Tourist volunteers helping at wetland

Volunteers from all over the world are helping return Sinclair Wetland to a mostly weed and pest-free ecological wonderland.

For the past 12 months, part-time co-ordinator Glen Riley has been concentrating on getting the 315ha wetland, owned by Ngai Tahu, back into shape.

Plugging into the growing volunteer tourism market as well as connecting with community and school groups meant he had a workforce the wetland could not otherwise afford.

As the wetland, which was protected by a QEII covenant, had an education centre and accommodation on site, people could stay while they helped out.

''We've had 11,000 volunteer hours this year. That's massive. It's been a real success.''

The workers, from mainly European countries and Australia, have pitched in to help get on top of the weeds that had invaded the wetland and helped with the extensive pest trapping network.

So far 11 weasels, 31 stoats, 10 ferrets, three feral cats and 35 possums had been caught.

''They muck in, learn a lot and seem to love it.''

It made a better environment for the many wetland species which made their home there, including fern birds, long and short-fin eels, giant kokopu (galaxiid) and native ducks, and it helped attract new species such as the royal spoonbill.

Now the wetland was in better shape, Mr Riley was starting to look to the future and developing the facilities so more people were aware of the amazing and rare resource that was on their doorstep.

The existing facilities were built in the 1980s and not much had been done since, he said.

Designs for boardwalks and improvements including a new plant nursery were in the works.

The aim was to focus on a message of living sustainably by introducing improvements such as solar panels and composting toilets.

More immediately, thanks to a grant from the Mahinerangi Catchment Fund, they were about to start fencing off the farmland part of the property, which was leased out, from the wetlands itself, he said.

''That will really enhance the wetland as we've had issues with stock getting in, defecation, and dying in the waterway.''

Mr Riley was looking forward to the challenges ahead.



Sinclair Wetland


• 40km south Dunedin on Taieri Plain.

• 315ha privately owned wetland.

• Farm bought by Horrie Sinclair in 1960 and reverted to wetland.

• Protected by Queen Elizabeth II National Trust Open Space Covenant.

• 60 species of bird live or visit the wetland.

• Now privately owned by Ngai Tahu.


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