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South Wairarapa Rebus Club

May 15, 2019 May 2019 No Comments

Onoke Spit Restoration

Guest speakers at the South Wairarapa Rebus club meeting on 22 March 2019 were Denise and Dougal MacKenzie of Te Rakau Birding talking about the restoration and ongoing care of indigenous flora and fauna on Onoke Spit. Pest eradication and planting are permanent concerns.

On the following Friday the Club organised a bus trip for 21 members and friends to visit the MacKenzies on site at Te Rakau, followed by lunch at Lake Ferry Hotel and a visit to Burnside Church. 

Unfortunately, Te Rakau’s normal access to the spit was under water so walking on the spit was not possible. Instead the bus was guided along raised access ways allowing us to see the developing Pounui lagoons, wetland area and associated pest-trapping with dry feet. We then went to Ocean Beach and enjoyed some time on that wild shore. We were disappointed to miss out on seeing Caspian terns and Royal spoonbills but dotterel were in evidence on the driftwood-littered beach. 

From time to time, especially in late summer with reduced river flows, the Onoke channel is blocked with gravel deposited by the sea during a southerly blow. The level of the water in Lake Onoke, fed by the Wairarapa catchment, rises. In pre-European times a substantial area of land was flooded and many eels were harvested by local Maori. In later years European farmers would clear a channel using horse power. Some 10 to 20 years ago there was a bulldozer kept full-time at Lake Ferry for immediate intervention when thought necessary. Now they use diggers assisted by water power. Most of the removal of gravel is done by the accumulated water in Lake Onoke running through a digger-made initial narrow channel, making it wider and deeper. During our visit the channel was closed, the water level was rising but there was no work yet going on to create an outlet because the level hadn’t risen enough to ensure that once opened it would stay open. 

The fish and chips in a basket at Lake Ferry were up to our high expectations. There was time to admire the fine historic photographs on display and to try to decipher the old sign showing charges for people, animals and wagons on the ferry that gives the settlement its name. On our return journey to Featherston and Greytown we stopped briefly at Burnside Church, a charming little building dating from 1875. Since 1967 the building has been used by all denominations for special occasions. It is one of the very few churches that permit registered marriage celebrants other than clergy to officiate at wedding services.

The South Wairarapa Rebus Club meets in the South Wairarapa Working Men’s Club on the fourth Friday of each month. Anyone in the retired age group who may be interested in our activities is welcome to come along to a meeting as a visitor.  Please contact David Woodhams 306 8319.

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