When a 73-lot subdivision on a swampy wasteland at Onerahi failed, neighbours acted decisively - at least as decisively as the slow-turning wheels of bureaucracy allowed.

Eight years after Jeremy and Pamela Busck bought the scrub-covered 10.5ha between Ngaio St and Raumati Cres in a mortgagee sale, the thriving Dragonfly Springs wetland area is a good news environmental story the couple will share with the public at an open day on Sunday .

Once known in the neighbourhood for its open drains, being an illegal rubbish dump, flood prone and "a thoroughfare for burglars", the area is now a nature reserve with a drainage and pond system that purifies run-off and supports numerous bird species, Mrs Busck said.

A metre below sea level at places, the land was unsuitable for the pocket handkerchief-sized section proposal which folded in 2002, Mrs Busk said.


In 2004, after unsuccessfully urging Whangarei District Council to buy the land, the couple bought it themselves - only an hour or so before it went to auction, Mrs Busck said.

In 2008, they began the financially and physically demanding job of creating the Dragonfly Springs Wetland Sanctuary, with its three large freshwater ponds and thousands of native plants that Mrs Busck raised from seedlings.

The mangrove-fringed, zoned "residential one" land contains at least 14 freshwater springs and also collects run-off from the Church St ridge in a system installed by the Buscks.

Stormwater had previously "been piped straight into the tide," Mrs Busck said.

Help developing Dragonfly Springs has come through community-involved working bees and Corrections Department community hours.

"We intend giving it away in some kind of community trust but are not at that point yet," Mrs Busck said. "When we do pass it on we want it to be self-sustaining."

To minimise vandalism, stray animals and predators, but particularly for safety reasons, Dragonfly Springs has a surrounding 2m high fence and locked gates.

Access to Sunday's event, from 12pm to 4pm, is via the gates at the end of Raumati Cres.