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An insight into the Pest Free Tuff Crater group.

Fantastic volunteers Anne, Paul, Dave take a break in the sunshine for a photo.

Pest plant coordinator Nic Charlton spoke to volunteers working in Tuff Crater.

Tuff Crater is tucked beside the motorway in Northcote, but don’t let that put you off visiting. It’s a beautiful area full of native plants and wildlife, but it wasn't always that way. It has taken dedication from volunteers to turn it around over the years and get rid of the introduced pest mammals and weeds that still threaten our beautiful environment.

Forest & Bird began restoration work at Tuff Crater 20 years ago as a Millennium project. Anne has been involved from the beginning. Paul has been volunteering for about 5 years and Dave for 2. Richard Hursthouse, who leads the project, explains that a restoration plan was created in 2009 and divided up the original “massive mess” at the start into manageable chunks. Over the last ten years the entire crater has been intensively weed controlled and planted and tracks upgraded at a cost of more than $300,000.

The volunteers keep coming back because it’s rewarding, fun, helps them keep fit, and they are able to give something back to the community. They are part of a regular Thursday morning group (get in touch with us if you're interested in joining them), but Tuff Crater also has a weekend group which meets once a month. Usually the weekday group has between 3 and 7 volunteers, so just having one extra pair of hands can make a big difference.

They are involved mostly in identifying and removing weeds which threaten the wonderful collection of native plants in the area, but also do some planting when needed. Their worst weeds currently include some usual suspects, such as moth plant, woolly nightshade, and pampas, but also less common weeds, such as blackberry and gorse. There are other volunteers who help with a comprehensive predator control program in the reserve and the halo, further protecting the birds attracted to the native trees and plants. People walk and run around the Tuff Crater rim and remark “isn’t it lovely now” giving the impression that the work the volunteers have put in has really paid off, and made people happier.

The site has an interesting history being formed by a volcanic eruption about 200,000 years ago and more recently it was prepared to hold huge fuel tanks during World War II, giving it the name Tank Farm. The remnants of the tanks are still visible in places. Now mostly underwater, they have become deep swampy habitats for different plants and animals. But rest assured Anne, Dave and Paul say they haven’t lost any volunteers in them yet. The watery habitat and mangroves that naturally grow within the now silty volcanic crater (building the motorway has slowed the flow of sediment) are home to a number of native birds, such as the relatively rare and difficult to see banded rail and spotless crake, as well being beneficial to eels and other fish.

Tuff Crater is a great example of what can be achieved with dedicated volunteers working together. If you haven't seen the area recently or ever visited, plan a trip when the sun is out and you won’t regret it. Kaipātiki has many beautiful reserves and we should all try to visit and appreciate them, as well as helping out in any way we can to help protect the precious green gems located throughout our region. For information on many of our local reserves, pick up a copy of the Kaipatiki Explorer or check out the online version.

Get in touch if you want to find out more or volunteer with your local reserve or bush group or to find out more about Pest Free Tuff Crater.

You can sign up to Tuff Crater emails from the mailing list link here. Or check them out on Facebook here. Photo points can be seen at here.

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