MOWS Overview and History
Maketu is a small coastal village in the middle of the Bay of Plenty. It has a mixed Maori/Pakeha population who work well together with strong links, both cultural and economic, to the sea and the harbour. The harbour is also known as Ongatoro after Ngatoro-i-rangi – the priest and navigator on the Te Arawa Canoe, which arrived here some 800 years ago.
A small group of villagers got together to do something to protect the colony of New Zealand dotterel (Charadrius obscurus) which live on the tip of the Maketu Spit. In the first season we had little opportunity to do more than erect a simple fence and ask people to stay out of the nesting area.
We quickly realised that protecting the dotterel alone was not really an option, and that we needed to implement a much wider plan to help restore the ecological integrity of the spit. This would ensure that not just the dotterel were secure, but all the other native animals and plants that make up the natural ecosystem.
In our second year of operation we started a pest control programme to get rid of the unwanted, introduced mammals, and also to remove the introduced plant species that were invading the spit and changing its nature. Chief among these are pampas grass, gorse, radiata pine, boxthorn and tree lupin. During the winter of 2009 we started running working bees on the spit collecting an enormous amount of rubbish and starting the removal of pampas and gorse.
We started to develop a Biodiversity Management Plan (BMP) for the spit. This included a biodiversity survey being carried out by Dr. Peter Maddison as part of the BMP, which discovered two species new to science; a spider and a beetle. This gave us an indication of how little research had been done on the sand dunes in New Zealand, and how important this ecosystem is, as so much of our coast is being consumed by urban sprawl.
We initiated a planting programme, which was initially confined to native grasses on the fore dune. However, we have now brought in specialists working with the Dunes Restoration Trust of New Zealand, who ran a study on the spit to work out which native species are best for the back dune. This was part of a national study funded by the Ministry for the Environment.
Things were looking very positive for the dotterel and other species on the spit until MV Rena ran aground on Astrolabe Reef, just 12 km off the spit. One week later the dotterel habitat on the spit was covered in heavy fuel oil from the high to low tide mark. New Zealand dotterels and oyster catchers were seen running through the oil, so a wildlife team was sent and removed 20 birds and rehabilitate them in captivity until it was safe for them to be returned to the area. MOWS was part of the clean-up and recovery effort from day one, and the heavy fuel oil did not prevent volunteers from keeping up the pressure on pest species on the spit.
We received additional funding from WWF New Zealand and the Ministry of the Environment Rena Recovery programme, to enable us to handle the increased workload as the project developed and expanded to include Pukehina.
In 2011/12 we organised the spraying of Pampas along the verges of Ford & Maketu Road. We also received a grant from the Environment Enhancement Fund to help remove the pampas and wattle trees, and to replant the area with native species.
Two new signs were created in October 2012 depicting the ecology of the spit and MOWS work. One is situated at the monument reserve by the Maketu surf club and the other at the Kaituna cut carpark.
Following a “Big Dessert Night” for Earth Hour organised by Envirohub Bay of Plenty, local community members made the pledge to start restoring Newdicks Beach. We started by removing invasive weeds and creating a new sand dune in front of the car park, to help protect it from further erosion.
MOWS set up a BMP project for Newdicks beach, and in May 2014 we held a working bee to plant the dunes and remove invasive plants like boneseed. We even trialled planting native ice plant in the banks. We had a great turn out with 20 people there on the day! Thank you to Coast Care for their ongoing support.
With funding from MSC RENA recovery fund, MOWS bough a Polaris Ranger ATV in 2014 to aid working bees and spraying. Everyone loves it, and it has become affectionately known as ‘Muffin’!
Waihi Estuary Wildlife Management Reserve was added as a new BMP, and work began there to remove wattle trees and pampas.
Volunteers carried out rubbish collections and dune plantings during several working bees.
Work began to clear and replant the hillside on the road to Newdicks beach, known to MOWS as ‘Big Slope’!
After Cyclone Pam swept through in March, the pohutakawa at Newdicks beach was looking rather worse for wear, and in danger of being lost for good. Following a great deal of hard work by volunteers it is now hopefully stable enough to weather more storms.
The Maketu Ongatoro Wetland Society Education Programme started in 2015 with Te Kura O Maketu as a way in which our society could interact more with the local community and share our knowledge with the next generation. Thanks to foundation sponsors Western Bay of Plenty District Council.
Aerial spraying of pampas in Waihi Harbour wetland.
MOWS education programme expanded to include Paengaroa Primary.
A new dune was planted along the base of the cliffs at Newdicks Beach.
MOWS education programme extended to include Te Puke Primary. Sponsors incude WBOPDC, Maketu Rotary and Te Puke Kiwicoast Lions as well as product sponsors – BOPRC, Authors Julian Fitter and Angie Belcher.
Several training courses were run to allow some of our members to gain qualifications, and take on more skilled work for MOWS. Thanks to Drive Zone for courses in Chainsaw and LUV use, and to Eddie Biesiek for running the Approved Handler of Agrichemicals.
We are always on the lookout for new volunteers to help us in our continuing work. Please see our ‘Volunteer‘ page for information on how to get involved.