Despite driving past Pekapeka every time we go to Hastings, we had never stopped to have a look around. Finally the impetus came from a friend visiting with her son, who was a very keen & well informed birdwatcher. Not so many years ago the swamp was noticeable because of the smell of rotting vegetation, always prompting accusing looks in the car & ‘who did that?’ Then the willows started to die, & the place looked very dismal.


Then interesting things started to happen, grading the area & building a carpark & pull off area, fencing, signage & the planting of many many native plants.  As I understand it,the Regional Council has funded much of the work supported by the Lotteries Board, & no doubt other parties too. Local community groups, such as Forest & Bird & local schools have been responsible for much of the planting, & it is really impressive, & will continue to become a great feature of the land.

State Highway 2 was built straight through the Swamp &  provides one boundary, & the railway lines weaves through it too, always one of my favourite parts of a trip to Wellington by train, now alas not running as a passenger service.  Pekapeka is about 97 hectares in area, owned largely by the Regional Council, according to the guff I’ve found, it is “located in a narrow basin, surrounded by limestone capped hills, forming part of the Poukawa basin & flowing into the Heretaunga Plains.”  Not so long ago, & in some places, still,swamps were used as a dumping area, & rubbish dating from the 1870’s to 1990 has been found. A striking & unsettling reminder of this tendency to dump, has been cleverly incorporated into the site, so that dumped building materials form the old Mayfair & Pacific Hotels is left visible, & hopefully it’s message will be absorbed.

Boardwalk & demolition materials

I wondered about the Raupo, (Bullrushes) that are prevalent in the waters, apparently there is a weir built near the piggery at the northern end, which keeps the water level higher into the Summer months & the Raupo doesn’t like to grow in water over 1 metre deep, for the waters to stay healthy, 50% needs to be clear of plants. Also in the weir is a fish pass, which allows eels & fish to come & go.

The day we went walking we didn’t see many birds, Black Swans, Mallards, Dabchicks & a lone black rooster. We plan to go back with our young bird enthusiast in the Spring when the birds start breeding. Despite the lack of feathered friends we had a great time, looking at the reflections in the water, the plantings, information boards &  especially the boardwalks. It’s wonderful to see such a long term project showing such progress, & saddening that it has taken such a huge effort & foresight to reclaim one of our treasures, & I am aware that there are many other waterways in need of our help.