About Us

History of Maketu Ongatoro Wetland Society

Maketu is a small coastal village in the middle of the Bay of Plenty. It has a mixed Maori/Pakeha population who work well together with strong links, both cultural and economic, to the sea and the harbour. The harbour is also known as Ongatoro after Ngatoro-i-rangi – the priest and navigator on the Te Arawa canoe, which arrived here some 800 years ago.

Maketu Ongatoro Wetland Society was formed back in 2008, when a small group of villagers got together to do something to protect the colony of New Zealand dotterel (Charadrius obscurus) which live on the tip of the Maketu Spit. In the first season we made a small but important start by erecting a simple fence and asking people to stay out of the nesting area.

We quickly realised that protecting the dotterel alone was not going to be effective enough, and that we needed to implement a much wider plan to help restore the ecological integrity of the spit. This would ensure that not just the dotterel were secure, but all the other native animals and plants that make up the natural ecosystem.

Since then we have expanded our efforts to cover four main sites along the coastline, from Maketu Spit to Pukehina. We carry out essential ecological restoration work such as building pest-proof fences, trapping invasive mammals, removing non-native plants, and using temporary fencing during the nesting season to protect nesting birds. We also conduct regular monitoring of the shore skinks, invertebrates, nesting birds, vegetation, and invasive predators. With this information we are able to see how our work is improving the native environment, and it is encouraging to see positive results from our efforts.

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Meet the Ecological Restoration Team


Julian Fitter – Chairman

Julian is a naturalist, conservationist, writer and lecturer with a particular interest in New Zealand wildlife and island ecosystems. Educated in the UK, Julian spent 15 years in the Galapagos Islands where he established and ran the first yacht charter operation. Since moving to New Zealand he has become an ambassador for native wildlife, being involved in many aspects of conservation in the country, and the driving force behind Maketu Ongatoro Wetland Society. Energetic and passionate about the cause, he is always on the go, and can rarely be found sitting down!

Tania (Medium)

Tania Bramley – Education Coordinator

A self-employed environmental consultant, Tania is also passionate about getting kids involved in conservation. She is responsible for setting up and running our education program, currently operating in four local schools. Tania believes the best way to get kids interested in the natural world is to get them out of the classroom and into the field, helping with planting, beach cleans and wildlife monitoring.


Carolyn Symmans – Pest Control

Carolyn is a keen environmentalist, and a vital member of the MOWS crew. She takes care of our mammal trapping program, going out every day, come rain or shine with her team of chihuahuas, to check her traps, and keep a record of the animals caught. This is valuable information, as it shows how effective the program is, and ensures the best protection for our nesting birds.

Jamie and Tania Pohutakawas2

Jamie Moko – Ecologist and Education Worker

Jamie is a multi-tasker, and gets involved in all aspects of our work, from planting and weed removal, to driving the ATV. She is a valuable member of the education team, helping out both in the classroom and in the field, and also coordinates our reptile and invertebrate monitoring. She is a passionate environmentalist, and is currently undertaking a Diploma in Environmental Management.


Claire Garland – Membership Secretary and Field Worker

Claire spends time both out in the field, as well as taking care of our memberships and accounts. With a background in zoology and animal care, she is also an avid conservationist, and assists with the wildlife monitoring, planting, and pest control,

Members and Volunteers

Waihi Harbour WMR Eastern Section. (65) (Small)

None of our work would be possible without the help of our amazing members and volunteers. They assist us in many ways, from the financial assistance of their membership subscriptions, to getting hands on at working bees and work days, and helping out at events and education days.

If you would like to know more about how to get involved by joining as a member, or by becoming a volunteer please see our ‘How to Help’ page, or download a membership form using the link below.

MOWS Membership Form Download

Local Wildlife


One of the main aims of our work is to provide a safe, natural environment in which native species can flourish, and to minimise the impact of pest animals through eradication programmes.

Maketu is rich in native wildlife, and had been declared an Important Bird Area (IBA) by Birdlife International. It has a significant nesting dotterel population, as well as being home to other valuable bird species such as variable oyster catchers, spoonbills, white-fronted terns, red billed gulls, the threatened black billed gulls, and the critically endangered fairy tern.

The breeding season for the majority of the shorebirds around Maketu is between August and March. Over this period we put fences around the nesting areas to help avoid disturbance. This helps to keep disruption to a minimum, and reduce the risk of nests being trodden on or moved.

Our protected areas also provide fantastic habitat for shore skinks, and native invertebrates. Well over 150 species of invertebrate have been recorded, including five new or un-described species, notably a new spider and a new beetle. MOWS conduct regular surveys to estimate the invertebrate species diversity, and skink population size and distribution. Animals are collected in pitfall traps and details are recorded as part of an ongoing project.

We have an extensive pest animal control program, using traps and bait stations to control the populations of invasive mammals such as rats, ferrets, stoats, weasels and hedgehogs. These animals are devastating to our ground nesting birds, so reducing their numbers has significantly increased the number of chicks reaching fledging age each nesting season.

New Zealand is home to a wealth of marine life, and a wide variety of species are found in the waters around Maketu. There is a large population of New Zealand Fur Seals (Kekeno) as well as sharks, dolphins, whales, stingrays and jellyfish. Unfortunately, marine mammals are sometimes found stranded on the local beaches. If you find one, either alive or dead, please call DOC on 0800 362 468 or Project Jonah on 0800 494 253.



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