This gathering of around 45 community restoration practitioners, representatives from local and regional government, business and NGOs felt like a family reunion of sorts. It was an opportunity to reconnect with various “cousins” I hadn’t touched base with for few months in some cases to a few years in others.
What always becomes quickly apparent in these events, is the expertise in the room honed from trial and error on each project site. Discussions ensued around herbicide type, blends and application rates as weed control of plants such as willow, alder, honeysuckle and convolvolus form a sizeable component of groups’ activities. That no consensus was reached (other than the necessity of using herbicides for large-scale weed control/eradication) highlighted the physical uniqueness of each groups’ project site.
A walking workshop around Lake Cameron/Kareotahi investigated restoration in action. Like many peat lakes in the Waikato region, major landuse changes and an influx of exotic biota have shifted these once acidic, low nutrient water bodies to a different state altogether. The process of restoring these systems is slow, and fraught with muliple, interdependent challenges, environmental and socio-economic. Various themes were covered including limited local government budgets for funding, care group responsibilities, recreational usage and ecological succession to name but a few.
Having attended a diversity of community events over the last decade, what works best is when the expertise in the room is given an opportunity to be shared, questioned, confirmed and expanded. There never seems to be enough time meet and greet, let alone discuss restoration project progress. Usually these opportunities are linked with morning tea or lunch so there’s the added challenge of wolfing down a roll/wrap/slice between sentences.
Let’s see what happens at next year’s event.
To wrap up, I mused in my last past on desiring a superpower akin to a nuanced understanding of my surrounds. I described this as ‘ecological enlightenment’. Given the fact that community based environmental restoration is essentially a human activity, and a challenging one at that, maybe I’m better off setting my sights a little higher, and aiming for socio-ecological enlightenment.