While many of us are currently experiencing cabin fever, staying at home during alert level 4, it's good to remember Taranaki has some great outdoor places we will be able to visit again once the situation changes.
And while we can't be there in person right now, we can take a stroll through words and pictures and enjoy some of nature's beauty.
Located 12km east of Eltham sits the Rotokare Scenic Reserve.
Home to many native flora and fauna, the reserve is a 230 hectare forested hill country area with a 17.8 hectare lake.
The lake and wetlands at Rotokare is the largest within a fenced sanctuary. The different types of habitats make the sanctuary suitable for many types of species.
Sanctuary manager Simon Collins has been working at the sanctuary for 11 years. He says he started working at the sanctuary because of the "inclusive community visions".
"Our purpose as an organisation is about providing opportunities for the community and ecological restoration. Both are equally important. By returning species lost and providing opportunities for the community it achieves our fundamental objectives."
The reserve is surrounded by a 2m high and 8.2km long predator proof fence. The fence has been constructed along the ridge lines to reduce the likelihood of a falling tree breaking the fence and causing pests to be able to enter the sanctuary.
There are currently 20-30 regular volunteers and 30-40 irregular volunteers. There are also a lot of people who help with various activities. This includes school classes, local business coming as a team and individuals. Volunteers contribute 9000-10,000 hours a year.
"Within the sanctuary, the healthy native forest provides a safe-haven for many rare and threatened indigenous species."
The sanctuary is pest free and has eradicated 12 species of introduced mammalian pests/predators from the sanctuary.
"The result of that has been an introduced pest-free environment. It is an example of NZ bush before pest/predators were introduced."
The reserve is home is to kiwi, ruru/morepork, kārearea/NZ falcon, tūī, korimako/bellbird, kereru/wood pigeon, riroriro/grey warbler, miromiro/tomtit, tieke/saddleback, popokatea/whitehead and toutouwai/North Island robin, plus a variety of other species.
The lake edge habitat consists of raupō, flax, and pukatea/kahikatea swamp forest – home to a mātātā/fernbird, puweto/spotless crake, tuna,eels and banded kōkopu.
The reserve has also reintroduced many native species.
"Species once rare before the establishment of the sanctuary are now thriving and regionally extinct species have been returned to Taranaki. These include Saddleback/tieke, stitchbird/hihi and the pateke/ brown teal."
The reserve first started in the late 19th century. In 2004, the Rotokare Scenic Reserve Trust was started after concern for the decline for the Reserve. As the community began to care for the area, the attitudes towards the Reserve changed.
"The outcomes of this aspirational community project shows what the community can achieve for future generations. You get to know your environment and learn about the indigenous wildlife."
The Rotokare Scenic Reserve Trust is a community-led conservation-based charitable trust. Initially, the trust aimed to raise $30,000 for pest control but within four years, the predator proof fence was funded and built.
The trust fundraises to keep the sanctuary going. Any money made goes straight back into the reserve.
"We rely on grants, sponsorships and donations. We undertake all sorts of fundraising activities. We work hard to earn an income to sustain the project and we work hard to make sure every dollar contributed by the community is spent wisely.
"We absolutely rely on support of the community to continue to deliver the project. Long-term sustainability is a key goal for the trust, something that we can't do without the ongoing support of the community."
The trust has achieved a number of recreational and conservation achievements such as: upgrading the existing walkway and developing a new ridge-top walkway, high-level biodiversity restoration, the total eradication of 12 pests species within the fence, establishing a environmental education programme and on-site facilities, the reintroduction of native species that were rare or extinct from that area and the re-vegetation of 12.5 hectares of land gifted by neighbouring land owners.
The on-site facilities include a manager's residence, an on-site education centre, a bush classroom, private courtyards for school and group visits and picnic tables along the edge of the lake, a 4km walkway along the lake (600m and is suitable for wheelchairs), restrooms and a wetland boardwalk with a floating viewing platform over the lake (suitable for wheelchairs).
"This has been a really successful project. The passion and determination of people involved is truly humbling. Opportunity to be a part of this community lead project is truly unique; This project is significant at a national level in terms of achievements."
The education programme was developed in 2009 and teaches students about the sanctuary. The curriculum suits students from early ages all the way up to Year 13.
Night tours are also available periodically at the reserve which gives the community a different perspective of the sanctuary.
The mission of the trust is to achieve the highest level of restoration, protection, and enhancement of the indigenous ecosystem at Rotokare Scenic Reserve and to actively involve the community and provide the best opportunities for education, recreation, and inspiration within the bounds of environmental protection.
Rotokare Scenic Reserve thrives on voluntary support. They hold a Youth Ambassador Programme which is an extension to the education and volunteer programmes.
"The most important stakeholders in the project are yet to be born. A legacy for future generations is what we aspire to provide."