A STREAM that starts in Shelley Road is the subject of a makeover.
Residents in the street are looking to develop a community stream plan after an inspirational visit to a property near the start of the stream.
In January around 30 interested Shelley Road residents went to Nigel Marshall and Sue Ngawati Osborne’s property which extends along close to a kilometre of the stream.
Sue and Nigel have been working on planting their section of the stream for the past 30 years, and the results are clear.
“This used to be a goat farm. Everything had been munched so we started from scratch,” says Sue.
“There were some black walnut trees, tasmanian blackwoods and some old kanuka down by the stream. We set out to connect with nature.”
The couple had a good knowledge of the native flora to plant at the stream edge and became very excited when they saw a couple of the rare giant native kokopu in the stream.
“We set out to protect them and to encourage more and correct the imbalance here and provide a habitat for the fish.”
The biggest and first thing they did was take out the willows, which have a shallow rooting system and spread out discouraging the creation of a natural stream flow.
“The remnants of the willows are now apartments for the local kingfishers.”
In 2015 Nigel and Sue were successful in getting Gisborne District Council heritage funding of $20,000 to help with planting the stream banks, and to fence off an area they are reverting to natives.
The hill above the stream was planted in pines and once they had been harvested they noticed an increase in the volume of water in the waterway.
The stream starts on Te Kuri Station, possibly from a natural spring. It goes into Mangapapa Stream, which feeds into the Taruheru River, and eventually out to sea.
“It’s our ‘pie in the sky’ outcome to get everybody on the stream, from the start to the sea, involved.”
They have seen many positive aspects of the extensive stream planting over the 500-800 metres of stream on their property
“It is awesome — the stream has restored really well. Now it contains all the water and in the dry summer months, it never dries out. Before we planted, it would dry out every year.
“As you wander along the stream you can see deep pools and little running waterfalls.”
There are both short fin and long fin eels in the stream too, but not freshwater koura (eel) or mussels.
“By planting more habitat-friendly natives along the stream, we can create a healthy ecosystem for all species.”
Also by planting and providing shade, there is opportunity for the native kokopu (whitebait) to complete their life cycle before spawning in lower sections of river.
Nigel says the stream has dropped by about a metre into its natural path and has a better capacity to handle large amounts of water during big rain events.
He says the Department of Conservation and the Gisborne District Council have both been most helpful with the release of bugs to eat tradescantia (wandering willy) and pest traps to help with all the conservation work on the property.
Street kaitiaki (guardian)Carol Ford said there were a lot of people in the road who already tended to their part of the stream.
“It is likely this is more for aesthetic reasons than because of an ecological understanding but there is no doubt there is increasing awareness and concern about all the waterways in New Zealand.”
Ms Ford helped to organise the open afternoon at Nigel and Sue’s property.
“The idea was to raise people’s awareness, gather information and find out about any funding options through the council to help get the stream planted.”
She was delighted with the turnout of more than 30 people including families from both sides of the street.
“There is some new housing at one end of the street and a number of families front the stream. Some are not New Zealanders by birth and may not be familiar with the plants that grow naturally beside streams in the New Zealand bush.”
She says people were able to see and talk about the different aspects of the stream and take that back home to apply to their portion of the stream in order to encourage native fish into the stream if they wish.,
“It also invigorated a sense of neighbourhood among the residents of the street.”
When she bought her section seven years ago, the stream was referred to by the council as a stormwater drain and the sides were vigorously cleared by council contractors using weedeaters, four times a year.
“It was a bit of a scorched earth policy. Now, the language has changed and it is viewed as a stream.”
The first place for anyone to start with a stream that runs through their back yard is to get rid of the weeds.
Tradescantia, also known as wandering willie or wandering jew, blackberry and honeysuckle are three major weeds prolific in the Whataupoko area.
Ms Ford hopes the awareness will extend further than just people who border the stream.
“For example if someone on Barkers Hill Road washes their boat with hot soapy water, that ends up in the stream which is clearly not the best for its health or the health of any creatures that call it home.”
A second neighbourhood gathering was held to look at the smaller suburban garden and to set up a process for sharing information.
“Concerns were raised by some people who have non natives planted but they should not fear — there is no compulsion to plant exclusively natives.”
Also some plants are not helpful. Ms Ford planted ladder fern before finding out it was an invasive species.
“As was explained to me, it looks great at the moment, but it reproduces so quickly and gets readily out of control. So as soon as you are not there to keep it under control, it takes over and becomes a problem.
“There is also considerable interest in enhancing the planting around the stream at the start of the street which has the potential to be a little project of its own.”
Ms Ford has set up a resource book with stream planting information given to her by council representatives and leaves this in her letterbox for others in the street to access.
She is interested in formalising a neighbourhood group to progress an application to the council and/or the Department of Conservation for funding to help with the planting.