Wekaweka Valley saved by people power

Duane Major (left) and Adam Gard’ner, who ran a similar campaign to buy Awaroa Beach last year, lent their support to the Wekaweka Valley campaign. Photo supplied.

People power has driven a campaign to save a piece of New Zealand’s natural heritage, with donations flooding in to buy 112 hectares of regenerating native forest in Northland.

The campaign was run by the Native Forest Restoration Trust who turned to the public to raise the $185,000 needed to buy the property. And the public responded, exceeding the target in just a couple of months.

Up for sale by private owners, the trust identified the property as a significant piece of native forest and set out to purchase it and protect it forever as a reserve.

The property, which lies in the Wekaweka Valley, contains the last remaining fragment of its kind in its catchment area and is home to many native species of wildlife, including the North Island brown kiwi.

“It was an ambitious target,” says Sandy Crichton, trust manager, “but it’s such an important piece of land for our native flora and fauna that we knew we had to protect it.”

The trust appealed to their supporters for help to purchase the property and were overwhelmed by the response. “We’re only a small charity, relatively speaking,” explains Sandy, “but the support we received when we started talking to people about the property was mind-blowing.”

However, despite the success of the appeal to their supporters, the trust needed to cast the net wider to reach the full target.

“Not only have existing supporters been incredibly generous, we’ve also had amazing support from people we’ve never been in contact with before.

“The campaign has been shared hundreds of times. I think this shows how important it is to people that we protect these areas of natural heritage before it’s too late,” says Sandy.

"We’ve seen before how passionate Kiwis are about keeping New Zealand’s natural environment protected and accessible to everyone, particularly with the campaign run to buy Awaroa Beach last year.

"The men behind that campaign, Adam Gard’ner and Duane Major, who were recently honoured at Parliament with the 2016 Walking Access Champion award, also put their support behind this campaign.

“We spoke to Adam and Duane about the campaign and asked if they’d be willing to help. They were very supportive and got in touch with the people who had donated to help buy Awaroa Beach. Again, we had a great response, raising over $40,000 through the Givealittle page we set up.”

The comments left by donors on the Givealittle page confirmed the trust’s feeling that people would get behind the campaign if they knew about it. Many people stated how important it was to them to protect the forest for the sake of future generations.

“The property in Wekaweka Valley is really special, with lots of native species. We plan to turn it into a protected reserve, which anyone can visit and enjoy, and the great thing is that the work that we do will help ensure it grows and flourishes for many years to come,” says Sandy.

The trust expects to take ownership of the property within the next couple of weeks, on the completion of the paperwork. After that, another little slice of New Zealand’s natural heritage will be protected forever, thanks to generous Kiwis across the country.

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