Three of Ōhaupō's iconic wooden bus stops have been transformed to showcase different wetland birds that are found in the surrounding peat lakes. Local artist Jeremy Shirley was commissioned to paint the murals, a Kingfisher, Bittern and Spotless crake.
Living Water helped to fund the bus shelter murals as well as the installation of new signs at Lakes Rotomanuka, Ruatuna and Rotopiko and Welcoming Town entry signs "Home of the Peat Lakes."
The locals have embraced the wetlands and it has formed the town’s identity, differentiating it from neighbouring (and perhaps more widely known towns) Te Awamutu and Cambridge.
Karen Fullerton, local business woman and 4th generation farmer of the peat lakes area is the driving force behind the idea to embrace the native wetland species, hailing from the UK, she realised it wasn’t just her that wasn’t aware of many of the incredible species that lived right on their doorstep. Karen seized the opportunity to engage with the community, she soon discovered a lot has changed in the area, with some of the older residents telling her sleep was often hard to come by due to the bittern calling throughout the night. Sadly, this is not the case anymore but it highlights the need to educate and engage with the community.
Ōhaupō community has an amazing volunteer group, including some 70 and 80 year olds helping to set traps for pest control around the lakes, the idea is the creation of the murals and signs will actively encourage community members to take part protecting the area and the native species.
The murals were really well received in the community, the unveiling was staged as they were completed with the final one being unveiled on World Wetland Day (February 2), a timely reminder on the importance of protecting our remaining wetlands, they serve many functions and values that often go unnoticed including preventing and minimising damage from floods, filtering water and locking up carbon, meaning they help with climate change.
This is only the beginning for Ōhaupō, Karen, a self-professed doer has so many more ideas for the town that’s already defined itself as “The home of the peat lakes.” She’s hoping to inspire the next generation to talk about how Ōhaupō evolved to embrace the Peat Lakes and perhaps hear the bittern call at night too.
Watch below: The story of Ōhaupō adopting the Peat Lakes - the Ōhaupō community, National Wetland Trust and DoC discuss the profound effect signage and branding has had on community awareness about the peat lakes and wildlife that lives there.