Language: English | Māori

Volunteers sustaining the Avon-Heathcote Estuary Ihutai

A plot of land once used as industrial space has been transformed into a reserve teeming with native bush and wildlife.

Charlesworth Reserve and Wetland is one of the projects spearheaded by the Avon-Heathcote Estuary Ihutai Trust.

The Trust was formed in 2002 with support from the Christchurch City Council and Environment Canterbury and Ngai Tahu.

Their aim is to enhance and sustain the Avon-Heathcote Estuary area by creating healthy eco-systems, protecting natural resources, monitoring and maintaining land, and connecting the community.

Trust Chairperson Dr Kit Doudney says the group has come a long way since forming almost two decades ago.

“Charlesworth Reserve is a great example of how an entire landscape has been transformed and returned to its natural state,” he says.

“Over almost 20 years, the land has gone from being an industrial plot to a natural wetland.”

“The Trust and its volunteers have put so much work and effort into maintaining and enhancing the land.  By planting  native bush and trees we have seen birdlife return and thrive in that area.”

Ihutai also works strategically to translate objectives into practical outcomes and leveraging action from outside the group to support those objectives.

Mr Doudney says involving and engaging with the community is a key part of how the Trust works.

“We coordinate and facilitate a range of different meetings and education opportunities with the community.

“Whether it’s getting locals or schools involved in planting days, holding public meetings where environmental experts can educate people, or getting feedback from the community on aspects of the Trust’s work -we want people to feel informed and connected with our environment.”

The Trust has a number of events and working bees which draw volunteers from across the city.

“We have the Mother of all Clean up event, now in its 5th year, where on Mother’s day weekend up to 1,200 volunteers, representing 36 community groups, collect litter from our waterways.

“The increasing number of volunteers at our annual events clearly demonstrates the desire of the community to learn more about our local environment. It’s amazing to see people pull together for a common cause in sustaining our natural environment.”

And their work doesn’t go unnoticed, as this year the Estuary was awarded the status of being a wetland of ‘international significance’.

“We received the award in October from the East Asia-Australasian Flyway Network, based in Korea. This status was dedicated to the work performed by the Trust to bring the quality of our estuary to a standard worthy of the title.”

The Avon-Heathcote Estuary Ihutai Trust receives Rātā Foundation funding under the Sustain priority area.

For more information on the Trust, visit their website: