Residents of a Rangitīkei holiday spot are now taking an organised and long-term interest in their Koitiata Domain Recreation Reserve.
It's a stretch of land adjoining Turakina Beach and the Koitiata settlement, 8km from State Highway 3. It's often windy, and the high water table makes it wet in unexpected places.
Jo Anson co-ordinates the Koitiata Wetlands Recreation Project Group of about 20 residents. It meets on Fridays when it gets help from students on Land Based Training's pest control course, based at Te Poho o Tuariki in Marton.
Since October, the group has held 10 working bees to weed the sandy stretch of land between houses and beach.
Removing weeds like pink ragwort and willow was phase one of the project, Anson said. Planting and a walking track would follow.
In September, the group got the support of the Koitiata Residents' Committee, and access to $1000 for equipment and registrations for the upcoming Coastal Restoration Trust conference in Whanganui.
It aims to improve and preserve the ecology of an area of wetland 1km long and about 200m wide to protect its biodiversity and make it accessible and enjoyable.
The land is owned by the Conservation Department and administered by Rangitīkei District Council.
In the past, people have dumped rubbish there. However, Anson expects the dumping to stop as the group updates residents about what's happening in the reserve.
"When people know about the area that we are trying to deal with, they will be respectful about it," she said.
Past planting work to prevent sand being blown into the village has paid off and pest control began in March 2018. Since then, four cats, four ferrets, 92 hedgehogs, 45 rats and 22 stoats have been caught in 25 traps around the village.
A walking-only track is to extend from Teone St and will be usable in all weather. At present it has standing water on it in places.
Residents' committee chairman Keith Gray is talking with the Horizons and Rangitīkei councils about whether the conversion of nearby land to an irrigated dairy farm has made it wetter. The extra water makes parts of the Koitiata Campground too soggy sometimes.
Anson has enlisted plenty of help, from Rangitīkei District Council and Horizons Regional Council, Land Based Training and the Rangitīkei Environment Group (REG). She also wants to involve Chris Shenton, Ngā Wairiki-Ngāti Apa's kaitiaki taiao (land and water manager).
Jo Edmonds works for REG on six-month summer contracts, mainly to control old man's beard. She comes to the Friday work days to spray weeds and share her knowledge.
"As well as chemical warfare I do a lot of hand cutting, and can show them different techniques."
She's delighted to be involved with the project and advised the group to start with a small area it would be able to maintain.
"They came out of the gate all excitable. It's really easy, on a big project, to get lost," she said.
Edmonds has sprayed blackberry, gorse, pink ragwort and willows. She has to be careful not to spray too much, creating a fire hazard in dead vegetation, or denuding the dunes and allowing them to blow inland.
Most Fridays, Land Based Training tutor Paul Smith brings students from his pest control course. Work at the reserve is the practical project for their course.