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Published: 2007-04-13 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is helping the Moehau Environment Group (MEG) restore a nationally significant wetland on the Coromandel Peninsula.

The wetland covers 62 hectares of public and privately owned land at Waikawau Bay, in the Northern Coromandel area.

MEG hopes to rid the wetland of pests like rats, stoats, feral cats and possums, so populations of native marsh birds such as the banded rail, bittern and spotless crake can flourish.

“We don’t know much about the behaviour of these birds – in fact we didn’t even know the spotless crake lived in the swamp until last year,” MEG coordinator Wayne Todd said.

“Once the initial pest eradication work is complete we hope to learn more about them.”

Through the Peninsula Project, Environment Waikato will continue to support private land owners within the project area.

“We can help draw up proposals for people who want to restore wetlands on their own land and offer financial assistance for fencing, planting and pest control,” said Environment Waikato land management officer Emily O’Donnell.

“We are really keen to hear from anyone who would like a hand getting started.”

Environment Waikato councillor Arthur Hinds said MEG was a “wonderful example of a passionate and committed community group working to restore New Zealand’s biodiversity for the benefit of all New Zealanders”.

“They deserve our support in their endeavours and this project is particularly important as there are not a lot of significant wetlands left on the Cormandel Peninsula,” he said.

It is not only local people helping with the ambitious MEG project. Volunteers from around the globe are pitching in, working through organisations such as Conservation Volunteers New Zealand (CVNZ).

British man Robin Power was in the first group of volunteers CVNZ sent to Waikawau. He spent three days in February clearing access tracks for bait stations, which need to be regularly reloaded with rat and possum bait.

“The work can be fairly monotonous but most of the places you get to work in are pretty spectacular,” said the 22-year-old, who found Mr Todd’s passion for the project “quite infectious”.

Mr Todd said most volunteers were “blown away” by the beauty of the area.

“For some of them it’s a bit like being on the Discovery Channel,” he said. “We get some city boys who initially don’t like getting their feet wet and don’t like getting scratched and who aren’t used to the great outdoors. But they turn up from the depths of London and they put in 100 per cent and it’s absolutely fabulous.”

The Waikawau wetland project began last June thanks to grants from Environment Waikato’s Peninsula Project and the Transpower Landcare Trust Grants Programme.

“We would like to thank those organisations and the land owners and international volunteers who have been involved,” Mr Todd said.

“We couldn’t have got this far without their generous support.”