“New Zealand falcons fly through this valley,” says Alison Dye, her eyes lifting to the grassy hillside which forms one edge of the lower part of the valley. “Bats fly through this valley. All sorts of native species use this valley as a corridor. What we want, is to return it to a habitat where they’ll want to stay.”

Alison is the Local Co-ordinator of the Upper Mangatārere Catchment Community Group (CCG) which formed less than a year ago, but already has a clear sense of purpose and has found a way to work with the range of interests, abilities and motivations within their group.

There’s a farming family involved, a few smallholders, and a number of members with bush blocks of varying sizes who want to retain or restore the native vegetation.

A recent stream walk led by WaiP2Ks water technician Tessa Bunny found a promising variety of macroinvertebrates and both species of eels. Water testing revealed good clarity in the upper reaches of the stream nearest the Tararua Ranges although this became somewhat more murky as it approached the Carterton end. “We want to reduce the water temperature and increase the clarity by planting the banks,” says Alison.

The group plans to initially plant small shrubby species to bring in the birds, then use this cover to help larger trees such as rata, rewarewa and tōtara get established. People share eco-sourced seedlings to speed up nature’s revegetation. “We plan to start small, in areas that we can access and manage,” Alison says. “We’ll plant in places where there’s already some cover then spread out from there.” Support from the QE2 Trust has helped covenant some original bush with rimu, rata and mistletoe. 

The native plant, animal and insect species in the valley has not only been compromised by forestry and farming, but also by a population of pest-animal species. Kittens that have survived the horrors of being dumped by the roadside have gone on to produce colonies of wild cats. Rats, mustelids, possums, goats, deer and pigs destroy emerging habitats. 

Many of the valley’s inhabitants have been trapping individually, but they are working on a more coordinated and cohesive approach with the help of John Bissell of Backblocks Environmental Management Ltd and WaiP2K’s predator control consultant. Later this year he’ll do a “valley walk” to get an overview of the area, then help any keen CCG come up with a pest-control plan.

Not everybody in the group is into trapping, and not everyone in the group is into planting, but it’s a testament to the group’s inclusive approach that each family or individual can be involved however they wish to be. The way the group works with the different interests and capabilities is reflected in the different motivations of the members of the CCG. “Johnny, the farmer, wants his children to be able to safely swim in our rivers and creeks,” Alison says. “Others want to bring back the birds or restore the native bush which brought us to the valley in the first place. And there are some really special things here, like a population of native snails and different types of skinks and geckos.”

 “People are delighted by the nature we have here – we all celebrate the native species and are proud to be part of looking after our valley.”

Ali Mackisack for WaiP2K

MV Stream Walk 18

Jack (10), Harry (7), Angus (5) and George (4) McFadzean, and Alison Dye (Catchment group coordinator) check out the macroinvertebrates that live in the Mangatārere River. Credit K Abbott

MV stream walk credit K Abbott (19) (1)

Mangatārere local Laura McFadzean and Tessa Bunny (WaiP2K) testing the water clarity credit K Abbott