On the East Coast, between Hawkes Bay and Poverty Bay, the Mahia Peninsula is linked to the mainland by a series of sand dunes. Hidden amongst them are two delightful wetlands – the tidal Maungawhio Lagoon, and our own freshwater Opoutama Reserve.
The reserve covers some 68 hectares of which about 50 hectares are wetland. There are three main vegetation patterns. The dominant raupo (Typha orientalis) covers most of the wetland but there is a particularly striking area of Isolepis prolifer to the North-west and, in the North-east, several hectares of manuka scrub and Baumea. Within these areas there is a small patch of open water where the wetland’s bird life can be viewed.
Birds that favour open wetland and surrounding low scrub and sandy areas are common. These include the New Zealand pipit, Australasian bittern, welcome swallow, paradise shelduck, silvereye and several duck species..
The Native Forest Restoration Trust wishes to acknowledge that acquisition of this important wetland was made possible by the foresight and generosity of Rosemary Middleton, who bequeathed a substantial sum specifically for the purchase of a wetland somewhere on the East Coast. It was particularly fortunate that we were able to obtain the wetland in Opoutama, as Rosemary would have passed by it when visiting her beach house at Mahana.
The local store at Opoutama can provide necessities and Mahia has a hotel, camping ground, and other facilities. While in the area take time to travel north of Nuhaka to Morere and visit the hot springs. Be sure to walk the 500 metres through the Nikau glade to the uppermost hot tubs.
Willows, pampas, blackberry, gorse and pine trees are being treated. Animal pests include hares, rabbits, possums, rodents and mustelids, and are controlled. Local schools are involved with growing plants in shade houses and then planting them on the reserve each winter.
How to Get There
From Napier travel north along the coast past Wairoa. At Nuhaka turn off to the right and follow the signs towards Mahia. At Opoutama cross the railway line and turn into YMCA Road. Here the sign indicates the wetland access down a driveway. Other views are possible further along YMCA Road, or from the Mahanga road alongside the railway line. Entry is at your own risk.