A meandering trail leads to an apocalyptic landscape where hundreds of trees appear perched in a sprawling lagoon.
Following an ancient river valley, Te Otamanui Lagoon is about two kilometres long and winds through a long narrow gully. Traditionally the lagoon was an important food source of tuna and kākahi (freshwater mussels) for Māori and the nearby Waikeri Marae.
During early European settlement the lagoon was used for recreational purposes with local residents recounting being able to row the full length of the lagoon, and for swimming and canoeing. The banks were ablaze with kowhai trees and a number of rare birds.
However, while the lagoon’s name translates to “a place of abundance”, today it is now considered hypertrophic and is considered to have very poor water quality.
The impact of nearby agriculture, industrial activity and urban growth has lead to its decline. Effluent discharged from dairy factories (which operated in the area for nearly 100 years since the 1890s) and pig farming contributed to the lagoon’s ailing health. The invasion of willow trees and pest koi fish have added to the challenges of regenerating the site.
An impressive effort from locals is transforming this once fertile lagoon into a healthy eco-system with hundreds of native trees and the removal of pest plants.
Accessibility: Ideal for buggies and bikes. There is a mixture of boardwalk and well graded gravel paths. Lots of seats to take a breather. Take insect repellent if you are planning on having a picnic near the lagoon – some active biters!
Time: Allow one hour return to explore the trail from Te Kowhai Village.
Getting there: Parking is available opposite Te Kowhai School on Horotiu Road near the Tennis Club. The trail entrance is 50 metres south on the right.
Dogs: On leads.
Toilets: Toilet available beside dairy.