Work sees wetlands thriving

Graham Booth of Otaki (left) with Queen Elizabeth II (QEII) National Trust regional representative John Williamson.
Graham Booth of Otaki (left) with Queen Elizabeth II (QEII) National Trust regional representative John Williamson.

A once tired, damaged wetland near Otaki is now bursting with birdlife and native plants thanks to local couple Graham and Patricia Booth's efforts to restore it to its former glory.

In 2001 the Booths bought eight hectares of land north of Otaki on State Highway 1 for their retirement, but had not planned to sit back and take it easy.

Instead, Mr Booth set out to restore the clogged up wetland area on the property that had been pumped and drained for pasture for many years and 16 years on it is flourishing.

With birds having returned and naturally regenerating native plants now growing, the land is thriving.

According to Mr Booth, while animal pests present a threat, weeds are the biggest challenge he has faced in maintaining the health of the wetland.

"Weed control is my number one focus," he said.

"I can't emphasis enough what a major threat weeds are to a restoration project like this if left uncontrolled.

"If I didn't keep at it, I reckon the area would be devastated within five years."

He had battled a number of ecological weeds over the years, including old man's beard, blackberry, gorse, willows, barberry, wilding pines and reed sweet grass, otherwise known as Glyceria maxima.

Glyceria at the wetland's edges, he said, was particularly hard to tackle, forming a smothering mat before spreading underground and preventing rushes and other natives from emerging naturally.

In 2003, the Booths' land was accepted for covenanting with the Queen Elizabeth II (QEII) National Trust 2003, a registered charity that partners with private landowners to help them permanently protect special natural and cultural heritage sites.

Mr Booth said the area was a breeding ground for dab chicks and a habitat for shags and the royal spoonbill.

As a result, the QEII Community Weedbusters Project (QEII CWP) had supplied weed spray to help Mr Booth control the weed issues.

The QEII CWP, a national interagency programme launched in 2003, is supported by divisions including Department of Conservation and Ministry for Primary Industries.

Project spokesman Mike Urlich said Kapiti locals and passers-by had loved watching the wetland's evolution over the years.

"The Booths' wetland is an amazing visual gift to the community, and a haven for water fowl as well," Mr Urlich said.

"We are very happy to be able to support this inspirational restoration project."

- Kapiti News

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