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Help out with restoration work at the Raumanukas Reserve

Why not combine a few hours in a peaceful and relaxing environment with some gentle exercise helping to make Motueka more beautiful? One way of doing that is to pitch in at a regular working bee at the Raumanukas Reserve.

This area, at the place where the first European settlers disembarked (there's a shabby memorial plaque at the exact spot), was abused for many years as an industrial and community dump, but is now being restored to its foreshore and wetland roots with the planting of thousands of suitable native trees.

You get there via Staples Street. Carry on right down to its end, where it winds around to the car park that many walkers use for their estuary walk. (More detail and map here). You turn left where the main track heads off to the right, and along the short track you can not only note the planting work but also wander down to the "beaches" - small sandy coves set off apart from each other by trees, each with an outlook to the inlet.

These spots are great for a small picnic, a stroll looking for treasures, or just a peaceful place to look at nature, water, shifting tides and estuary birds. Apart from the occasional light plane overhead, it is almost totally quiet and detached.

Working bee dates and times are advertised, including on this website's events calendar. Currently (September 2010) these are the third Saturday and Monday morning of each month, but at the time of writing, with a surplus of trees needed to be planted soon, it's every Monday morning. You'll be met at the end of the carpark, where the reserve starts, by someone to guide you to the area being planted that day.

Working bees may not sound like much fun, but this one is something different. For a start, it's pretty easy work and you go at your own pace, while taking time also to chat to others there and perhaps make a few new acquaintances and hear a few yarns. Then there's the refreshments. The organisers, Beth and Tony Bryant, generously put on a cuppa and various goodies for morning tea and a BBQ for lunch. Now that's what I call pro-active marketing. (See the photo below of morning tea.)

The Bryants have taken this project on as their own dedication to Motueka. Beth in particular is a fervant proponent of native planting and getting the right plants for the particular environment, and she will happily tell you about the benefits of this approach, so you can also use the morning to learn plenty and broaden your understanding.

Beth decides which plants go where, and they supply all the tools you need (brought onsite by trailer each working bee), and I quickly found that using some simple techniques it took only a few minutes for each plant to go in. Scoop out a hole about 20cm deep in the sandy gravel, drop in the seedling with a scoop of manure, slip over the plastic cover and sink three bamboo sticks to hold it up.

The site was a kumera garden when Europeans first settled, so it got the name "The Kumeras", but Maori prefer the name Raumanukas. For a while it housed an early abbatoir, and later was a general rubbish dump, including car bodies etc. Talleys used the foreshore in that inlet to dump scallop shells, which can be seen on many of the beaches around the inlet.

The site is now DoC land, and in September 2008 Beth and Tony, under the umbrella of Forest & Bird (they are the local committee), they received funds for the restoration work. Beth acknowledges the expert advice of DoC staff Roger Gaskell and Shannell Courtenay on what is best to plant where.

Beth says the funding will run out officially in a few months, but there are enough plants already to ensure the project continues for some time yet. Over 2000 trees were planted in the first year and they're up over the 3000 mark now. Beth herself has grown about 1000 seedlings to add to the input, meaning that funds for manure, sticks and protective bags will last well into 2011.

Another round of funding would see the project run on further, but Beth does not enjoy the organisation and accounting side of the project so hopes someone could volunteer their time and skills in office work to help out and continue the work. In the meantime, I know I'll keep dropping in on the working bees whenever I can, as much for my own benefit as to help out. Contact Beth at 528 5212.

If you have a favourite thing you like to do - a walking place, attraction, quiet spot - so the rest of us can check it out and enjoy it too, please tell us about it here.