Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Hand-digging walking tracks has positive environmental impact on local community from people to native fish and birds

Landcare Okareka Team: From left, Brian Law, James Blakely, Katharine, and Mike and Sandra Goodwin are digging out a walkway to link Boyes Beach to the Lake Okareka campsite.
Photo courtesy of the Rotorua Daily Post.
It’s been a huge team effort for members of Landcare Lake Okareka in New Zealand to work together on developing walkways to protect wetlands and enhance their environment.

The Lake Okareka walkway opened in 2003. The initial track included a boardwalk and lakeside track to the outlet of Okareka. The design and construction was managed by Rotorua District Council and financed by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. 

Landcare Okareka started three months later by residents who wanted to make a difference and founding members included Mike and Sandra Goodwin. Currently there are around sixty members, mostly residents, holiday home owners and people from the wider Rotorua community.

Their first project was Stage 2 of the walkway - composting toilets at Silver Beach, a shade structure with seats, a bird watching hid and raised edges to the boardwalk - completed two years later.

Significant achievements include a remembrance grove of native trees adjacent to the walkway and the pump station bank cleared of bush and replanted, including a track from Summit Road for children to get to the bus stop at the bottom of the hill.

Mike said, “Our current project is the most exciting, completing the Trans Okareka Walk, which when completed, will take about three hours to walk around Lake Okareka, both at lake level and along the top of the north eastern hill above the lake.”

The first part of this extension is a 1.5km path and boardwalk linking Boyes Beach to the Department of Conservation campground. This has involved considerable planning and has taken five years to gain all the consents, with formation work starting a few months ago. 

The track will feature a boardwalk through the wetlands where native birds live including the dab chick which is rarer than kiwi. This area is under threat from rats, possums and wallabies. 

Mike and Sandra Goodwin were both recently recognised with Paul Harris Fellow awards by the Rotary Club of Rotorua Sunrise for their outstanding achievement in building a better world through the enhancement of the Okareka surrounds that locals and people from around the world admire and enjoy.  Sandra replied, “It’s very humbling and very special to receive this recognition from Rotary Rotorua Sunrise. We are so amazed for our group to receive this.”

The highlight for Mike is the way the environment has flourished, enhancing the community, and members have found this very rewarding.  He said, “People from all over the world come here. I’ve seen visitors on their mobility scooters and I reckon it takes three weeks to get the smile off their face.  It’s such a joy for them to get in amongst nature.” 

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