Volunteers are being invited to Ōkārito from 4-9 April to build on last year’s efforts which attracted 90 ‘good buggers’ from all over the country.
Last year Okarito Kayaks had a lot of time on their hands due to the COVID-19 downturn, so they decided to make the most of it and clear gorse and weeds around Ōkārito Lagoon.
Barry Hughes, co-owner of Okarito Kayaks, put the word out about GorseBusters, hoping for a few volunteers. What he got instead was nationwide media coverage, generous donations of supplies from major businesses, and 90 volunteers from across the country who contributed 335 volunteer days.
Approximately 19km of shoreline was treated for gorse and weeds, 26,000 gorse plants treated, and 360 litres of rubbish cleared.
Ōkārito Lagoon is a national treasure - one of the few places left with unbroken sea to glacier-topped mountain views. The wetland is nationally significant for iconic bird species like the Kōtuku/White Heron.
“Left uncontrolled, weeds like gorse will gradually spread around the lagoon, eventually dominating the wetland fringe, destroying whitebait breeding grounds, limiting wading bird habitat, and degrading the pristine environment visitors from all over the world come to see,” Hughes says.
“GorseBusters is a simple working bee at heart – not paid for or run by Government; this is Kiwis working together to look after the backyard.”
Glacier Country has been one of the hardest hit areas from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Visitor spending in Glacier Country has fallen from $39.7m pre-COVID to just $12.4m in 2021, according to data from Development West Coast (DWC).
“GorseBusters provides a social opportunity for struggling communities to get out and do something positive for the backyard that supports and sustains them,” Hughes says.
The people of Ōkārito, population 38, have opened their hearts, homes, and pantries to those who come to help.
Hughes says locals are offering up their baches to accommodate volunteers coming from all over the country, farmers are dropping off local food and veggie gardens are being raided.
“We’ll be looking to provide some 1,100 meals over the week, so any local kai is huge.”
A lot of local West Coast business have provided support such as Okarito Sandfly Repellent, Katabatic Design/West Coast Printing, Nimmo Photography, NZIcescapes, Runacres Insurance, Silver Fern Farms, Farmlands and Westland Milk Products.
Small business across the country are also helping out, including Yum Granola, Raglan Food Co., and Pics’s Peanut Butter.
“DWC is giving great support and encouragement once again, Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio support the mahi, and DOC are providing tools to do the job.”
“Omicron and traffic light settings mean all volunteers will need vaccine passes to get involved, but we have plans in place to keep everyone healthy, and still get on with our lives and just do something positive.”
“If you’re keen on getting involved, or supporting this mahi in some way, get in touch with us on www.okarito.co.nz/gorsebusters,” Hughes said.