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Hundreds of volunteers offer support

Volunteers from all over New Zealand have signed up to clear gorse from around the edges of Okarito Lagoon next week.

In a year with little business, Baz Hughes and Gemma van Beek of Okarito Kayaks decided to do something positive with their time in their backyard. 

“The aim was a small project pushing back against the gradual spread of gorse and weeds around the stunning Okarito Lagoon - just a few mates and some local volunteers. It got away on us a bit though; we’ve created a monster,” Baz joked.

After gaining national media attention GorseBusters has received hundreds of offers of support from all over the country, from as far north as Auckland and as far south as Southland and Dunedin.

Okarito is usually home to a resident population of around 38 people. GorseBusters will see this number swell, with volunteers coming to the small hamlet to help out clearing gorse.

Given all the interest, the initiative has been scaled up to be able to support about 75 people working over the six days - accommodating them, feeding them, equipping and leading them.

“It’s a real community effort, the whole South Westland community has gotten behind it,” said Baz.

“Support has come from so many places and businesses. The Franz Josef Four Square and New World Hokitika supermarkets have been fantastic; Westland Milk Products and Silver Fern Farms have also been really generous keeping us fuelled.

“We have received so many other offers of support both locally and nationally, such as from Okarito Sandfly Repellent, West Coast Print to Baby-E website design. There are too many to list.

“Thank you so much for all the support, large and small. Every bit of help we’ve been offered has enabled us to expand the project, and to do more for the volunteers helping out,” said Baz.

“We’re very fortunate to be where we are, in this country and in particular on the West Coast; we’ll be very proud if the rest of New Zealand can see how we can look after our backyard.”

The Okarito GorseBusters initiative will run from March 22 to 27.

For more information see: www.okarito.co.nz/gorsebusters/

GorseBusters Okarito Kayaks