Mauao or "the Mount" is an iconic landmark in the Bay of Plenty region at the entrance to the Tauranga Harbour. This extinct volcanic cone attracts tens of thousands of people throughout the year who are keen to walk to the summit (over 200 mtres above sea level) for the spectacular 360 degree view of the region. Over the years, many introduced weed species have established themselves on Mauao and thrived in Tauranga's semi-tropical climate. In April 2007, a Care Group was formed to help with the removal of these invasive weed pests. As Mauao is an iconic landmark, used frequently by many locals, the idea of 'putting something back' was taken up by many. The Mauao Care Group has now grown to over 60 committed individuals who regularly scale all over the mountain to rid it of pest plants.
I have been working with the Mauao Care Group since I began as the Urban Greenspace Coordinator in June 2007. In that time I have been continually impressed with the enthusiasm shown by the volunteers who look after the Mount. They show up for working bees rain, hail or shine and are keen to contribute whereever possible in the steep and often difficult terrain.
The Care Group's main activities include clearing areas of weeds and then replanting in native species, planting to prevent erosion and targeting specific weeds scattered around the Mount. Weeds such as woolly nightshade and tree privet often spring up amongst native bush on steep hillside. Members of the group are only too happy to scale up the hillside and 'deal' to these pests. However the group's activities are not restricted to plants; the volunteers remove rubbish to keep this heavily used landmark clean.
It is hard to think of a specific highlight from my involvement with this group as any sunny day on Mauao spent with other enthusiastic people is enjoyable; but the planting days are a real highlight. Replanting a cleared area with a few native plants is a rewarding activity for all involved.
The long term goal of the group is to rid the Mount of invasive weed species and replant the appropriate areas in native vegetation. A tall order as the reserve is 82 ha, but given the enthusiasm and energy of the volunteers, I believe this will be achievable in the near future.
Nominated by Chris Dench, Urban Greenspace Project Coordinator, Tauranga Environment Centre.