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PEKAPEKA – A CHAMPION WETLAND!

Where?
10km drive south of Hastings alongside SH2. 
 
What you will find
Parking area, picnic areas and 9 educational/explanatory signs.  Pathways and board walks offer easy strolls of 5-10 minutes each, including to a derelict maimai.  The lookout is at the top of a rise, 2 mins walk.  
 
Please note:
There are no toilets and visitors will appreciate it when you take your rubbish away with you. 
Pekapeka is also closed to the public in the first weekend of May each year for game bird shooting (in return the shooters have provided great assistance with the enhancement work).
The odour (hydrogen sulphide) emitted from wetlands in the height of summer is actually a positive in an environmental sense and occurs when nutrient, in the form of gases, are being released from the wetland biomass into the atmosphere as opposed to staying in the waterway.
 
 
Pekapeka is one of the few remaining large wetlands of its type (palustrine) in Hawke’s Bay. It has a high biodiversity value and is ranked as the second most valuable wetland, ecologically, in Hawke’s Bay by the Department of Conservation. The wetland has substantial cultural significance and since 1997, Pekapeka Wetland has had waahi tapu status under the Historic Places Act 1993.
 
Pekapeka is a remnant of a much larger wetland complex and today covers 98 ha. Tree roots have been found beneath the peat that suggests the wetland was once forested – more than 10,000 years ago. The wetland is 4.5km long, only 800m wide at its widest point but the perimeter is 11.3km.
 
Protected bird species that you might look for are -  NZ Dabchick, Little Black Shag, Little Shag, White Faced Heron, Australasian Bittern, Mute Swan, Grey Teal, Marsh Crake, Spotless Crake, Pied Stilt, Shining Cuckoo, Morepork, Kingfisher, Welcome Swallow, North Island fantail, Silvereye, Black Shag and Australian Harrier.
 
There are over 82 species of plants within the wetland (both native and introduced, including weed species).
 
For many years Pekapeka was used as an illegal dump and amongst other things the site has the remains of the demolished Pacific and Mayfair Hotels! Some of the rubble and reinforcing rods have been purposely left exposed to serve as a stark reminder of how we have treated wetlands in the past.
 
The origin of the name Pekapeka is not known, but here are some possibilities. Pekapeka can be a nocturnal bat, known to roost in caves in the area; it can be a toy windmill made of flax leaf; a greenstone ornament; the lateral arm of a fish spreader or of a catching spear; a hook for hanging a spear, or a plant; a plait of flax string; even a carpet shark…or a starfish. You decide!
 
Restoration timeline
The primary aims of the restoration are to enhance the wetlands environmental and ecological function. For example, its capacity to effectively regulate adverse weather events ie flooding and increase the natural biodiversity that resides in and around the wetland.
 
1998 -  HBRC implemented the first five year management plan to enhance the wetland . One of the first tasks was to tackle the willow problem which had infested over 75% and then fence the perimeter  and acquire ownership or lease of any areas that were not already in council ownership.
2005 - HBRC installed weir in the central section of the wetland to regulate water levels to provide better habitats. 
2008 - an animal pest control programme was successful in reducing predators.
2009-2010 - pathways, boardwalks and interpretation signs installed.  HBRC had a vision to develop a section of the wetland for education and public enjoyment. Although ecological enhancement and public use could be a contradiction, here it has been an essential part of the restoration process by maintaining long term support and providing important educational values.  The public have been involved where possible - iwi, schools, rotary clubs, game-bird shooters, community groups, funding organisations and government agencies and authorities. A New Zealand Grants Board Environment & Heritage fund for significant funding to provided significant funding for developing an interpretation site, boardwalk and pathway.

The railway on the eastern side caused a bit of a problem until a decision was made to incorporate it into the design of the car park using railway materials.  Because of the highway and railway, wildlife in the wetland are truly “acclimatised” to disturbance and loud noise so are quite happy to be observed from the viewing areas without taking flight!

History
The Poukawa catchment was a major source of eels and birdlife for Maori. Three pa sites are immediately adjacent to the wetland and were used for eel catching and barter.

When British settlers arrived the land was sold as the Pekapeka block and was owned by the Campbell family. It became known by them as Horonui, but Pakipaki Maori refered to the Campbells as “the people of Pekapeka”, never the people at “Horonui”.

Through drainage, irrigation, grazing and introduction of exotic plants the wetland came to be in a very degraded state. In the 1960’s it was estimated that the wetland had 5% coverage of willows, but by 1986 this had increased to an estimated 60%. The impact that this was having on the wetland was that it was essentially choking and drying out the wetland.

In 1998, an ecologist, Dr Geoff Walls, undertook the first independent monitoring report. He reported that: Willow cover had expanded markedly since the previous 1986 estimate of 60%;  Many previous raupo areas had become totally dominated by willow; The area of previous open water had shrunk by 50%; Areas of sedges and rushes had shrunk by well over 50%

This serious decline led HBRC to implement management plans to restore and manage the wetland to ensure its ecological and cultural values are maintained as well as its usefulness in flood control.

Teachers
A resource kit is available from HBRC on request - contact our Education Advisor.

Signage at Pekapeka -

Carpark Welcome Panel (1.9Mb pdf)
Department of Conservation (670.1Kb pdf)
Fish & Game (425.1Kb pdf)
History and Progress (1.8Mb pdf)
Maori History (1.2Mb pdf)
Pekapeka – Nature’s Filter (528.5Kb pdf)
The Natural Setting (526.9Kb pdf)
The New Face of Pekapeka (654.7Kb pdf)
What is a Wetland? (608.6Kb pdf)

 

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