When I first put up our hands for a day as a gorsebuster, Barry sent a message explaining that we could start with breakfast, a barista coffee, would be equipped with all the tools, join in for dinner, entertainment and he was “stoked to get local support and participation.” I thought that sounded great.
Barry and Gemma from Ōkārito Kayaks organise, lead, equip, accommodate and feed volunteers for a “Kiwi working bee” week in autumn each year, targeting gorse around the lagoon. Gorse has spread through the waterway, creating a dominant canopy over the low growing, natural lagoon vegetation
My day being a gorsebuster started with that delicious coffee then standing back in awe at the well-oiled organisation going on about me. I felt a bit overwhelmed, but there was someone every step of the way to show us the ropes as we gathered our tools and kitted up. Gemma was watching out for us and gave us a push off in the kayak as we headed off on a lovely paddle across the channel to the island. Experienced hands were there to show us what to do, then we set about our work chopping away. The work required some physical effort, but it was a positive job for the environment and I was in the company of some really interesting people. We chatted away over our work, taking moments between to look around at the spectacular mountains and pristine waterways.
Okārito is home to just a few dozen people, but over 70 species of birds. Once a gold mining town, like so many West Coast settlements, it’s surrounded by ocean, wetlands, cliffs and native forest, with the mighty Southern Alps as a backdrop.
My friend who was there the whole week explained she” felt a sense of achievement, had broadened her horizons and had some wonderful memories, while also benefitting the environment and wildlife, too.”
This is not a week's holiday, nothing like booking an Airbnb for a week somewhere relaxing. It’s an entirely different experience where you find out about the local lifestyle. Gorsebusters' huge success is a testament to the strong relationship between local community and conservation minded people.
Kathryn Ryan from Radio New Zealand talked to Barry.
Photo credit for these three photos: Petr Hlavacek | NZICESCAPES IMAGES
Keen on the outdoors, we often hike around our local area so we can pass on all our knowledge about Westland Tai Poutini National Park.