Defence says its over.
We will keep updating our page when new info comes in.

Opoutere Welcomes EcoQuest Students during “Keep NZ Beautiful” Week.

Since the 1990’s undergraduate students from the University of New Hampshire have visited Aotearoa to study with the EcoQuest Education Foundation. Part of this study involves a field trip to Opoutere where the students engage with our environment not just in a learning capacity but in a directly beneficial way. Next week’s visit coincides with “Keep NZ Beautiful” week and the EcoQuest team will be conducting clean ups as they are visiting various locations around Opoutere.

Ric Balfour, a lecturer at the EcoQuest Education Foundation would like to formally introduce his team and what they do when they are in Opoutere:

“Field studies for EcoQuest students in and around the Wharekawa estuary

The EcoQuest Education Foundation is a Private Training Establishment and a Registered Charitable Trust, based in Whakatiwai on the Kaiaua Coast. The Vision of the Foundation is: “Catalysts for sustainability through education and research”. EcoQuest has a long-standing partnership with the University of New Hampshire, and provides semester and summer programs for undergraduate students from the US. Current programs are focused on applied field studies (ecology, restoration and environmental policy) and research (www.ecoquest.unh.edu  ; https://www.facebook.com/pages/EcoQuest-Education-Foundation  ).  Semester students are in Aotearoa for 15 weeks.

During the mid-late 90’s, one of the EcoQuest co-founders (through personal friends in Opoutere) got involved with the ORRA and represented the ORRA at resource consent hearings and the Environment Court on several occasions.  EcoQuest recognises the special nature of the Wharekawa estuary, and the unique challenges that Opoutere residents and ratepayers face in maintaining their environment while catering for the needs of people and wildlife.  Opoutere is very much a second home for the EcoQuest team: we have brought students to Opoutere twice a year since 1999!  Over the years, people from Opoutere have always extended a warm welcome to EcoQuest, and we have learnt a lot from the residents and ratepayers – who have always been generous with their time and energy toward us.  We spend four days in Opoutere, based at the YHA, studying estuarine ecology, and investigating challenges related to managing natural resources for multiple uses.  The field work focuses on various aspects: the estuary and associated wetlands, and effects of landuse in the catchment on the estuary and its biota. Once a year (February) we carry out a shellfish survey as part of the Hauraki Gulf shellfish monitoring programme.  During our field trip in September of this year, we will be out in the estuary, kayaking (and on foot at low tide), in order to:

– learn about the ecology of estuarine wetlands and associated habitats

– carry out a vegetation mapping exercise (estuarine vegetation communities)

– interpret the environment at a landscape level

– carry out field investigations in order to gain an understanding of resource management for multiple uses (residential, recreational, wildlife protection and primary industry)

– Learn about the role of the RMA related to development in the coastal zone

Through practical field work our students learn how to investigate and assess biophysical patterns and processes. During this week, students also have a chance to investigate related topics; they work in small teams and we conclude the week with peer- teaching sessions in the Opoutere Hall.

Since it is officially “Keep NZ Beautiful” week (http://www.knzb.org.nz/ ), EcoQuest will be going the extra distance to help clean up  areas in which we are studying and working.  Service learning and engaging with community are important parts of the experiences of our students while they study with us in New Zealand. We are often involved in planting days (some of the pohutukawa by the Kapakapa stream were planted by EcoQuest students more than 10 years ago), releasing seedlings, or with monitoring activities. All our research projects have scientific and societal relevance, and help to improve our understanding of natural resources, restoration activities and how science and policy interact.

Ric Balfour is one of several faculty at EcoQuest, and he and three other staff will accompany the EcoQuest team this week (Sep 15-18).  If you want to know more about EcoQuest, you can contact Ric (ric@ecoquest.co.nz ) or the EcoQuest Director Jono Clark (jono@ecoquest.co.nz ).”

Say hi to the team if you see them around, we are honoured to have them keeping an eye on our precious neighbourhood.

Kapa Kapa Wetland Planting Day

The Wharekawa Catchment Care Group has invited the community to attend the first planting of the Kapa Kapa Wetland Restoration Project on Wednesday 9th September (postponement day Wednesday 16th September)

10am – 1pm.

Come along to the southern entrance near Kapa Kapa bridge, parking can be found along Kapa Kapa Rd.

Bring a spade and a mug, gumboots and a waterproof jacket.

Refreshments will be provided – tea/coffee, hot soup, sausages and bread.

kapakapaThis is a fantastic initiative that the WCCG have spearheaded, if you have any questions about it please call Jethro Dyer at Opoutere School, 07 865 9077.

Seal Update

Opoutere has been visited by several seals during the last month, there have been varying reports of 5 different animals, both young and old. Then there was the sad news that one of these lovely animals had died on the stretch of Opoutere beach north of the yellow bench entrance. Happily there is still a very alert and active seal further along the beach.

Kevin Carter, Department Of Conservation Ranger, has issued a warning that one of these seals appears to be a juvenile leopard seal in moult and should not be approached as these seals can be more aggressive than fur seals. Please do not try to get close to any seal you may come across, if you have concerns about their welfare or health please contact Kevin on 07 867 9241.

Seal on Opoutere beach

Val Herbert took this beautiful photo of one of our seals.

Special thanks to Amelia Williams who has been in contact with DOC staff and has kept ORRA informed of these developments. Thanks also to Val Herbert for her photos and updates.

A Seal Of Approval For Opoutere

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The Wharekawa estuary is hosting a very charming visitor at the moment. Over the last week or so locals have enjoyed watching a sleek black sealion swimming about, feeding on kahawai, playing and sunbathing. Our guest can be seen at low tide herding fish into the shallows and then proceeding to play with his/her food, often near the boat ramp or Bruce’s Bay. This process involves much thrashing around, playing with the fish and then a lusty feasting – the seagulls are beneficiaries of this and can be seen whirling about overhead as the fish is messily consumed. Sometimes the sealion cruises up and down the estuary with one fin regally waving in the air until such time as it is necessary to roll about or have a comprehensive scratching session. If the day is fine sunbathing can be achieved on the boat ramp or at the bottom of Wharekawa Place.

Keep your eyes peeled!

The Onemana Voluntary Rural Fire Service Needs You!

The Onemana Voluntary Rural Fire Force has a space on its committee and the Fire Chief, Jo Adams, has extended an invitation to the Opoutere community to fill it.

Ideally it would be someone who is NOT a firefighter, but that person should be energetic, practical and committed to help the Fire Force move forward with the building of a new fire station in Onemana. This vitally important new building will stand immediately behind the current station and will feature four bays for fire appliances and a fantastic upstairs function room with capacity to seat 100 people.

Opoutere has a longstanding relationship with the Onemana VRFF and we are reliant on them for first response care not just for fire but for any major emergency, all year round. Their fundraising catering unit is a fixture at our annual regatta and Jo’s truck is seen every night through the summer months as he travels through the village on his way to patrol the forest and beach. This is a great opportunity to be involved with a proactive and growing committee.

The Onemana VRFF is having its AGM on July 29 so please give it some serious thought and contact Jo with any questions you may have.

Contact Jo at : joadams1014@gmail.com, or call him on 027 449 3034.

Whangamatas

An Opoutere Mid-Winter Christmas 

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A beautiful Opoutere view from the YHA.

On the first weekend of the July school holidays there is going to be a special function for the Opoutere community to come together and enjoy some mid-winter cheer.

WHERE: YHA Opoutere

WHEN: 4th of July, Sat from 5pm.

Please bring a plate and your drinks.

A donation of a gold coin will cover the use of the YHA Opoutere’s facilities and will also go towards new life jackets for the kayaks.

This is a great initiative from Mark and Teresa at the YHA, it will be lovely to see lots of old friends and meet new ones. Put it in the diary!

For more information about the Youth Hostel (YHA) visit their page here.

ORRA Wins In The Environment Court!

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After a four and a half year battle ORRA has ensured that the the Opoutere beach and sand spit must now be included in the Waikato Regional Policy Statement as an ‘Outstanding Natural Feature and Landscape’ (“ONFL”) and the estuary and surrounds must now be identified in the RPS as an area of ‘ecological significance’.

The process culminated in an appeal to the Environment Court that was heard over several days in late 2014. Our community has been represented by one of our own, the very talented and dedicated Mike Lloyd. On behalf of the ORRA membership and its committee Chairperson Victoria Spence would like to publicly acknowledge the determination, sheer hard work and inspired leadership shown by Mike throughout this (often frustrating) process.

The recognition and protection from inappropriate development/use for the area that this designation achieves cannot be overstated, please take the time to read the judgment by clicking on this link: 0.pdf

Thanks must also be extended to our expert witnesses John Dowding (shorebird ecologist) and Mark Lockhart (landscape architect).

This is very exciting news!

 

Jetty Repair Working Bee – Saturday 16 May 11am-1pm

A couple of months ago the jetty was towed back into position by a determined team of locals (praise be!), it has been held in place with chains and straps as a temporary measure but now help is needed to finish the job.

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The jetty platform is readied for its ride back to its rightful place.

 

 

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Mussel floats provided the buoyancy needed to move the jetty.

On Saturday May 16 between 11am and 1pm (low tide) there is going to be a low-key working bee to cement rocks around the poles of the jetty platform. This is not meant to be a long-term solution but it will at least afford the jetty some protection from winter storms. Strong backs and arms are needed (at least 4-5 people) to move some rocks and carry bags of cement mix.

Please email any questions to mlekner@gmail.com

JETTY UPDATE, 5 June 2015

The repair crew have sent out an update after their working bee:

The working bee for the jetty foundations was a success, with a good turn out and a good result. It won’t go anywhere next extraordinary weather event, just break up….) A special thanks is owed to Bunnings who came through on the timber materials.

Thanks to the organisers and everyone who came along to help, our jetty lives to fight another day!

Post-Easter Update

Easter was action-packed! The Hall Society elected a new committee after a well-attended AGM, the Beach Boys won the cricket, elaeagnus got chopped down, new babies appeared, the jetty was jumped off, ORRA celebrated some successful fundraising results and we enjoyed spectacularly still autumn weather.

Working Bee Progress

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The Easter 2015 Weedbusting Working Bee was attended by 40 people, a fantastic turnout, we love you all. With a new brush cutter and several chainsaws roaring, people scrambling underneath huge elaeagnus trees and a small army chopping away with loppers we cleared just under 1000m2 in 2.5 hours. We had new tools and a box of poison paste (courtesy of a Department of Conservation grant) and lots of safety gear for everyone.

Looking at a photograph it’s hard to really appreciate the impact that our working bees are making in the forest behind the YHA. If you are sure-footed it is well worth the effort of diverting uphill from the YHA Nature Walk. Clamber over some loose boulders, negotiate the old boundary fence and then marvel at the lovely coastal broadleaf forest that surrounds the base of Maungaruawahine. Increasingly free of the elaeagnus that threatens to smother it the forest now has the chance to regenerate, thanks to the blood, sweat and tears (of joy..!) of our Weedbusting Working Bee volunteers.

Keep your eyes peeled for the next chance to get involved, we hope to hold regular working bees over the coming months and will share details on this website and in notices distributed about the village. You can also contact us on our Get Involved page.

Funding Success

ORRA would like to acknowledge the generous grants awarded by the Department of Conservation and Waikato Regional Council to help us continue our work in animal pest and weed control in the Opoutere area.

In March the Department of Conservation allocated $4000 from its Waikato Community Conservation Fund to ORRA to purchase tools, poison and safety gear to be used when clearing elaeagnus, a very invasive climbing plant that has become established in the coastal broadleaf forest between the YHA and the Maungaruawahine summit.

In April Waikato Regional Council granted $4,590.16 from its Small Scale Community Initiatives Fund for the purchase of Goodnature possum traps to protect the forest which will regenerate as we clear the elaeagnus and employ local contractors to remove some elaeagnus that is growing in high areas not safely accessed by working bee volunteers.

We have committed to a long-term programme of cutting the plants, pasting the stumps and chopping the debris to form a mulch on the forest floor. Complementing this approach we hope to start actively replanting the forest floor (no seedlings can germinate under the dense canopy of elaeagnus) to prevent further weed strike in the lovely open areas.

This funding recognises the on-going efforts of our community, we would like to extend our sincere thanks to DoC and WRC for giving us the means to continue this work.

ORRA would also like to recognise the fundraising efforts of committee member Rachel Lang.  Rachel designed, procured and distributed the wonderful 2015 Opoutere t-shirts. The t-shirts are almost completely sold out with only a few kids’ shirts still available. The t-shirts raised just under $2000 this summer and it’s great to see so many people wearing them. The great Opoutere t-shirt tradition lives on! IMG_8681

To view the latest news (including a tally of our pest victims!) from our Ecology Team visit the Pest Control page.