"Maungatautari volcano rises like a beacon above the Waikato just south of Lake Karapiro. Itís 3200 hectare forested peak and flanks are surrounded by a sea of pastoral farmland, and embraced on two sides by the Waikato River. Maungatautari is comprised of Maori land and private land together with public-owned Scenic Reserve administered by Waipa District Council.
Today the mountain, like much of forested mainland New Zealand, is almost silent of bird-life. Maungatautari is and has been more than just a home for diversity of native plants, birds and animals. The concern for the people of Maungatautari, Maori and European, is that while its silhouette is seemingly unchanging, the same cannot be said for its interior.
The Vision isÖ To remove forever, introduced mammalian pests and predators from Maungatautari and restore to the forest a healthy diversity of indigenous plants and animals not seen in our lifetime. So many tracks around and within the mountain forest have been formed. With the sunlight now reaching these areas, pasture weeds have been arriving by wind and birds so we need the Maungatautari Planting Team to become the Maungatautari Weeding Team over the non-planting period. A Weed File has been compiled is used to give our team information on identification of the weeds on the mountain and the best ways of removing them.
Two years ago I decided that this voluntary work was what I needed and at first began a small group of keen gardening people to help pot up native seedlings for sale as funds for the Maungatautari project. Soon we were asked to collect native seedlings from the mountain in order to plant them along the tracks and where the mechanical diggers had scarred the forest.
Many other volunteers joined the team and soon the list reached 43. There are many parts to this team as potting up and plant nurturing suits some people and planting the seedlings suits others. There are about 15 fit and active people who can be called on to assist when planting on the mountain.
During the summer period when planting cannot be undertaken due to the heat and dryness, the Planting Team members were keen to eradicate the many weeds which had arrived. So the Weeding Team began duties, October 2005. Each week a team has been doing this work and is presently slowing down as the planting will be commencing in April.
Although we all realise that this weeding project will need to be ongoing, the outcome we wish to have from this work is to not see masses of pasture weeds spoiling the pristine forest tracks within and around the mountain. Hopefully for the future, these spaces will be taken up with native seedlings growing without weeds hindering their growth.
We found that the collection of the weeds within the fence-line areas, needed to be removed in order to stop them re-sprouting (as in Inkweed!) or shedding their seeds there. So we collected them into plastic bags and then threw them over the fence to be collected and placed onto a tractor/trailer. Then the weeds were taken to a dumping place away from the site and the bags emptied there.
We have been made aware that the bags could contain a mouse and so they were scrupulously checked each time before taken in.
Also when the tractor or vehicle has been used near the fence-line, we were conscious that it needed to be parked well away from the fence-line as any wild cats could attempt to jump onto it and over the fence!
Then recently with Kiwi now in the North and South Enclosures on Maungatautari, we realise that we need to be particularly careful if there has been a need to spray or use a paste on persistent or broken stemmed weeds. So we have learnt a lot in the short period of this weeding project.
Having publicity to encourage new members to join our team, we have now volunteers from Te Awamutu, Pukeatua, Arapuni, Rotorangi and Karapiro as well as Cambridge and Hamilton. So we are a team of volunteers from all around the mountain."