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 For the last six years, hundreds of keen landscapers and DIYers have turned up with their trailers, buckets and shovels, eager to collect gravel or river stones from the Otaki river bed for their garden or home projects. Normally, permission is needed to remove gravel and stones from the river and it’s usually only granted for hand picking stones, so it’s an extremely popular event.

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Rocks carefully selected for a garden wall.

Extracting gravel helps the regional council with its flood protection work – overall, approximately 50,000 cubic metres of gravel was removed from the Ōtaki River last year.

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Every stone counts.

Taking gravel from certain parts of the riverbed is crucial, because high riverbed levels and gravel banks can be a factor in erosion and flooding. Removing gravel also increases the river’s capacity to cope with flooding.

Gravel Grab Te Waari Carkeek left has a Maori perspective on the Otaki river and Max Lutz is chairman of Friends of the Otaki River small

Te Waari Carkeek (left) and Max Lutz.

Local tangata-whenua, Te Waari Carkeek is fully supportive of the regional council’s work. Max Lutz is chairman of Friends of the Otaki River. ‘We’ve put in many hours on that river bank,’ says Max, ‘I think over the last five years we’ve planted about 15,000 trees. It really is a lovely asset to the area and I’m extremely proud of the work of all the 200 volunteers involved.’

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Gravel Grab - and drop.

Spectrum’s Jack Perkins makes his way along the Otaki river bed as dozens of cars, trailers, vans and utes arrive for the Great Gravel Grab.