Okarito GorseBusters back in action

07 April 2022
Ōkārito’s population of 38 has swelled with the influx of volunteers for GorseBusters 2: Return of the Pricks.

The weeklong event has attracted volunteers from across New Zealand tempted by the offer of free accommodation and the opportunity to work in a World Heritage Site.

Organiser Barry ‘Baz’ Hughes, of Okartio Kayaks, said 242 volunteer days had so far been contributed to the project this week – averaging 80-90 volunteers a day.

Baz said many ‘good buggers’ from last year’s working bee have returned to help tackle weeds again.

“Volunteers have been clearing gorse and any other weeds they come across in beautiful warm sunlight, sideways rain and howling winds across the first three days,” Baz said.

The volunteers were building and consolidating on the work done last year before moving onto new grounds around the Ōkārito River delta and Racecourse Island, as well as the start of the popular Trig track.

Last year 90 volunteers from across the country treated approximately 19km of shoreline for gorse and weeds. 26,000 gorse plants were treated, and 360 litres of rubbish cleared.

“This is Kiwis working together to look after the backyard. Lots of support from the region is helping out, making the event possible.”

Locals have offered up their baches to accommodate volunteers, farmers have dropped off local food and veggie gardens have been raided. Businesses across the country have also generously provided support.

“It has been a real community effort,” Baz said.

“Locals have been driving boats to get volunteers up the lagoon, cooking up a storm to keep everyone fed, and cutting and pasting gorse alongside volunteers from Auckland to Invercargill.”

GorseBusters had received more offers of assistance than they could handle with accommodation in the Coastal settlement ‘maxed out.’

Volunteers are in good spirits and are being entertained in evenings by locals giving talks, Mr Baz said.

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.

The inaugural GorseBusters event started last year when 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.

“GorseBusters provides a social opportunity for struggling communities to get out and do something positive for the backyard that supports and sustains them,” Baz said.