"Raroa Reserve is located on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula, on Stanmore Bay Road. The grounds of the original Whangaparaoa Primary School for the period 1902 to 1962, the reserve is now owned by the Department of Conservation. The site slopes to the east of Stanmore Bay Road, and is 8,498m2 in size. It is too wet and unstable for urban development and has been a neglected space for decades.
Led by the Hibiscus Coast Branch of Forest & Bird, this site has been developed into a Community restoration project. Other groups involved in the effort are Arkles Bay Foodbank Garden, Girl Guides, Scouts, Rotary Club of Whangaparaoa, and local schools.
The site has been surveyed for native plants, birds, insects and reptiles. A significant population of the ornate skink (cyclodina ornata) has been found, and there is a wide variety of native plants. Unfortunately there is also a wide variety and abundance of weeds, with more than 20 weed species growing on parts of the site, the most common being:
Sweet Pea shrub
Watsonia and other wild lillies
One of the first tasks in the project was to remove large volumes of rubbish, both organic and inorganic, which had been dumped over the years of neglect. Neighbours were then educated about the damage that dumped garden rubbish was doing to the reserve in terms of the spread of weeds, and the situation has improved considerably.
The large exotic trees on the site, mostly macrocarpa with a few gum trees and pines, will be removed by a qualified contractor once sufficient funds have been raised. In the mean time the focus for volunteers is on the control and removal of the smaller weed species from the site. Some areas of the site have been adopted by various volunteers, while others involved have taken on a particular weed species as their particular focus.
The site is gradually being developed with the planting of native species which has been sourced locally, many raised from seed by project participants. A small native plant nursery has been established on the site. While planting and other activities continue at Raroa, it is important that invasive weeds are removed before they get too well established on the site, or the new trees planted will not have a chance to thrive. Thus the focus for volunteers has moved to managing the removal of weed species from the site. A small but loyal group meet on the site on the first Saturday every month for a working bee, with some spending time between sessions checking up on “their” patches. Every few months a larger activity is organised, sometimes in conjunction with Weedbusters, to draw attention to the site and bring in other helpers. A mailbox drop is undertaken to advertise these events, and a sausage sizzle rewards the workers.
School groups, the Kiwi Conservation Club and the Guides and Scouts are now becoming involved with their own areas of responsibility on the site, to work on at times that suit those groups.
Raroa Reserve is a local contribution to the grand vision of the North-West Wildlink, a corridor of habitats and refuges for wildlife from the Hauraki Gulf Islands, Whangaparaoa, rural Rodney forest fragments, North Shore urban bush escarpments and reserves, and the Waitakere City Green Network including the Waitakere Ranges and foothills.
Although many exotic weeds have moved into the site, largely from surrounding gardens, a great variety of indigenous plant species and birdlife is also present, and with hard work and encouragement will soon dominate."
Hibiscus Coast Forest & Bird recognise the size of this project but have made a long-term commitment of time, effort and money to make it happen. With contributions from community partners and other interested groups, Raroa Reserve will become a community asset for us all to enjoy.