You might have heard about the “circle of influence” or the “circle of control” – ideas made popular by author Stephen R. Covey. They refer to the things we worry about that we can actually have an impact on or control over.

So while John Argue knows that he can’t solve the climate crisis all on his own, what he can have an influence on is the health of the Papawai stream which flows past his property. And as the new-ish chairperson of the Papawai/Mangarara Stream Restoration Group, he’s optimistic about the group’s ability to have an impact on restoring the waterway.

“We can’t change everything,” he says, “but what we can change is some of the degradation done to this waterway over the years. And when we’re organised, it’s actually quite easy to do.”

While John himself is reasonably new to the role, the group itself has been active for over 16 years. Local landowners and school groups, the GWRC, and Papawai Marae have all been involved, removing willows, fencing off the stream, and replanting with natives.

“What’s already been done is wonderful,” John says. “Looking at those early photos of how things were, and of the work being done is definitely inspiring. There’s been a huge amount of growth, with some big trees now providing shade and stability. We need to keep that in mind as we go about our planting, especially with the coloniser plants like manuka which aren’t so beautiful initially but will enable the bigger natives to come through over time.”

Keen to get involved after he and his wife Ruth moved permanently to the area in 2020, John put his hand up for the role and has been a key player in getting the group reinvigorated. They’ve had 4 planting days in the past season and have begun water-testing. They’ve drawn in support from groups such as the local gliding club who provided people power, Comvita honey, who provided the manuka plants as a nursery crop, and Kiwi Rail, who bought out a huge truck of mulch created during track maintenance.

“There’s something really special about getting involved in a project like this in any way,” says John. “It helps people gain a connection with a place and a sense of investment in it. There’s something about putting a tree in the ground that makes people want to see the project succeed.”

To encourage people to be involved, John puts a lot of time into making things as doable as possible. The group only holds meetings when there are decisions to be made about how money is spent. Planting “days” are actually only planting mornings so that people can just come for a few hours. And John and Ruth make sure that the area is well prepared for planting, with the plants laid out. Whatever’s happening, there always seems to be good food involved.

There are many groups like the Papawai/Mangarara Stream Restoration Group, busy making the positive impacts they can on our local environment, all over the Wairarapa.

by Ali Mackisack

It’s a deep dive into the stream at Papawai-Mangarara – Wairarapa Times Age, 23 September 2022

Papawai Stream Planting DayPapawai Stream Carex Plantings