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Meet the volunteers around Kauri Point and Chatswood

Visit to Kauri Point Centennial Park & Chatswood Reserve

In early November, Restoration Advisor Nic Charlton visited the volunteers of Kauri Point Centennial Park & Chatswood Reserve to learn about the area, the people involved, and the restoration activities taking place. Read on to learn more about his visit.

Ever gone for a walk around one of Kaipātiki’s reserves and wondered who keeps the tracks neat and tidy? Well, if you’ve walked the tracks around Kauri Point Centennial Park or Chatswood reserve you would have been helped by the efforts of the volunteers in that area. One of their many activities is helping to keep tracks clear, removing or reporting windfall, trimming plants away from the track edge, and clearing drains and channels to keep the tracks looking their best. They also pick up rubbish, an all too common activity, that has been disposed of carelessly. I visited them to find out more.

I arrive at Onetaunga Road in Chatswood, opposite a sign confirming this to be Kauri Point Centennial Park, and find several people wearing high-vis vests and carrying a few tools, in front of a green wall of native trees.

Sign at the Onetaunga Road entrance to Kauri Point Centennial Park

I’ve come to meet some of the amazing volunteers and supporters of Kauri Point Centennial Park & Chatswood Reserve (KPCPCR) - a group which has been around since 1989. Brian, David R, Robert, Peter, and David S are all eager to start work, but I delay them a bit longer to ask them a few questions about themselves and the work they do here.

Volunteers Brian, David Roberts, Robert, Peter, and David Skarrats about to start work in the reserve

First of all I speak to Peter who, although not as physically mobile as he used to be, still plays an important role in maintaining the 5 kauri dieback cleaning stations around the reserves, refilling the disinfectant and checking brushes and equipment are in good working order. He also tops up the park brochures at entrances, which disappear quickly on a sunny weekend.

Peter joined the group in 1990, 1 yr after it formed. The land which is now Kauri Point Centennial Park was purchased by Birkenhead City Council with the assistance of Queen Elizabeth II National Trust. A condition was that a volunteer management committee be formed to help care for the park, maintain access and ensure restoration continued. They celebrated their 30th anniversary in 2019. In the early days, they would have around 20 people helping out, but now, with people’s busy lives, they get between 3 and 7 at each working bee (can you spare some time and make a real difference to this area and this group? See the end of this article).

After speaking to Peter I carry on into the reserve walking down the steps from Onetaunga Road, past manuka and kanuka trees, pollinators buzzing between the little white flowers, with incredible views across the harbour.

View from the top of the track in Kauri Point Centennial Park bordered by flowering manuka and kanuka

Further on, stepping down well constructed and maintained steps, I come across Brian sitting on a sloping bank in the bush, cutting down some pest plants - the common ones he tells me are Watsonia, Agapanthus, wild ginger, and Montbretia, amongst others. Brian is a bit of a plant expert, being a long-time member of the Auckland Botanical Society, and quickly reels off several scientific names for plants around him, including the weed he’s currently dealing with, known as hakea - a less well-known environmental weed, introduced from Australia. I thank Brian for the new information (I’ll be looking out for hakea from now on too), before moving on further down the track.

Continuing down, vegetation turning more dense, ponga, tree ferns, cabbage tree, providing green all around, and the sound of running water appearing out of the bush. Further on, round corners and tight bends (this is feeling quite adventurous) starting to look up the steep sides of the valley now from below. Round another bend and I come across another high-vis vest - it’s David Roberts. David is the Chair of KPCPCR who arranges these working bees, and contributes to the care of this precious natural area. Ever prepared and organised, he always brings his pack full of tools and a first aid kit. His jobs today include maintaining access for people visiting the reserves by clearing plants overhanging tracks and removing windfall. David also mentions some of the many people who have served on the committee or working bee teams over the years. Several foundation members are still very much involved. David mentions Neil C who has been attending working bees longer than himself. In addition there are newer volunteers who have joined over the last five years. It’s always a pleasure talking to David and his enthusiasm for protection of native environments always shines through.

View through the vegetation of Kendalls Bay from a curved boardwalk

Unfortunately I can’t talk to him all day, so I’m off again emerging onto a curvy boardwalk (who doesn’t love a boardwalk?), with the vegetation changing with more water-dependent plants, looking almost tropical in the sun, and out onto Kendall Bay - a real gem, white sand, perfect place to sit and soak it all in - before heading up the other side, listening to the birds as I go. Although I couldn’t find them this time I know that David S and Robert are hard at work in the reserve somewhere. David S kindly sent me his summary of the group and the work that he and others do:

"This small group of volunteers meets on alternate Mondays, ably led by David Roberts. We carry out track maintenance and bush trimming and clear windfalls that we can manage. I seem to have found my niche in drain clearance, a frequently required task. The work we do seems to be well appreciated by the locals who use the various tracks that are available in Kauri Point Centennial Park & Chatswood Reserve. This gives us a genuine feeling of satisfaction for the time and effort spent keeping the track network open. It’s good to be looking forward to the spring and summer seasons when the work involved is even more satisfying."

Thank you David.

I should also mention that it isn’t just native planting and pest plant removal the group deals with - the birds in the area are protected by an active pest animal group, who contribute to the chew card campaign to monitor invasive mammal numbers (good results this year) and maintain five pest animal control lines across the area. And it feels like the bird life is thriving. It’s not far from here that kākā have been spotted - a coincidence? - The group also works closely with neighbouring Chelsea Estate Heritage Park, cooperating and sharing information, having a greater combined impact on the native bush and coastal environment.

I continue walking the track from Kendall Bay towards Chatswood Reserve, through the trees and ponga, eventually reaching the top of the headland with views of the Harbour Bridge and the Auckland City skyline. The track continues up and down, over roots and steps, finally exiting before making my way home, feeling invigorated by the efforts shown by the volunteers and the beautiful bush areas they help maintain.

by Nic Charlton (PFK Restoration Advisor) with help from David Roberts, Peter Dodd and David Skarratts.

How can you help?

They are always looking for more volunteers to help out. You can help in so many ways:

  • Attend a working bee - either their regular monthly one (see below) or a one-off event

  • Help maintain kauri dieback stations or leaflets

  • Distributing flyers to residents in the area to raise awareness

  • Help report pest plants

  • Host a trap or bait station at your property

They also arrange one-off events, so look out for these on our Facebook pages or in the newsletter.

When do they meet? Working bees are on...

alternate Monday’s at 10am, plus occasional one-off events

Where are they?

Kauri Point Centennial Park & Chatswood Reserves

To see a map and more information, check out:

View from the top of Kauri Point Centennial Park across the harbour

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