Ōpārara Source to Sea

Oparara Source to Sea, is a collaboration with the local school and community to restore the riparian margin around the beautiful Oparara Estuary, as a contribution to the wider Oparara Source to Sea Project. The concept—to link the protected Oparara Basin with the estuary in a corridor of unique and highly valuable biodiversity—was dreamed up by the community in 2014. The Clean Streams team’s estuary plantings will replace the forest of gorse with colonising native trees and plants, so that the current spray maintenance program can be replaced with thriving native forest, creating homes for skinks and nesting places for birds, including kōtuku, royal spoonbills and bitterns. Plantings along the short section of river between the edge of the National Park and the estuary will also protect from run-off from adjacent farms and enhance indigenous habitat for aquatic life, including spawning grounds for inanga. The Clean Streams team are acting as kaitiakitanga o te wai, working with farmers, community groups and local school students to clean waterways through planting native species, restoring habitat for aquatic species in our wetlands, streams, rivers and estuaries, and improving the biodiversity of both land and water.


The full estuary margin restoration is planned to occur over 5-7 years (it began in 2020), with ongoing school monitoring and maintenance as part of their Education Outside the Classroom curriculum. The gorse removal and planting programme will be conducted in staged phases, so that earlier results can be studied by the students as they engage with each year’s planning and planting programmes. An access path will be developed at each stage, which over the long-term will allow the community to engage with the full Reserve area, as well as provide for maintenance needs, and the trapping programme. Signage has already been erected at the Reserve to let visitors know what is occurring there and why.


The estimated 50,000 plants required for the project will be grown from eco-sourced seed, propagated locally at the Clean Streams Karamea nursery. An estimated minimum 60% of the seed will come from the Reserve itself, with the remainder sourced within 50 km. These plants will be a large restoration grade and be planted out when they are 40-60 cm tall. Some mature gorse will be left to provide shelter and partial shade. CSK’s professional planting crew will work alongside the school students, community and KMTT Flora project contractors to ensure the plants are planted following best practice.


The southern end of the inland edge, closest to the estuary outlet, will be densely planted with hardy colonising species, including Muehlenbeckia complexa, Phormium tenax, Corynocarpus laevigatus, Cordyline australis and a mix of Coprosma species (robusta, propinqua, acerosa). This will be the focus of years 1-2, with planting beginning at the southern end and moving north. These plants can tolerate the environmental and soil conditions and compete well with gorse.


The northern end is less exposed to coastal forces including tidal salinity and thus can support a wider range of species. In years 2-3, the colonising plants mix will also include Myrsine australis, Veronica salicifolia and Melicytus ramiflorus. As the colonising species become established, Sophora microphylla, Podocarpus totara, Dacrycarpus dacrydioides and Rhopalostylis sapida will be planted in protected pockets nearer the northern end of the area. These species will make up 5% of the overall plantings.

On the sand spit, clusters of Ficinia spiralis (pingao), Coprosma acerosa, Spinifex seriseus, Calystegia soldanella and Tetragonia tetragonoides will be planted. These will be mapped in GPS and their location shared with anyone engaged in the ongoing spray programme on the spit, so plants are not sprayed.


A trap line of 6 traps with a monitoring camera will be established along the inland edge of the estuary. The monitoring data will be shared with the school, homeschool group and local volunteers, and a schedule of trap maintenance established between these groups.