What was this project about?
Community engagement is a critical factor for the success of any project. Once the project ends, it’s the community that sustains it. Living Water wanted to engage the local community in the restoration activities at Lake Ruatuna, so they would become champions for the area as a place to be valued, visited and enjoyed. By growing engagement it was hoped the local community would voluntarily participate with planting activities and carry out pest and weed control beyond the initial project period and into the future.
How was the project undertaken?
To enable restoration activities, Living Water improved the public access to the lake allowing locals and tourists to easily access and explore Ruatuna. The wildlife habitat restoration project created opportunities for the community to get involved, for example in predator control, which is a vital part of Ruatuna’s restoration. Without it, birdlife such as Pūweto / spotless crake wouldn’t survive.
The Ruatuna Users Group is primarily game bird shooters who have been involved with the lake for many years, carrying out predator control, pest plant removal and the early native planting. The community trappers are local members of the Ōhaupō community or lake neighbours. Living Water has coordinated predator trapping, with volunteers maintaining the 30 DOC traps set around the lake to trap rats, stoats and opossums.
What has the project achieved?
The local community has been involved in predator trapping, planting 40,000 to 60,000 plants and Pūweto / Spotless Crake conservation. Improved public access has increased awareness of the restoration efforts and the natural beauty of the lakes while also increasing their potential economic value to the local community through tourism. Lake restoration inspired Ōhaupō township to adopt the peat lakes as their town identity. Drive into Ōhaupō and a welcoming sign reads Home of the Peat Lakes. Three bus stops display murals of different wetland birds, a kingfisher, bittern and spotless crake painted by local artist Jeremy Shirley. The murals were revealed as they were completed with the final one being unveiled on World Wetland Day (February 2), a reminder of the importance of protecting wetlands. There’s a real sense of pride in Ōhaupō of the special nature of the peat lakes for Waikato and New Zealand.