Otama on target On the Kuaotunu Peninsula at Otama Beach, the Otama Reserve Group (ORGinc.)works as a community volunteer conservation and environment protection collective, holding firmly to their kaupapa to Protect, Restore and Preserve the public conservation reserves in their rohe.
To manage this mahi, ORGinc became a legal entity in 2016 by creating a strong visionary community group to work collaboratively with the Department of Conservation (DOC), Waikato Regional Council (WRC), and Thames District Council (TCDC) to help fund projects.
Prior to this happening, active interest was undertaken by a group of permanent locals, holiday home owners and farmers.
In the 80s, Kuaotunu residents supported their lobby against gold mining licences in the area with the mining company’s plans to create a tailings dam in Otama Bay. [dams which store water and waste by-products from the mining process].
Unfortunately proponents of mining for gold have revived the same aims forty years on and today, the same call for preventative action against them has begun in earnest.
Later, a permit was issued to sand mine the pristine Otama Dunes, the sand destined for use in the building industry. The local group of residents, including batch owners, also overturned this licence, to only have one follow with another attempt to utilise the dunes, this time as a residential subdivision proposal.This nonsense was opposed vehemently and by generous philanthropists’ funding, and TCDC input, the dunes were saved to become today's protected Reserve.
The local farming family refused the economic incentives offered them by the then NZ Forest Service to join their practice of burning off natives and replacing them with pine, which is the native bush backdrop we see today. The Otama wetland exists today because of the local farming family's efforts to preserve it.
Otama has benefitted from the work of these environment defenders, Nick Kelly (DOC’s Coromandel’s Operations Manager) aptly described Otama as “a conservation heartland for the district, with a defensive, sturdy and successful environmental protection history.”
Paul Kington, Chair of ORG inc shares this narrative. “The group’s focus is the ongoing protection and restoration of the reserves, including the historical sites. To achieve this, there needed to be engagement with the whole community, a firm guiding kaupapa and a sense of pride in our actions and in our eventual achievements.”
Over the past three years, they have been working on the “village reserve”, installing new access walkways to the beach and providing obvious areas for parking, with help from TCDC. Community fundraising and input from a local flax weaver oversaw the planting of Harakeke species, a collection in place now for future weaving projects. With the guidance from DOC, ORG followed archaeologist mappings of geographic lines of ancient original trenches at the Pa site and created earth mounds, and subsequently, 3000 eco-sourced native trees were planted close by in 2021, as part of the Reserve landscape plan. “It was rewarding to recognise and protect this historical site. Hopefully, the Trading Post to the east will be protected likewise,” says Paul.
The group's other focus has been the wetland reserves, an area of significant biodiversity value.
The wetlands work began with weed control and a pest control trapping programme, and in so doing, discovered critically threatened birds at home there. Photographer Linsday is now set to catalogue them for recognition and reference purposes. The group has since been offered a Trail cam system by WRC to record birds in their habitats. Wilderlab, an advanced lab testing service for environmental e DNA testing, has provided testing kits for the wetlands. There are tiny reptiles and at risk plants in the Wetlands too and, in time, these will be researched more thoroughly.
Funded by the local DOC office, the Otama wetland restoration/management plan 2021,has been completed by Natural Solutions a comprehensive guiding document.
"This was finalised and reached us in November this year. Now there is a robust wetland restoration plan focused on restoring natural habitats and populations of native species,” says Paul.
He continues. “This is an essential guide that gives us a clear direction and a document to help with future fund-raising efforts which will be necessary.
To date, the community has planted 8000 natives trees and plants in the wetland. In the 2022 season, we were very fortunate to be assisted by Ngati Hei’s team ,MBAS, and Kauri 2000. Through WRC funding, we have completed $9500 worth of weed control work, and continue our ongoing pest and predator control throughout the five reserves. Our long-term goal is for a predator-free, invasive weed-free, bush to beach corridor, linking reserves at the rear of the wetland to the Otama sand dunes and lagoon.”
Mathew Brown (Site Restoration Advisor WRC), recognises the skills, capacity, and personal commitment necessary in the work ORG is doing in restoring the natural character and significant values of the Otama Wetland Reserve, which he describes, “has produced significant positive outcomes for local biodiversity.” ORG is on target .
ORG has an active membership and communicates via our facebook and instagram pages