Report of our activities to July 2022

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The following 6 points are what the Friends stand for:

  1. We support the protection and restoration of the natural features, biodiversity, and ecological functions of Queen Elizabeth Park’s landscapes.
  2. We support the protection and preservation of the park’s historic features.
  3. We seek to enhance the experiences of people involved in low-impact recreation.
  4. We seek to increase the park’s contribution to the biodiversity of the surrounding landscapes.
  5. We support enhancement of the park’s ecosystem services and carbon sequestration ability.
  6. We seek to influence landowners of surrounding lands, where those lands can contribute to the biodiversity and ecological functions of Queen Elizabeth Park.

Farming, wetlands and access

The most significant issue we have been grappling with over the last 6 years, and is now resolved. It was that Greater Wellington has been farming 60% of QEP and denying public recreation and access to that part of the park for many years. The last farmer used herbicide (followed by insecticide) methods of changing crops. Huge quantities of herbicide were used and from time to time large areas of the park turned brown from dead plants. During that time we managed to wheedle small areas (about 50ha in total) of wetland away from the farmed areas of the park and argued, challenged, (publicly and privately), petitioned etc. GW to terminate farming and allow the public to recreate in all of the park as prescribed in the Reserves Act. During this debate, we realized that the flat areas of QEP were old peat wetlands that Māori had canoed through, were part of what early Europeans had called The Great Swamp, were now drained peat areas and emitted 29 tonnes of greenhouse gasses (GHG) per hectare each year. If they were rewetted, those emissions would cease. There were 85 hectares of peat north of Waterfall Stream and were 65ha of peat south of Waterfall Stream. We of course wanted them rewetted both for climate change reasons and because the Wellington region had less than 3% of its wetlands remaining. This intensified our argument with GW.

We contributed significantly to the Parks Network Plan which came out in our favour. GW intended to retire farming in their parks and to concentrate on restoration. The farmer decided not to pursue his option to farm for a second 5 years period.

After the cessation of the farm licence, GW retired more of the park. It established a low carbon acceleration fund to fund restoration projects on its land. One project that the fund would pay for was rewetting the northern peat area. It also decided to plant 50 additional ha of QEP in native plants. This was certainly helped by the election of new regional in the 2019 elections. At the same meeting approving rewetting, GW decided to farm and allow very limited public access to about 40% of the park and advertised for a farmer. This would have left 65ha of peatlands being drained and farmed for 3 years emitting 1950 tonnes of GHG per year. We campaigned against this and used our previous petition subscriber base to obtain yet more submissions opposing farming. At a subsequent meeting, a proposal to drop the farming option was passed by council leaving the whole park available for recreation and conservation.

There were changes of personnel at GW and in November 2021, the major farm road through the park was opened to walkers, cyclists and horses before Christmas 2021 and more has followed. Our six year battle had ended.

This is our single largest achievement. The park could now operate as classified, as a recreation reserve under the Reserves Act. Access is no longer denied to the public and biodiversity values are not being trashed by farm practices. The park is now the people’s park.

Making peace with GWRC

The six or more years of dispute over the use of the park produced intense conflict with the Parks department of GWRC. In January 2021, we suggested that we heal the rift even though much of what we wanted to achieve had not yet been achieved. A mediated meeting was planned and, because of Covid was delayed. It was finally held in December 2021. We agreed to work together constructively. This was made easier because of the change of personnel in GWRC both in Council and in staff. Relationships continue to improve and environmental suggestions by us are more often than not accepted by GW.

Wellington Community Trust “Inspired by Sanderson” Grant

The Friends applied for a grant from Wellington Community Trust Climate Action fund. The application listed 7 projects related to climate and restoration estimated to cost $276,000. Our application was accepted. The project is growing and now includes another 2 items 8 & 9.

  1. Collect, grow and plant 1000 totara. Fronted by Nga Uruora
  2. Plant a 5-hectare area of farmland in pioneer plants. Fronted by Nga Uruora
  3. Restore a small wetland near Paekakariki and install a plaque to Captain Sanderson (a resident and founder of F&B). Fronted by Nga Uruora and F&B.
  4. Plant a 1-hectare wetland in Whareroa Farm Park. Fronted by Whareroa Guardians
  5. Influence and fund residents of Emerald Glen for the riparian planting of streams on their properties (They flow into QEP). Fronted by Friends of QEP
  6. Rewet and plant the 65 hectares of remaining peat swamp in QEP. Fronted by Friends of QEP
  7. Measure changes in water quality in QEP streams. Fronted by Friends of QEP
  8. Collect, grow and plant a second lot of 1000 totara. Fronted by Nga Uruora
  9. Collect, grow and plant 2000 Akeake for dry sandy areas. Fronted by Nga Uruora

Items 1, 3, 4, 5, 8, and 9 are proceeding well.

Item 2 Plant a 5-hectare area of farmland in pioneer plants has been delayed because the supplier is not able to plant the 5 hectares this year. It is hoped that 1ha will be planted this year and 4ha next year.

Item 6 Rewet and plant the 65 hectares of remaining peat swamp in QEP is waiting on GW to get the necessary consents to undertake the work. We will pay for work on the ground.

Item 7 has failed because we cannot find a leader for the project. Much preparatory work has been done and it is ready to go. It is a small financial project and will not save any carbon.

Future

The trustees are excited and looking forward to the projects that will be undertaken in the park in the near future. We believe and hope that we can be allies of GW in this necessary work.

© Friends of QE Regional Park Kapiti Trust 2022