The official opening of the Rotopiko Pontoon 'Pōito' and lake walkway took place last Wednesday afternoon just south of Ōhaupō off State Highway 3.
The pontoon is a way to get visitors right on to the 10,000-year-old peat lake.
The event was the culmination of many years of work fundraising, planting and designing visitor facilities for Rotopiko Reserve.
The National Wetland Trust led the project, as part of their plans to develop a National Wetland Discovery Centre at the site (on Waipā District Council reserve land).
They have been developing visitor facilities and restoring the Rotopiko wetland reserve since 2011.
A kilometre of boardwalk and gravel tracks were installed to provide all-weather access to the site.
They have also developed and installed a unique interactive discovery trail, with hands-on fun for families.
The support of mana whenua, Ngāti Apakura, who also attended the event, has been greatly appreciated by the trust.
As the crowd of volunteers and other community members made their way through the sanctuary into a spot in the shade, they were welcomed by the iwi.
Te Awamutu Rotary Club and pontoon designers/developers Anchorage Pontoons and Sonia Frimmel of What's the Story? were among the attendees coming to see the climax of their hard work.
Waipā District Council iwi relations adviser Shane Te Ruki in turn replied to the welcoming on behalf of the crowd.
"I could think of nothing better to do on a Wednesday afternoon, on a glorious sunny day, then to hide out in the shade of Tāne within this forest as we take the opportunity to recognise all the hard work done in the years and months to date," said Shane.
"The pontoon is a symbol of that work completed thus far.
"I had to search high and low for the Māori word for a pontoon and in doing so, had to draw upon tradition. We can't have the answer here, we have to look back over our shoulder and look to our ancestors for that answer."
After much thought, Shane named the pontoon "Pōito", referring to the row of floats that hold the fishing net, all working together to hold up the nets and ensure a successful outcome.
National Wetland Trust chairman Don Scarlet spoke, giving his thanks to Ngāti Apakura and the volunteers as well as an overview of the project.
Don also thanked the funders who include Lottery, Trust Waikato, Forest and Bird, WEL Energy and the Stout Trust.
The National Wetland Trust was formed in 1999 to try and turn around the plight of our wetlands, often forgotten as they can be hard to access without boats or boardwalks.
The trust wants to get more people "into wetlands" - in both senses of the word.
If more people could safely visit wetlands and enjoy their visit, the appreciation for them will grow.
Don's words were followed by DoC Waikato community ranger Jane Wheeler, Waipā mayor Jim Mylchreest and National Wetland Trust's executive officer Karen Denyer.
"I'm really pleased to see the advances that have been made around here," said Jim.
"People describe the wetlands as the kidneys of the environment, they filter the water."
Pōito was officially opened by Jim and blessed by Shane and Ngāti Apakura representatives Barney Manaia, Hazel Wander and Bill Harris.
Locals are invited to visit over summer and enjoy the facilities on offer, although it is a wildlife reserve so dogs are not permitted.