Ōpārara Estuary to get a huge boost


The Ōpārara river system is one of Karamea’s gems. Subtropical rainforest to teaming rivermouth, there are very few inhabited places in the world that retain such a diverse ecology. The Ōpārara Basin is well recognised for this and has had significant work put in to protect its values. Now, the estuary is about to get a huge boost with two grants, from Lotteries Environment and Heritage Trust and the DOC Community Conservation Fund.

The estuary is home to a wide variety of birds, including at-risk endemic and migratory shorebirds such as bittern, kōtuku, godwits and mātātā/fernbirds. It also has habitat for indigenous fish (in particular whitebait species such as inanga) and likely habitat for speckled skinks. On top of this, we’ve been playing and gathering together there since the early days of Karamea’s settlement. 

The Ōpārara Source to Sea Sanctuary concept was created by passionate locals in 2014, and has been an evolving cast of people willing to chip in and make good things happen for the Ōpārara. This has included rock walls, a picnic table and a beautiful information board describing what we have here and the Sanctuary it can be. Clean Streams Karamea has supported planting at the estuary over the last few years and has secured these recent grants with the intention of the project being community-led. Some of our strongest leaders will be our youth, as Karamea Area School and the local homeschoolers are going to be using the project to apply their maths, science, design and communication skills.

Over the next 3 years, these grants will allow us to restore a coastal forest around the estuary, buffering the adjacent farmland from storm surges, and outcompeting the gorse forest that currently covers much of the estuary edge. Pockets of pīngao, spinifex and sand coprosma will be re-established on the spit, and the creeks and drains that feed the river will get support for more riparian planting. There is also funding for predator monitoring and control. 

If you’d like to be involved or have any questions, please get in touch with Sacha at sacha.healey@bdc.govt.nz