Ararira Wetland Community Restoration Project

Living Water | Department of Conservation | Fonterra | Waihora Ellesmere Trust | Lincoln University | Enviroschools
Planting native trees is one of the most popular conservation activities in Aotearoa New Zealand. How might a landscape be designed so the ways the act of planting can create lasting connections between people and place?
Here at Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere we have sought to celebrate the people whose efforts restore a wetland on public conservation lands. The design’s patterned form speaks of inaka (whitebait), tuna (long-finned eel) and a lazy wetland river, responding to the unique sense of place. It provides a place for outdoor classroom for local schools, and future opportunities for mahinga kai practices. In this design and its implementation, a forest of plants and a forest of people are both celebrated.

Reimagining the potential of the site

Yarrs Flat Reserve is a large wetland at the mouth of the Ararira River on the northern margin of Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere. Although degraded ecologically, the site has enormous potential for involving the local community.

Renaming the site

The first step to unlocking the potential of the site has been a renaming process in which the river’s name is changed from ‘LII’ to ‘Ararira’. Supporting this, the site is referred to as ‘Ararira Wetland’ rather than ‘Yarrs Flat’, with a logo that expresses the site, and a colour palette tying back to our project partners’ branding.

Designing the site

The project presented opportunities to both remediate the site and also focus on generating social value. The master plan developed in partnership partnership with Living Water Trust, Department of Conservation, and Waihora Ellesmere Trust spatial plan for the site works to support the social and place-based goal of the proposal.

Growing the site

The project aims to foster connections with local people (as families, groups and as individuals) by facilitating ongoing planting days and learning activities that support the long-term restoration of the wetland. The master plan focuses on a community-led implementation from setting out the site, hosting planting days and events to organising regular visits to the site to ensure successful establishment of planting.

Fostering the site

The planting at Ararira Wetland has been successfully established. Each additional planting day and event brings more people together to restore this once degraded wetland into a communal space of socialising, learning, and discovery.

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