Can you spot the differences between these two photos?
Ōkururu was hit hard by Cyclone Ruby in December 2021, while it hardly made the news our 48ha property lost 29 fences, with only a handful remaining intact. 320mm of rain fell in Goughs Bay in 24 hours, with 270mm in 15 hours of torrential rain.
Determined Passion to Restore Ōkururu
My plan is to restore Ōkururu, to return the beautiful native forest that we once had and to improve it so that it is better than before. To protect the stream and to fence it in a way where the fencing will not be damaged in future storms. To plant the slips with native trees that can hold the soil and the boulders and to think of the whole stream as a living being, where I want to restore the mauri or lifeforce as I restore Okaruru.
Because I have had a dream (literally) of how beautiful this place will be in the future. I have started a give a little page to start (again) by raising some funding we can replace the fencing we’ve lost on the stream and forest, retire more land to conservation and plant native trees where they are most needed https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/banks-peninsula-storm#!
You can help in so many ways, even by liking and SHARING this post it will go a long way to restoring this beautiful place and restore Ōkururu .
Our driveway four weeks later is still covered in three slips and many boulders. Our road has a great hole in it that will take months to fix, so for now access is via quad bike on a steep and slippery track when it rains, to a borrowed car.
But the worst damage of all has been to the biodiversity, we have had great rifts cut through the regenerating forest that is more than 50 years old. Literally ripping mature trees out by their roots and leaving them bleeding sap.
Forest Ripped out by the Roots
These are the types of scenes we see all over our property, trees that held the ground and rocks together, provided habitat for birds and lizards and were so beautiful have just been ripped out right down to the rocks.
In many places there is so little left, just some of the tree roots and they are bleeding sap and rotting. The first thing to recolonise the slips are weeds like blackberry, three weeks afterwards they are fresh and green. It will take a lot of work to remove all of the weeds from the once forested areas to allow regeneration of native forest.
Where the power of the force was not so strong, or where trees were mature much of the debris has been caught and has slowed the force. These rocks are hanging in kanuka trees, but see how high the mud marks are and these rocks are already over my head. Recently I had written this piece for the Akaroa Mail on how great kanuka is, I find that ironic because now I love it even more, I am going to use it to restore Ōkururu.
Every side stream of the valley has been damaged, with forest torn away, and fences and access roads and tracks damaged. The photo below is of the same slip (above) that has grown in size as it’s come down the valley and left a boulder field on the flats, making a huge amount of fencing work to help to protect the stream and biodiversity.
Fencing to Restore Okaruru Biodiversity and Stream Health
It is a huge amount of hard work to create the fencing that is needed to protect biodiversity, we estimate that we have lost over 2km’s of fence in 29 different places. First of all we needed to create access to the property again and so used a small digger to open up the tracks and remove boulders.
Now we can start to fence, nearly four weeks after the storm. It took us three weeks to have all of our stock in paddocks with both fences and water, and before that they were able to wander easily into native forest and drink and poo in the streams, as well as get mixed up with the neighbours cattle and wander into the wilderness.
Today we managed 30m in four hours, putting in the strainer posts to hold the strain, and the gates, and then rescuing broken fencing to realign, meaning we are losing even more land from grazing to forest, land we don’t get an income on through carbon credits. But we are still determined to restore Ōkururu.
It was pleasing today to see small trees like this kowhai tree above ready to grow and become beautiful native forest once stock grazing is removed. Some native trees can establish in pasture but once stock is removed through fencing the diversity of native trees and the rate of growth increases.
The divericating nature of kowhai, where the leaves are small and the branches grow in on each other protect it from the worst of sheep browse, however the outer growing tips do get eaten and this slows down the rate of growth. Once protected from sheep the trees will grow rapidly and other less hardy species will also get a chance to grow.
These tiny seedlings have established in the protection of the gap in an old log, but as soon as sheep are hungry and the seedlings grow they will be nibbled off, notice the bare ground around the log. Fencing is so important for native biodiversity.
Earlier work to Restore Ōkururu in 2021
Earlier this year I applied for a Ministry for the Environment grant to restore Ōkururu, ironically in July they judged that we DID NOT have enough fencing and protection to do, and then Cyclone Ruby gave us every opportunity, we have lost the stream fencing of the entire valley, and so very much of the biodiversity protection that has been worked on for decades.
Luckily through work that I did previously Environment Canterbury has already priortised and recognised Goughs Bay Ōkururu for it’s high biodiversity and stream values and they are aware of the risk this storm poses to the catchment.
Restore Ōkururu, A Stream now at Risk
By the storm removing most of the streamside vegetation 15-50 meters down the whole waterway, this allows for light to penetrate the freshwater environment increasing the risk of bacteria and algae that are not beneficial for the stream. It creates less food and habitat for stream invertebrates and for the fish and other animals that live on bugs. The increased temperature of the water is also not ideal.
With boulders and debris piles and deep stream edges it will make it harder for native trees to recolonise and easier for weeds such as gorse and blackberry. For landmanagers who are already struggling with fencing and storckwater weed control is something that is an extra and this means turning to sprays to kill the weeds, which are indiscriminate and will also kill native seedlings trying to establish.
Nature Needs Help to Heal
All in all this means that ‘nature healing itself’ will take a very long time, and without fencing, won’t happen at all. Restore Ōkururu needs help, and it needs funding. https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/banks-peninsula-storm#! Please consider donating to our cause, and sharing and liking this post.
A Brief History of Ōkururu
Ōkururu / Goughs Bay was once the home of Patupaiarehe or fairy like creatures, giant totara trees used for waka and had no permanent settlement until the Kai Huanga feud of the 1820’s where Ōkururu was used as a refuge from fighting, as the sea was so ruff and the forest so thick it was a very difficult place to access.
A pa (fortification) was established on the sand dunes behind the beach and a kumara garden and pits established. The fishing and food would have been plentiful, with massive fish just offshore, tuna/eel, abundant shell fish, and flocks of wild birds.
It is said that thousands of kaka lived in Ōkururu at the time of European settlement and the name Ōkururu means place of morepork. The last saddleback on Banks Peninsula was shot by a boy with a slingshot that had no school to go to around 1905. There are still little blue penguins and yellow-eyed penguins and there would have once been titi (burrowing petrels) of many species.
When Te Rauparaha started to attack pa on Te Pātaka-o-Rākaihautū (Banks Peninsula) a visionary buried the toanga (treasures) in the waka (canoes) and placed a tapu (taboo) on the bay to protect the greenstone. Te Rauparaha did attack and the pa was destroyed with many people killed.
Families lived on in the bay until eventually they moved to the Onuku settlement near Akaroa.
It was then a de Malmanche mill that was established at the beach, harvesting the giant trees from the plateau land between Goughs Bay and Hickory Bay and bringing the timber down on bullock powered totara skid ways to a mill and then via railway tracks to a cut rock platform to the clippers and onto larger ships.
In 1865 my family the Lelievre’s arrived and took up Castle Station with the upper half of the bay, clearly showing on the early title that there was still thick forest, most of which would have been slashed and burned to clear for cocksfoot and pasture.
In 2021 I applied to the Ministry for the Environment for funding to Regenerate Okaruru, a first go at a catchment wide restoration plan, it failed, but some landowners have worked hard for decades to protect the biodiversity and that trend is growing.
There is much to protect, including a nationally important wetland and whitebait inanga spawning habitat. But the river appears to be at real risk, with much of the stream fencing gone and many dead fish and eels and a thick coating of algae covering the boulders, most streamside vegetation and gentle banks gone.
Goughs Bay is part of the Wildside Project.