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Community group making great strides near the capital

Near the capital city, the Makara and Ohariu streams flow through one of the biggest rural catchments in Wellington into the Makara Estuary. For the last decade, The Makaracarpas, a grass-roots community group, has worked to increase biodiversity and improve water quality in the area.

This year, the Makaracarpas are working with 18 landowners in the community to achieve their individual goals for their sites. “People have all different reasons for riparian planting”, explains the group’s catchment co-ordinator Louise Askin. 

“Some are more focused on water quality and biodiversity, others are more concerned about eroding stream banks eating into their property or paddocks, and still others about flooding. There’s a whole range of drivers that get people involved.”

Landowners, supported by the Makaracarpas, receive access to a holistic range of support. In a practical sense, this includes funding for plants and fencing, site prep, plant protectors and site maintenance, the costs of which are split 50/50 between the owners and the community group: hugely helpful, given the often prohibitive costs of riparian planting projects in rural areas.

In terms of knowledge, the Makaracarpas work to provide locals with the advice, information and tools they need for successful riparian management. Sometimes this comes from within the community, with many farmers now seasoned planters who understand how to get the most out of the harsh windy, salty, and hilly environment, and are able to share this know-how with others.

“Some of our farmers have been at this work for a while, and the Makaracarpas are working alongside  this existing momentum”, notes Louise. The group sees themselves as facilitators first and foremost, networking with relevant expertise, local nurseries, and securing funding through supporters such as Greater Wellington Regional Council and Meridian. 

The group has made excellent progress over the past decade. Having made significant gains on their initial estuary restoration plan, they have now shifted their focus further up the stream’s catchment. Each year the Makaracarpas coordinate volunteers from the wider community to attend planting days, information sessions and to help with several one-off projects. Their volunteer planting days and their partnerships with local properties have seen over 20,000 plants established around the streams.  

The Makaracarpas are keen to raise awareness throughout New Zealand that many farmers are working towards improving waterways. “We’re doing our bit to change the narrative”, says Louise. “We love to celebrate the community momentum and the work that both farmers and small block owners have achieved in our area.”