Makara Peak Heroes

Makara Peak Cover Photo

Hey guys,

Ruby here.

Despite this late winter blast, our friends up at Makara Peak continue to do an awesome job maintaining a playground of trails for mountain bikers, runners and walkers alike. And thanks to all their conservation efforts the area is bursting with beautiful bird life – works a charm to take your mind off how much your legs are hurting running up some of their hills!

For those of you who weren’t aware of the great work these guys do, or if you just want to check out what they’ve been up to lately, then read on. This is what Karl from Makara Peak has to say about their group:

We’re a bit different to most of the other conservation groups around New Zealand as there are two sides to our group: the mountain biking side and the conservation side. The Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park Supporters (“Supporters”) were set up in 1998 with a mission to create a world-class mountain bike park with dual use (cycling and walking) tracks for all levels of rider, in a restored native forest. The Supporters manage Makara Peak with assistance from Wellington City Council and Greater Wellington Regional Council. 

Makara Peak Summit - Photo Karl Yager

Not just a mountain bike park

Makara Peak is an important ecological corridor between Zealandia and Otari-Wilton’s Bush situated in Wellingtons Outer Green Belt, dominating the skyline as you drive/ride/walk down Karori Rd. It’s about 250ha in size (twice the size of Otari-Wilton’s Bush) and is in varying stages of native bush regeneration. The Supporters have successfully lobbied to have additional land purchased and protected as Reserve, bringing the land in line with the parks Key Native Ecosystem classification. 

At this time of the year the general hue of Makara Peak seen down Karori Rd is orangey thanks to the flowering Darwin’s barberry that is prevalent on the upper eastern aspects. However, once you start exploring the park you discover lush pockets of remnant bush (missing the taller tree species due to early logging), mahoe dominant gullies, large manuka stands, and slopes covered in tree ferns.

The park receives between 80,000 to 100,000 visits per year making it one of Wellington’s most popular recreation facilities, and is listed as one of the “must do” activities by the Lonely Planet guide book. The title “mountain bike park” shouldn’t put walkers off as all tracks are shared use (walkers, runners and mountain bikers). There’s about 35km’s of hand built single track and 8km’s of double track, however unlike the rest of Wellington walkers need to give way to mountain bikers. It’s also suggested walkers follow the recommended direction of the trails, keep an ear open to avoid any surprises, and unless you’re sure footed and pretty nimble, to avoid the “Advanced” and “Extreme” trails.

Koru Trail - Photo Makara Peak Supporters

The “Western Frontier”

When the Supporters started up 15 years ago, the park was a retired run down gorse covered farm with plenty of possums, rats, goats, pigs and feral livestock. Makara Peak wasn’t seen as a priority for pest animal control by the councils, so the Supporters set up and managed their own pest control programme with assistance from WCC and GWRC. Hunters worked the park regularly and a bounty was paid out by the Supporters to the parks neighbours to control goats on their land. Reinvasion from all sorts of pest animals is high as the park is what you could call the “western frontier” of Wellington’s pest animal controlled area. Today we have over 25 regular volunteers who manage and maintain over 220 bait stations, mustelid, and possum traps across the park and WCC hunters are left to deal with the goats and pigs.

Deploying GoodNature A12 traps - Photo Karl Yager

To encourage native plant regeneration, the Supporters have a goal to plant 1 native tree for every meter of track built… leading to over 35,000 native trees planted to date. We try and put our resources where they’ll be of best use such as in creating pockets of native trees as future seed sources where the gorse and barberry are dominant, establishing natural fire breaks of native vegetation between the park boundary and areas of thick gorse, controlling pest species, and introducing missing key native plant species such as rimu, kahikatea, miro, matai, tawa, kohekohe, titoki, etc. within the species poor areas of the park. Our plants are sourced from the WCC nursery, the Forest and Bird Wellington Branch nursery, Project Crimson donate northern rata, and any species we can’t source we purchase (a couple of hundred a year).

Rleasing Karori Rd - Photo Jamie Hodgkinson

The future!

We run bird surveys and stream clean ups every couple of years, plan, organise and run large scale multi-year projects, monitor planting success, work with university students, etc. We’ve also been talking about using bellbird as a mascot within the park to drive our future goals. One of the last breeding pairs in Wellington were found in the park before Zealandia was created. They’re a hard species to establish, but that’s why we’re thinking of using them… plus they’ve got such an awesome song, it’d be great to be able to ride through the native bush whilst they’re in full song. 

Shh Quiet birds on Koru Trail - Photo Makara Peak Supporters

Getting involved

The Supporters are made up of local residents, mountain bikers and conservationists. We have about 300 paid members, 630 newsletter subscribers, and a popular Facebook page that we use as our main source of regular updates. 

Volunteers are the driving force in the park development and conservation effort with over 4500 volunteer hours spent on all work parties in the last year. We have two main seasons for conservation work parties: winter for planting, and spring/early summer for releasing. We have about 6 tree planting work parties and 12 releasing work parties per year as well as additional corporate volunteer days. There’s always good company, and we provide lunch/snacks, drink, and all the tools and gloves. 

We’re always after volunteers! Work parties are a social affair with regulars, families, and visitors in attendance. The pest control network is always in need of more people to take over trap or bait station lines, and provides a great excuse to get out of the house once or twice a month. If you’ve got a desire to help out even more, we have a small group who make up the Conservation Sub-Committee who plan each year’s conservation efforts, and organise and lead the work parties. 

To get in touch with us, drop a line to supporters@makarapeak.org. For regular updates on what’s happening in the park “Like” Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park Supporters on Facebook. Check out our website www.makarapeak.org, for general information or the calendar for work parties www.makarapeak.org/events. 

Rimu Trail planting day 23.6.13 - Photo Karl Yager