At the 2015 LGNZ EXCELLENCE Awards.
Air New Zealand EXCELLENCE Award for Environmental Impact.
Highly Commended: Grey District Council, in association with West Coast Regional Council and the Department of Conservation – Cobden Aromahana Sanctuary and Recreation Area
Acting on requests from the Cobden Community, Grey District Council undertook to restore and rehabilitate the flood-prone Cobden Wetlands and to turn a nearby former landfill site into a recreational area for the whole community.
The total area under restoration covers 63 hectares. Cobden Island consists almost entirely of tidal estuary, beaches and braided channels. It is a spawning site for inanga (whitebait) and home to 17 threatened bird species. The nearby former landfill site lies between the Cobden Lagoon and the sea.
Currently half completed, extensive work to date has included development of a landscape plan and ecological assessment, planting of 6500 native plants and scores of rats and stoats being caught, creating a safer environment for the bird species inhabiting the wetlands. There is also increased evidence of inanga spawning.
A track has been built to provide access to a bird hide, and interpretation panels on bird species and whitebait have been installed.
Grey District Council and the Department of Conservation (DoC) put considerable effort into the development of partnerships to ensure the success of the project. Two years ago, when the first channels were excavated, DoC was doing 90 percent of the restoration work. However, 90 percent is now being carried out by volunteers from at least seven different organisations.
Community support has been so strong that locals have formed an incorporated society which will oversee the completion of the project and long-term maintenance of the area. The project is expected to continue for a further three years.
Judges praised the scheme for its “great vision, great community engagement and excellent remediation”.
LGNZ president Lawrence Yule said, “This is an important initiative for Greymouth and the West Coast and, once completed, will be a valuable space for locals and visitors, with both environmental and economic benefits.”
This article was first published in the August 2015 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.