Community ownership ‘best’ course

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The Otipua Wetland has been given to the community.
The Timaru District Council officially received ownership of the 19ha wetland property from the Otipua Wetland Charitable Trust on July 1.
The area was once described as a wasteland and is now a place for the community to visit and enjoy the type of wetland found along the Canterbury coastline 200 years ago.
It was originally bought by the trust in 1997 and developed through initiatives by regional authorities, community organisations and the public in a combined effort to restore the area to its former beauty.
Thousands of volunteer hours have been spent replanting and carving out tracks for pedestrians and cyclists.
Otipua Wetland Charitable Trust chairman Ken Linscott said the trustees had decided the handover was ‘‘the best proposition for the long-term development and management of the wetland project’’.
‘‘Ownership by the community via the council offers the best course of protection,’’ he said.
Mr Linscott, who has been the trust chairman for four years, said many interest groups and individuals had been involved in preserving the area.
‘‘It’s an attraction that could be helpful in the development of the south end of Timaru,’’ he said.
In terms of attracting visitors, there were some issues with the wetland’s visibility from neighbouring State Highway 1 and the trust was also looking at parking options, he said.
‘‘It’s important that all interest groups work together. We are continuing our work.
‘‘The trust did its job, like a big group of friends did the work, and it really belongs to the community.’’
The trust now wanted the wetland to be maintained according to the founding ideas of the project and to serve as community resource.
‘‘We want its point of difference to be maintained within the original covenant. It’s an educational and recreational place. It’s important as an attraction for Timaru’s development.’’
A 1994 Canterbury Regional Council document relating to the management of the wetland said there had been ‘‘problems’’ with neighbouring Saltwater Creek ‘‘extending back over several generations’’.
About $600,000 has been raised for the project so far and, with assistance from sponsors, nearly 3km of tracks have been completed and 4ha of lake constructed.
A bridge and new boundary fence have been built and five visitor information signs erected. The land is protected in perpetuity under the Reserves Act.
Thousands of flax plants, cabbage trees and tussock and other swampland plants have been planted.
Timaru District Council parks manager Bill Steans said staff were looking forward to working with the trust.
‘‘Both organisations are keen to see the Otipua Wetland continue to develop, not only for the environment, but also for education and the enjoyment of all,’’ Mr Steans said.
‘‘The Timaru District Council recognises the value of the biodiversity on site and the benefit to the environment.’’