Tahorakuri Wetland project
An exciting new sustainability initiative was completed in 2019 on Wairakei Estate, with the development of the new Tahorakuri Wetland area. An official opening took place on 03 December 2019 with a gathering of those involved in making the Tahorakuri Wetland such a success.
After a blessing by kaumatua from Ngāti Tahu – Ngāti Whaoa, Angela Bull, CEO of Wairakei Pastoral, thanked everyone for all their commitment and hard work to bring the project to fruition. After a walk around the wetland, everyone shared kai and coffee.
Just inside the entrance area an iPou (information post) has been installed. When a mobile phone is held up to it, a link opens, and visitors can view a video about the Ngāti Tahu – Ngāti Whaoa tribe.
This 4.7 hectare area is located at the head of the Waiwhakarewaumu Stream, which meanders approximately 9 kilometres, to join the Waikato River. The Tahorakuri Wetland connects to the existing picnic and highway rest area on Archilles Farm, on the edge of SH5, between Taupo and Rotorua.
A handsome stone entranceway, similar to other entrances on Wairakei Estate has been constructed, along with signage for Tahorakuri Wetland. The gravel pathway for the Tahorakuri Wetland has been completed, the expanded picnic area levelled and new picnic tables have been installed. A new post and rail fence has been put in place, while the car parking space has been increased to allow for more visitors.
Just inside the entrance, there is a large information board describing the wetland and why it was created. This board also acknowledges all the local businesses and organisations who have supported the establishment of the Tahorakuri Wetland with their time or materials.
By way of background, we first observed an increase in the wetland footprint in 2012. Last year monitoring showed that the groundwater was at a five year high, and this expanding wetland was evidenced by new areas of ponding and boggy zones, which are typical of swamps in the Waikato Region. Ponding and boggy areas in this paddock developed significantly enough, especially over the last 12 to 18 months, for a decision to be taken to retire the land from a farming paddock permanently.
The vision behind the creation of the Tahorakuri Wetland is:
- To show Wairakei Estate’s on-going commitment to leading sustainable land use.
- To create an ecosystem of ponds and a thriving wetland plant/animal/insect community.
- To reduce the potential for erosion.
- To protect the headwaters of the Waiwhakarewaumu Stream.
- To involve people from the local community in the project where they can take part in planting of the site, and in turn foster a genuine sense of ‘ownership’ of the Tahorakuri Wetland, and pride in its development.
Wairakei Estate Soil Conservator, Robin Gerding, along with two ecologists, are looking at undertaking an Estate-wide ecological study. This would serve to determine exactly what terrestrial species are in habitation, and what may need to be done in the future to protect, and further nurture these.
Wairakei Estate, in collaboration with local organisations and businesses, has planted approx. 5,500 suitable plants in the damp/boggy areas of the wetland with an additional 1,000 exotic trees planted on the higher/drier parts of the retired paddock.
A series of three planting days took place to achieve this. The first on 12 June 2019, saw the pupils of Reporoa Primary School and Mihi School get stuck in and put in a great effort. The second and third planting days, on 14 and 26 June saw Wairakei Estate and Landcorp staff continuing the momentum, with further support from all the local businesses who have provided generous sponsorship.
These plantings included the following native plant species: Grass (Carex Secta), Flax (Phormium Tenax), Hebes’ (parviflora), White Pine (Kahikatea), Toetoe (Astroderia Fulvida), two varieties of Pittosporum, Manuka (Leptospernum Scoparium), Tree Daisy (Oleria Liniata), Cabbage Tree (Cordyline Australis) and Kowhai (Sophora Microphylla).
Cabbage Tree/ti kouka (Cordyline australis)
Kowhai (Sophora Microphylla)
Exotic tree plantings comprise: an assortment of Trident Maple (Acer Buergerianum) Freemans Maple (Acer ‘Jeffersred’), Golden Elm (Ulmus Glabra Lutescens), Northern Pin Oak (Quercus Ellipsoidallis), Claret Ash (Fraxinus Augustifolia), Banksia tree (Banksia Integrifolia), Willow (Salix Vitalus Pendulata), Larch (Laris Kaempferi), Swamp Cypress (Taxodium Distichum) and Mexican Swamp Cypress (Taxodium Distichum Mexicanum).
Groupings of exotic trees have been planted around the higher ground of the wetland; some deciduous with magnificent autumn colour, some evergreen, and others that attract birds – such as the Kowhai and Banksia trees. ‘Viewing windows’ have been left un-planted at strategic points around the wetland to allow passengers in passing vehicles to see into the wetland.
Golden Elm (Ulmus Glabra Lutescens)
Swamp Cypress (Taxodium Distichum)
Northern Pin Oak (Quercus Ellipsoidallis)
Claret Ash (Fraxinus Augustifolia)
We are very excited to report the sighting of a pair of white-faced herons/matuku moana, at the Tahorakuri Wetland. This self-introduced species are still relatively new to New Zealand, having arrived in the 1940s. They nest high above ground, and the existing oak trees are an ideal site. The male and female herons share the responsibility of nesting and raising of chicks until the chicks become older and become independent. The white-faced heron is monogamous and usually breeds between June and October.
Another welcome new arrival is the dabchick/weweia spotted diving around in the Pueto Wetland. They are extinct in the South Island of New Zealand and have been considered to be endangered until recently. Now dabchicks are considered to be a threatened/recovering species with birds to be found in the Rotorua and Taupo area.
Dabchicks are also monogamous and their habit of nesting close to vegetation means their nests are vulnerable to drastic changes in water level. They are also vulnerable to predators so Wairakei Estate’s pest control programme will be targeting rats, stoats, opossums and feral cats. Dabchicks breed from August to September and the site will be monitored closely to see if we can get them breeding successfully in the wetlands area.
By establishing the Tahorakuri wetlands we hope to encourage grey ducks and mallard ducks to make this their home, along with tui, pukeko, swallows, rails, crakes, fernbirds, bellbirds and waxeyes.
White Faced Heron/matuku moana