Volunteers from all over New Zealand will gather in Ōkārito on March 27th to join the GorseBusting army in their annual battle against gorse, rubbish, and other debris on the shores of Ōkārito Lagoon.
The week-long working bee attracts an eclectic group of volunteers, including city lawyers, rural forestry workers, farmers, and accountants, all of whom give their time to help clear invasive weeds from the biodiverse shoreline of New Zealand's largest unmodified coastal wetland.
Barry Hughes from Okarito Kayaks said, “Hard yakka no doubt, but welcoming locals giving up their baches, fresh home cooking hosted in a beautiful heritage building, and an irreverent schedule of evening entertainment make this possibly the country’s most social, and West-Coast-hospitable, conservation project.”
“Saving the environment needn’t be about wearing a ‘hair shirt’ - volunteers are treated to espresso coffee alongside award-winning breakfast ingredients; local venison is on the menu for dinner with the local brewery helping out with a beer shout.”
The event not only provides the reward of working alongside newly-made lifelong friends for a week in an incredible natural environment but also preserving Kōtuku and Matuku/Bittern feeding grounds and whitebait breeding habitat.
Supported by goods and supplies from dozens of generous businesses from across the country, from the likes of national businesses like PGG Wrightson and Silver Fern Farms, through to local farmers raiding their freezers and the locally-made Ōkārito Sandfly Repellent being provided as essential Health and Sanity equipment - there’s not much left unsupplied to make the most of the volunteer time. Now all GorseBusters trustees are left to organise is a continuation of the incredible dry La Niña summers the West Coast has enjoyed the last few years.
“Our small team of GorseBusting organizers are really stoked to have such good support again this year, to be able to do the work to protect this wonderful environment. We’ve got maybe 85% of our team returning to help us, for a second or third time, from all over the country, and this year being joined by international visitors rolling up their sleeves to look after the places they’ve travelled across the world to come to experience,” Hughes said.
Shortjaw Brewing in Westport is one of the many businesses supporting the event. “Our brewery takes its name from a whitebait species, so anything we can do to help their habitat, the better. We know that the volunteers put a lot of their own time and energy into doing the hard work and to reward them with a couple of beers is the least we can do. To be in a position to support the people and communities, like GorseBusters, that make up our special part of the world is a real honour for us,” said owner Luke Robertson.
“'Our beer is made with 100% NZ ingredients, using all South Island grown hops and malt. We love knowing that people are out there making sure the land and its waterways are in the best possible condition, because it means our beer tastes better.”
Mo Killip is set to return for her third year volunteering as a GorseBuster. “I first came to Ōkārito 35 years ago, and I’ve loved it ever since. I’ve asked to have my ashes scattered at 5 Mile in my will.”
“I come down from Nelson to share this fabulous experience with amazing people who also love this special place. We all know we’re going to be cutting gorse in the mud, and we love it!”
“The food is fantastic, and it feels like a lot of people are supporting us. It’s been wonderful to see how much of an impact we made in the first year, and I’m sure I’ll see even more on my third time as a returning ‘prick’.”
Development West Coast chief executive Heath Milne said, “the GorseBusters project has been a great asset to the region. It positions tourism in South Westland as a sustainable and genuinely beneficial force for good.”
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