Marine pests appear to be spreading in the Hauraki Gulf. Auckland Council has reported detection of a population of Eudistoma elongatum (Australian droplet tunicate) at Waiheke Island, previously known within Auckland at Mahurangi Harbour and Sandspit. Sabella spallanzanii (Mediterranean fanworm) has been detected at Great Barrier Island, with localised populations at Port Fitzroy and on the hull of a boat at Tryphena harbour.
A Waikato Regional Council survey in 2016 found Sabella within Coromandel harbour and its presence at high densities. The new survey is underway to check 150 random points in and the harbour and remove any organisms found.
Councils are working together with the Ministry of Primary Industries in a Top of the North Marine Biosecurity Partnership and will assess the new information and its implications for future management activities.
Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and DOC are working together to address the threat of fungal plant disease myrtle rust.
Myrtle rust has been found in Kerikeri in Northland and Waitara in Taranaki. It is also widespread on Raoul Island in the Kermadec group, about 1,100km north-east of NZ.
This pest could have serious impacts on a wide range of plants in the myrtle family, including pohutukawa, kanuka, manuka and rata, as well as commercially-grown species such as eucalyptus, guava and feijoa.
Anyone believing they have seen myrtle rust on plants in New Zealand should call MPI on 0800 80 99 66. Do not attempt to collect samples as this may aid in the spread of the disease.
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The Department of Conservation is publishing report cards to provide a summary of the health of marine reserves.
The first two are for the Cape Rodney to Okakari Point Marine Reserve at Leigh and Tawharanui Marine Reserve. Both show declining numbers of rock lobsters.
A Hauraki Gulf / Tikapa Moana marine spatial plan launched in December after three years work by a stakeholder working group is available on the Sea Change – Tai Timu Tai Pari project website.
The proposed plan contains five pathways designed to create long-term health and wellbeing for the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. Transitions to high value wild caught and farmed fisheries, the creation of marine reserves areas and scaled up restoration initiatives, setting load limits and mitigation for sediment and nutrients, local-scale coastal management and ambitious public engagement are outlined in the December issue of the Gulf Journal.
Read it here
DOC, Motuihe Trust and Yamaha are trailing weed control with an unmanned helicopter.
Weed control on cliff faces can be very expensive often requiring carrying heavy loads to remote places and abseiling or a helicopter.
The RMAX helicopters are piloted by remote control and used in a wide range of industrial and research applications overseas. The trial was a success and the team have plans to further improve the precision of the technology.
The Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand released the first individual “domain” report – on the marine environment – created under the Environmental Reporting Act 2015 in November.
The report identifies key issues facing our oceans, ocean acidification, threats to native birds and marine mammals and the state of coastal habitats.
Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith said environmental reports are fundamental to understanding and addressing environmental challenges – an area where data has been lacking.
He also said next year new legislation would replace the Marine Reserves Act “to bring our marine legislation into the 21st Century, recognising that we need varying levels of protection.”
Read it here
The Government has plans to make New Zealand predator free by 2050.
It will set up a new public-private partnership company by 2017 to help fund large-scale predator eradication programmes.
Predator Free New Zealand Limited will have a board of directors made up of government, private sector, and scientific players. The board’s job will be to work on regional projects with iwi and community conservation groups and attract $2 of private sector and local government funding for every $1 of government funding.
The Biological Heritage National Science Challenge will have an important role in achieving the predator free goal, as not all the technology to get rid of possums, rats and stoats exists.
After 16 years of work by Department of Conservation staff (primarily Chris Green who is DOC’s Threats Technical Advisor), and volunteers the Argentine ant has been eradicated from Tiritiri Matangi Island. The insects are extremely difficult to eradicate, and the successful operation follows development of innovative bait and detection methods.
Conservation Minister Maggie Barry said “they may be small, but these ants are one of the most damaging of all invasive pest species. The World Conservation Union lists them as one of the 100 worst eco-invaders on Earth.” Argentine ants can form super-colonies with a huge appetite.
First discovered by Chris on Tiritiri Matangi in 2001, they are capable of killing native insects, lizards and even birds, and compete with them for food resources.
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The Department of Conservation has reported that rabbits were recently released illegally on pest-free Motukorea (Browns Island).
DNA analysis of four captured rabbits show they were not all related, suggesting there had been more than one release.
Wilful liberation of animal pest is a serious crime with a $50,000 fine and any suspicious behaviour should be reported to the DOC HOTline 0800 36 24 68.
Auckland Council has begun a major overhaul of its Regional Pest Management Plan. The plan is the main statutory document implementing the Biosecurity Act 1993 in the region, and provides a framework for managing plant and animal pests in Auckland, including the Hauraki Gulf.
The review covers changes in pest species and management; along with community expectations and available resources. Particular pest management issues affecting the gulf include control of plants such as Agave americana and Rhamnus and invasive animals like Rainbow/plague skinks and Argentine ants. The council will also consider
the plan’s role in the management of marine pests.
It is proposed that the specific rules which prevent and manage pests on the Hauraki Gulf islands are continued in the new plan.
Regional Pest Management Strategy
The survey of marine invasive pests in the Waitemata harbour carried out by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) in June has found no new-to-NZ or new-to-Auckland arrivals.
However an ascidian recorded for the first time at the Devonport Naval Base in January has now been detected at the Devonport ferry terminal.
The Mediterranean fanworm and Asian paddle crab are in very high densities throughout the harbour and other species present include Asian date mussel, sea squirt, Japanese seaweed and the clubbed tunicate.
“It’s a wake-up call to keep vessel hulls clean and prevent the spread of pests between areas,” says MPI marine surveillance and incursion senior advisor Tim Riding.
A video on best practice vessel hull maintenance is available at: