The Friends of the Ōtaki River environmental volunteer group officially opened the new boardwalk at the Ōtaki River estuary recently, unveiling the name plaque and setting off on the first official walkover.
“The boardwalk idea came forward at a meeting of the Friends,” Fotor president Max Lutz told those gathered for the opening. They had cleared out most of the silver poplars, gorse, pampas, scrub, weeds and rubbish, replanting with flaxes and masses of hardy natives suited to the harsh salt marsh environment.
The cleared drains allowed for improved whitebait spawning, but those same drains created their own problem, how to cross them. Ōtaki concrete firm, Stresscrete came to the party with two concrete bridges spanning the drain crossings, but now they were bridges to nowhere. That’s when member, Margaret Bayston suggested a boardwalk through the area.
In partnership with Greater Wellington Regional Council and a budget of $10,000, the volunteer group received great support from several local businesses to assist with the physical work and materials needed. “At times while the volunteers were working on clearing and laying the pathways they were working up to their knees in mud,” Mr Lutz said.
Architect Rob Kofoed drew up the necessary plans, Roy Winterburn of Advance Landscapes, brought in his digger and cleared the track through the scrub, Winstone’s Aggregates supplied the gravel for the paths, Farmlands the timber for the boardwalks, Fotor member, Eric Matthews made the sign the new walkway. Three generations of the Howell family, senior Stewart Howell a contractor, son Craig from Koastal Kerb and youngest grandson Nathan who has his own wood and garden-landscape business, were involved too. “Dad (Craig) had said he’d like to be involved with the Friends of the (Ōtaki) River,” Nathan told those at the opening, Koastal Kerb provided the funding for the project. Nathan along with Lance Tatham, from GWRC Ōtaki depot and Max Lutz cut the ribbon unveiling the new sign and declaring the boardwalk open.
Friends and visitors then set off along the boardwalk on the official first walkover. With two bridge crossings, a couple of sections of gravelled path the remainder is on safety non-skid boardwalk, at times only 20 centimetres above the watery marshland.
“Back in 2002 we had a dream, a concept plan (for this area) and a $30,000 budget. Today we celebrate a significant milestone,” Mr Lutz said.
Following the formal walk along the boardwalk everyone was invited to join in a barbecue lunch.
The boardwalk meanders through part of 40 acres of saltmarsh heading towards the river and lagoon. What was once an area of gorse, pampas, silver poplars and “heaps and heaps of rubbish” is now “masses” of flaxes and other native plants suited to the marshy ground and the cleared drains which allow for improved whitebait spawning. A large part of the area has been replanted with coastal natives – flaxes, trees, grasses and shrubs in several areas. With the harsh coastal environment the survival rate of some plantings has been affected by high tides, flooding and salt winds.
With all the environmental planting projects completed by the Fotor members to date, we can now add the newly opened Greenfields picnic area just north of the boardwalk, the fish friendly floodgates, Kapiti Lookout viewing platform, Rangiuru footbridge and the installation of the Ash August memorial seat, all to the south end of Kapiti Lane. There is also installing bollards and cables on the western side of the lagoon, to protect marsh areas.
Many of these projects have been possible through funding from the Philipp Family Foundation, Rotary Club of Ōtaki and Quinn Buildings and Roofing.
The next major project for the Fotor group will be the construction of an information kiosk on the river walk to Chrystalls Bend. This will be built in partnership with GWRC and Kapiti Coast District Council. The group has also received funding to employ Michael O’Callaghan one day a week to assist with planning and some of the ongoing work along the river corridor. Together the members put in between 130-150 volunteer hours per week, with nursery work, plantings and maintenance.