Motu Scenic Reserve is a 20 hectare kahikatea wetland forest located just past Motu township in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.
The reserve is unique as it contains: an oxbow wetland (crescent-shaped lake lying alongside a winding river) and an original kahikatea swamp forest, one of only two percent left in New Zealand.
The remainder of the reserve is alluvial forest with a low canopy of houhere (lacebark) and wheki-ponga (tree fern). Kahikatea (white pine) emerge 30 metres above the canopy. Motu Scenic Reserve is also habitat for aquatic bird species and provides valuable habitat for weka and common bush birds. Visitors can access the reserve, although there are no formal walking tracks.
In 1913 the government approved 70 acres of native bush and lagoon for Motu Scenic Reserve now managed by the Department of Conservation. Visitors from the Motu Hotel often went boating on the lake in the early 1900s when the hotel was at its most popular.
A photo taken by well known local photographer William Crawford in the 1900s features the oxbow lake with Christian Hansen rowing his children and James Whinray (nearby Whinray Scenic Reserve is named after).
DoC undertakes trapping, weed control and restoration planting at the reserve.
The trapping programme targets rats, mustelids and possums. While weed control focuses on Japanese honeysuckle, old man’s beard, English ivy, Japanese walnut and various willow species. Visitors can learn more about problem weeds in the reserve from an information panel installed next to the lake.
Sponsorship from Matua Wines has enabled restoration planting of manuka, flax, karamu, kahikatea and koromiko on the grassy margins of the reserve.
Motu Scenic Reserve is 47km from Opotiki, and 87km from Gisborne, turn off at Matawai on the Motu Road. At the township keep left, cross the bridge over the Motu River and the entrance to the reserve is located on the corner of Motu Road and Phillips Road. Nearby places are the Whinray Scenic Reserve Track and Pakihi Track.For more information check out doc.govt.nz
Long seen as a logical extension of Forest & Bird’s Matuku Reserve, the property adjacent to Habitat Te Henga became available after many years.
Although a large donation was received nine years ago, from a generous benefactor, with the rising cost of Auckland property more fundraising was needed, and three of us from the Native Restoration Trust and the Waitakere branch of Forest & Bird started on a roller coaster ride to reach the $2 million target.
The 37ha property has a maturing mixed podocarp Kauri forest and a wetland edge on the Waitakere River. This wetland aspect has even more importance, with the development of the Habitat Te Henga project and its effective predator control, leading to pateke releases over the last two years.
The forested portion was seen as the last link in the ecological chain of the corridor from the predator controlled Ark in the Park and its buffer zone to Makutu Reserve.
Tomtit, not seen for over 30 years since the purchase of the reserve, have become established. Robins, whiteheads, and even a kokako, from those translocated to the Arc have made their way through. But it isn’t just one way traffic – pateke have dispersed upriver and when the importance of the river’s edge as a foraging and commuting corridor for long-tailed bats is added, the value of the property to conservation is irrefutable.
With the wetland, the biggest in the Auckland region with no public access, creating easy access to a river edge and wetland could give further value, and a house has scope to accommodate the many overseas and local students studying at Makutu or Arc in the Park. A small barn has potential as a wetland education and display centre.
We obviously just had to succeed!
Many trials and tribulations later, and many disappointments, when organisations we felt would be supportive were not, we came to the stage where we had sufficient support to make an offer that has been conditionally accepted. That support included some loans, which we are confident of repaying over several months. Purchasing the property is just the first step as the house will undoubtedly need some changes to make is suitable as a field base and student accommodation. The barn, likewise, will morph more slowly as a wetland display centre, and the 2 – 3 ha of buttercup filled
paddocks will require planning and plating to return them to alluvial sedge land and forest.
Fundraising will be ongoing and our Givealittle Appeal ran to October 27, but more support will be welcomed at any time. (See www.Givealittle.co.nz/project/makutulink)
An important part of our presentation to raise funds has been an excellent video shot from a drone operated by local drone company, X-craft. Experimenting with drones to receive the multiple signals from our transmittercarrying pateke has been one part of X-craft’s assistance,
but this easier task of videoing shows aspects of our wetland and forest that make this area a special one for conservation and education. The video can be seen on www.matukulink.kiwi.