Guardians of Paroa volunteers bring exponential returns for nature

Department of Conservation —  26/06/2021

By Lauren Kelley (Community Ranger) and Sue Bateup (Volunteering Advisor)

The Guardians of Paroa are a small group of volunteers protecting and restoring nature around the Paroa lagoon near Greymouth. Together they have turned $10,000 of investment from the DOC Community Fund into $82,739 worth of volunteer hours and donations over the past three years.

If you have biked or walked along the section of the West Coast Wilderness Trail just south of Greymouth, you will have had a close-up view of the impressive work that the Guardians of Paroa have accomplished over the past 14 years.

A newly planted area between the lagoon and the West Coast Wilderness Trail cycleway. These trees will grow up to provide shelter and food for native birds and will eventually out-compete the weeds. 📷: Lauren Kelley

Faced with the threat of large-scale commercial gravel extraction at the Paroa beach and lagoon in 2006, the local community rallied together to fight, and so began the Guardians of Paroa Taramakau Coastal Area Trust.

After the resource consent was declined the Trust, mostly comprised of neighbours living near the lagoon, decided to continue working together but with a new goal – restoring the special natural and scenic values of their big backyard.

Fourteen years on, their mahi of weeding, trapping, species protection and sourcing and growing locally sourced native seedlings and planting them continues.

Trust members Fran Cohen and Melissa Lohr are both Department of Conservation/Te Papa Atawhai staff – yet another example of our staff contributing to conservation by volunteering in their own time.

Octogenarian Bill Johnson has been a member of the Trust since its inception. Along with others, including the local Paroa school, Bill builds predator trap boxes and penguin nest boxes which are used to protect kororā/little blue penguins from stoats, rats and dogs.

Trap box made by Paroa School pupils – complete with safety warning! 📷: Trish Creagh

The thousands of hours Bill has spent clearing scrub for the nest boxes, trapping predators and constantly checking the beach conditions to make sure erosion doesn’t stop the penguins accessing their homes, show the dedication of these volunteers to conservation.

The Trust engages with the wider community through public working bees, educational events and activities with local school groups.

Three years ago, they received a $10,000 DOC Community Fund grant and turned this investment into $82,739 worth of volunteer hours, donations and other grants.

A constant challenge to the restoration around the lagoon is the very invasive Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) which grows rapidly, overtaking native shrubs and small trees. In 2019, the Trust partnered with Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research on a bio control project made possible by a MBIE Curious Minds grant of $20,000. This involved using the Honshū white admiral butterfly (Limenitis glorifica) as a new biological control agent to help control the Japanese honeysuckle.

Japanese honeysuckle flowering at the lagoon. The Trust anticipates that the many Honshū caterpillars will one day knock back this pesky weed. 📷: Lauren Kelley

The local Paroa School was also involved, firstly in learning about this real-world science project, and then by helping release over 1000 caterpillars onto the honeysuckle growing on the other side of the school fence.

It can take up to 3-5 years to see any change while the butterfly population grows and spreads out, but the school kids, Trust members and other locals in the community are keeping an eye out for signs of honeysuckle being munched up by the little green caterpillars.

Paroa Lagoon looking inland from the coast. It is an estuarine environment home to inanga/whitebait, mullet, tuna/eels and sea run trout. 📷: Fran Cohen

It is difficult to see the beautiful lagoon and surrounds from a vehicle, so when you next travel the road between Greymouth and Hokitika, stop and park next to the Paroa Pub and take a walk along the tracks by the lagoon. You will see the results of the mahi that the Guardians of Paroa Taramakau Coastal Area Trust has been progressing for the past 14 years, which has had a huge boost from the DOC Community Fund investment.

Follow updates from the Guardians of Paroa on their Facebook Page.

National Volunteer Week 2021

National Volunteer Week runs from the 20 – 26 June 2021. It’s a chance to celebrate and thank all the volunteers and community groups who take action for conservation. We’ll be sharing stories throughout the week about the amazing work of those volunteers who generously give to ensure Papatūānuku thrives.

One response to Guardians of Paroa volunteers bring exponential returns for nature

    Carole Frances Long 26/06/2021 at 9:11 pm

    Inspiring work and commitment from a great community – great to see the school doing such excellent work with the backing of the local people and especially the DOC staff volunteering their time – well done!