Member Spotlight

The Okere Project's environmental warriors

A goat, a jar of peanut butter and a communal knife are among the weapons employed by Okere Falls' growing band of environmental warriors.

The Okere Project brings local businesses, householders and holidaymakers together to trap animal pests, clear invasive plants and restore birdlife and native flora in their community.

Since the project was launched last year more than 400 pests have been nabbed; mostly rats, as well as a few mice and possums.

The project focuses on 136ha of land around the Kaituna River - a hub for white water rafters and kayakers – and adjacent Lake Rotoiti.

Kaituna Cascades rafting company office manager Emma Shanley, who heads the community endeavour, has nudged her own bosses and fellow employees to establish and maintain 10 traps on their properties.

She also helped the tourism business concoct a homemade, ecologically-sound cleaning solution so they could ditch the chemical mix they were using to clean customers' wetsuits and footwear.

"And I told them to get rid of the plastic cups we were using for water, so now we have compostable ones," she said.

"It's not a hard sell - my bosses are pretty responsive, pretty awesome, and they definitely get very excited when they find something in a trap."

Shanley created a community website and helped several fellow residents source funding so like-minded Okere Falls tourism businesses and locals could collectively work on environmental projects under the Okere Project banner.

One such initiative had parked a glass jar of peanut butter and a knife at the entrance to a nearby reserve so residents could use the sandwich spread to re-bait rat traps while out walking.

"It's pretty cool to be able to walk with a purpose, getting rid of pests, increasing the birdlife."

Screenshot 25

Kevin the lawn mower/pet goat.

Late last year Kaituna Cascades adopted an eco-friendly lawn mower named Kevin.

The pet rescue goat readily devours blackberry and has made a considerable dent in the pest vines that were suffocating native trees.

Shanley pointed out the animal acquired her name prior to a visit by a veterinarian.

"She turned out to be a girl but we decided to stick with Kevin.

"I think the next thing we'll do is a compost bin because lots of tourists seem to empty fruit and veges out of their cars here."

Shanley's employers continued to clear blackberry and gorse between rafting runs and they had started to plant native trees along their road frontage.

She was keen to provide more information about the project to tourists, to mention it during rafting tours and provide signage and donation boxes.

Other businesses had offered sponsorship to buy and maintain traps and provided staff volunteers.

"Some of us might do a trapline before or after work, or come in on our day off. I live across the road from work and I love it here. All our friends live here, within walking distance, and it's a beautiful area so it's taking care of something you love."