News Archive - 2005

Bird Sightings reported - December 2005

Besides previously reported sightings of Pukeko, Ruru (Morepork) and Tui, Paul Guiniven has noticed Eastern Rosella, Kakariki, Kotaire (kingfisher), Pheasants, White-faced Heron and increasing numbers of Kereru.

A Kereru nest has been reported near the large Pukatea.  Sylvia Jenkin has also seen two teenage Pukekos.

Anyone seeing these and other native or unusual birds should report them. 

It is 5 years since a bird survey was done and it is about time it was repeated.

Stream Management Plan - December 2005

The committee of Friends of Maara Roa (Inc) support Sylvia Jenkin's proposal to Greater Wellington and Porirua City Council for a Stream Management Plan to be devised for the whole Cannons Creek catchment including the Takapu Block (stream head-waters), Maara Roa and the Lake Reserve.

This is the only way the problem of the silting up of the wetland and upper lake can be addressed. Council staff are currently considering this request.

Article about Maara Roa by Dave Hansford, in the Dominion Post - December 2005

Read the feature article regarding our Maara Roa area in the Dominion Post.

Dave Hansford, a well known conservation journalist, walked our tracks on 4th November 2005.

He is telling the public about the conservation and recreational values of our valley.

Read Dave's article: A little bit of everything - Dominion Post, 29 December 2005.

Victory over the sale of Waitangirua Farm - reporting November 2005

The Government, as announced by the Minister of Conservation, Chris Carter, on 19th August [2005], will put $6,270,000 into the purchase of Waitangirua Farm, while Greater Wellington will contribute $2,800,000 and Porirua City $335,000 (subject to the approval of those Councils).

The Maara Roa area will be a key part of that, so we may well see one of our most important objectives as a Society achieved: public ownership of the whole of Cannons Creek Valley.

Next thing to decide on is the Reserve status which would be best for our area.

We're not alone! People who have helped with Plantings - reporting November 2005

On Saturday 11th June, the Plimmerton Presbyterian Youth Group did a great job, with several fit people planting the steep bank just beyond the wetland (west side of the track), in an area which most volunteers would have found difficult.

On August 16-18 the Conservation Corps from Elkington Associates did 3 days good work, and they planned to come again from October 4-6th.

A "Project K" group from Porirua College came on Wednesday 24th August and we took them on an adventurous trip upstream from the little bridge, carrying over 30 Nikau palms we have grown, to plant in likely microsites.  These are the first ever to be planted in the valley and will join some fine specimens already growing in the Cannons Creek gorge.

On 10th September, Hannah and Michelle came all the way from Newtown by public transport to help us!

A carload of young adults from Elim Church, Wellington gave us a record total of 19 volunteers on site.

Thanks to you all for all your help!

Plantings so far - August 2005

Winter got off to a cold wet start.

On Arbor Day [early June] only our organisers, along with Dennis and Anne representing "Keep Porirua Beautiful", came.  The weather on the day improved, and these stalwarts all did some planting.  Despite re-advertising for the 18th June no public came that day either.

Excellent progress with July plantings, was made by both working bees and individuals.  Once again thank you, Ron.

Nursery at Porirua College - August 2005

This is in great nick and trees are being shifted steadily to our planting sites.

Neil and Brenda have been pleased to have Suzanne from Australia help there regularly.

Many thanks to our nursery volunteers (over 1000 seedlings already from the nursery this year), and to our "potting-on" people.

Green Firebreak planting - August 2005

Green Firebreak planting

Green Firebreak planting

As some of you may know, after the disastrous fire of 21 March 2003, we adopted a fire protection plan proposed by John Hodges which has become known as the "Green Firebreaks Plan".

This consists of two 20 metre wide strips right across our valley, one along the Lake Reserve boundary and one along the edge of the Cannons Creek Covenant and down the Takapu Track to the bridge.

These have been cleared of burnt gorse and are being sprayed to prevent the regrowth of gorse and rank grass.

The idea is to prevent flammable plants growing and thus - though we cannot stop people lighting fires - we may be able to prevent the spread of any fires upwards from the Lakes Reserve or the schools, blown by the prevailing winds, into our restoration area.

But instead of just leaving these firebreaks bare, we are replanting them with native trees which, as evergreens, will prevent gorse regrowth once they are big enough.

We are also using tree luncerne as quick growing, hardy shelter trees on these exposed sites.

This winter [2005] is the third season that we have concentrated on establishing these Firebreaks, with John Hodges doing a HUGE job of clearing and spraying under contract from Greater Wellington.

Without John's dedication we couldn't even have begun on this task.

It is now up to us to really work hard on the areas he has prepared.

Neil and John are guiding us in this, and want us to plant our seedlings more densely this year, and to steadily fill up the strips bit by bit, working together systematically.  This may seem to some volunteers to be a bit restrictive, but the task is urgent if we are to cover the cleared strips by the end of the planting season.

However, we do also have some canopy trees, including 150 Nikaus we have grown, to plant in the Convenants in the selected micro-sites, plus Totara, Rewarewa and Rata and will start on these as soon as the fire-break planting is completed.

Thanks go to all our home growers and, above all, to our nursery volunteers (over 1000 seedlings already from the nursery this year), and to our "potting-on" people.

Glow Worms - August 2005

Paul was possum spotting on dark winters evening in the stream bed above the bridge on the Takapu track and discovered a "spectacular display" of glow worms along the banks for quite a distance.

Schools "adopt-a-spot" plantings - June 2005

These went ahead in early June with Glenview School's efforts being featured on the front page of Porirua City News.

See the progress made by the schools involved in the Adopt-a-Spot programme.

Bird Survey to be done — May 2005

Hugh Robertson of the Ornithological Society has agreed to do another bird survey as Kakariki, Kereru and Ruru have all been seen.  Signs of success at last!

Potting On - May 2005

You will be pleased to read that 780 plants have been potted out and 650 plants have been shifted onto the central bed on the nursery to harden up in readiness for planting.

Progress - Sale of Landcorp Farm - April 2005

Public meeting on 17 March 2005

The public meeting on 17 March 2005 was attended by more than 50 people and was well reported in Porirua City News on 23 March 2005.

MP Winnie Laban, 3 Porirua city councillors and two regional councillors with several senior staff attended, Dennis Ormsby (Keep Porirua Beautiful, and Friends of Maara Roa) chaired the meeting - Thanks, Dennis.

Richard Sadleir (Convener, Friends of Belmont Regional Park) spoke of the impact on the whole park and impressed us with a map showing the huge blank space lying between Porirua and Hutt: the land that will be lost to us.

Brenda Stickley told the Maara Roa story and Sylvia Jenkin "put the case for the prosecution", so to speak.

After full discussion the meeting agreed to a resolution supporting the prayer of the petition that we ask that:

"Greater Wellington Regional Council secure into public ownership for the purposes of conservation and recreation that part of Belmont Regional Park currently owned outright by Landcorp and known as Waitangirua Farm."

Chris Laidlaw, Chairman of Landcare (GWRC) pledged to carry the petition to the Minister (of S.O.E).

Public petition

The petition closed on 31 March 2005.

After a slow start it suddenly took off in our area and Sylvia Jenkin received many requests for forms from the public as well as from us.

It ended up in at least 30 sites between Johnsonville and Plimmerton, at the Porirua Market, the Creekfest, and all sorts of clubs and churches.

A really hearty vote of thanks is owed to the great bunch of Friends who gave time, energy, persuasions and money to the cause.

As for results, 11,500 signatures as at 04 April 2005 - about a third from Porirua, Tawa and Johnsonville.

Meeting with politicians

Your committee has met with Porirua’s Mayor and key staff to open up the issues particularly about Maara Roa,

We have written officially to Peter Dunne as well as Winnie Laban, and of course to GWRC personnel.

We are encouraged by their responses, which are all positive.

Maara Roa will be a priority even if Government does not come to the party to hold the land.

However in that case GWRC will not be able to buy much of the Farm if Landcorp hold to its price.

To prevent money being the deciding factor, we, the public, need to keep the pressure on the Government.

So what now?

We must keep the issue alive, if the politicians are to heed the clear message that the public values this land and does not want to see it all cut up and privatised.

So, keep talking to your friends about the problem and its best solution.

Again, please write to your local paper or the Dominion Post - express your love for the land and your concerns for its future.

Take Richard Sadlier's advice at the close of his address at the public meeting:

"Write to your MP, and to one other MP.  Say how much the Park means to you; that you do not want any of the Park sold for private development; and tell them you will take their position in this matter into consideration when you next vote."

"Then phone 5 people and ask them to do the same."

It does work!

*Breaking News* - Sale of Landcorp Farm - February 2005

Most of you will know by now that the Maara Roa area is not a public reserve, despite being in a "park", but is on Waitangirua Landcorp Farm.

The directors of the Landcorp NZ Ltd have decided to sell off the whole farm.

The news came out just before Christmas 2004.

Landcorp have approached Greater Wellington about this, and negotiation has started behind closed, "commercially sensitive" doors.

In the "Porirua City News" on 26.1.2005, Landcorp CEO Chris Kelly is quoted as saying, "first up, best dressed, and those who can write the biggest cheque get it."

This doesn’t sound like environmental or social responsibility (even though Landcorp’s Mission Statement includes both.)

Rather it sounds as if a price for the farm has been proposed which is far beyond the reach of Greater Wellington's land purchase reserves, or what its ratepayers could afford.  Such a price would be no problem for some big overseas development corporation.

So what will happen to the 100ha Maara Roa area?  It is for sale, as part of the Landcorp Farm.  Despite 80% of it having been retired from farming 20 years ago (proving it is of no economic value), Landcorp will want the same high price for that too, having ignored both our offer for it and Greater Wellington's two attempts to negotiate for its purchase since the Project began.  After all, bits of bush in the back yard of your new lifestyle block or residential area have sales appeal.  If roads were brought in and private property surrounded it, public access would be gone, our project would cease and there would probably be no access from this side of the hills to what was left of the Regional Park - some reserves on the Hutt side.

However this crisis is also an opportunity, not only for the Friends of Maara Roa and the "Friends of Belmont Regional Park", but for the public of Wellington and Porirua cities to rise up and claim their recreational rights to the park from this side of the hills.  All of this (except one hilltop block) is Landcorp Farm, from Belmont Road to Takapu Road to behind Porirua Park - 1242 hectares, 35% of the Regional Park.  Everything we walk on in our summer walks programme and every place where we've dug a hole to plant a tree, or cleared weeds, or baited for possums, is Landcorp Farm.

At its first meeting of the year, your Committee faced all this, and decided as follows:

That in view of the sale of Landcorp Farm, the committee resolves that the Maara Roa area be placed into public ownership and gazetted as a Reserve; and we will inform the relevant public authorities of our resolve."

No doubt we may be informed of all this soon by Greater Wellington, there will be meetings and so on; we will keep in touch.

Meanwhile, it has been in the papers, so talk about it with as many people as you know.  Use any like-minded networks you have.  Tell them of your part in the work we are doing.

Once you have thought about it, and got the facts straight, you will be able to play an effective part in reminding the decision-makers what we stand for.

As public awareness grows (and it is our job to make sure it does) and concerns are voiced vigorously, every one of us will be needed to be strong. 

It will strengthen Greater Wellington's hand in any negotiations, and our Patron's support for this Project and its public good, when voters express their support for the retention for the people and for the environment, the Park's best landscapes, native forests, streams and valleys.

Like to save our valley? 

Pit Park People, Palmerston North

For the first time another restoration group has asked to come and see us.  This group found our website and 1-2 car-loads came from Palmerston North.  They wanted to find out about us, as well as the bush.

The Pit Park People are working on developing an area known as the Featherston Street Pit, originally used by Brick and Pipe Ltd as a clay pit, and then latterly a gravel pit and also a place to dispose of spoil, such as broken clay tiles and pipes.

Guided Walks - reporting early February 2005

The demand for the walks advertised this year has been huge - more than 30 enquiries for each walk.

With 28 people booked in January (including the Mayor of Wellington) and a waiting list for February 13th, and a full group for March 12th, it seems the public has finally discovered Maara Roa - just as we have run short on guides.

Know anyone who is keen to help out? 

Training and route notes are provided - it's not hugely demanding, helps fitness and the people who come are a positive lot!