The Little Barrier Island Supporters Trust has launched a new documentary to profile the wonders of Te Hauturu te-o-Toi. Little Barrier Island: New Zealand’s Ark showcases the island’s stony shores and their resident reptiles; its high ridges, riddled with the burrows of sea birds; and ventures deep into primeval forest, where native birds, insects and the ancient tuatara thrive.
The film is an opportunity for the public to appreciate the nature reserve, where visitor numbers and movements are strictly regulated. The documentary has been produced by multi-award winning natural history production house NHNZ. littlebarrierisland.org.nz
One of New Zealand’s rarest bush birds, the hihi has returned to Taranaki after a 130-year absence. Forty hihi/stichbird were released into the bush at Rotokare Scenic Reserve near Eltham earlier this month.
Hihi were once common throughout the North Island but have been absent from Taranaki due to introduced mammalian pests.
The birds, 20 males and 20 females, were translocated from Tiritiri Matangi. They joined other rare and endangered species, such as kiwi, tīeke, the rare fernbird and spotless crake in the fenced, predator-free sanctuary.
Sanford Ltd has congratulated the skipper of a purse seiner who released a net of jack mackerel after half a dozen dolphins swam into it. The San Columbia was fishing off the Tauranga coast when the incident occurred, witnessed by a boatload of recreational fishers.
About 30 tonnes of fish were lost when the skipper chose to release bow end of the net enabling the dolphins, and the jack mackerel to escape.
Cyclone Debbie has left a huge mark on Motutapu island. Slips and landslides affect almost the whole island with roads, tracks and campground closed to the public since the storm hit on April 4.
Fortunately the Trust’s nursery and Reid Homestead were unscathed. The Motutapu Restoration Trust hoped to resume public planting days in May. Coromandel Brown Kiwi now number 34 on Motutapu. Removing eggs from the wild and hatching them in a predator-free environment increases the chance of survival from 5% to 95%.
The Local Government and Environment Select Committee is currently considered a bill to enable development of housing on public reserve land at Point England. The development would impact on the last remaining shorebird roosting areas on the Tāmaki Estuary. A public petition to “Save Point England” attracted 1848 signatures.
More Coromandel brown kiwi will be introduced to Motutapu Island, thanks to funding in the latest round of the Department of Conservation Community Fund.
A $28,526 grant will allow the transfer at least 16 more Coromandel brown kiwi to the island to establish a genetically viable population of 40 to 50 birds. The project has translocated 24 birds to date.
Nine Auckland community-led conservation projects received funding, including for a new iwi ranger on Motuora Island and restoration work at Whenua Rangatira, New Zealand’s first co-governed public park created under the Orakei Act.
The Department of Conservation is concerned that protected seabirds have been shot in the Gulf.
At least five fluttering shearwaters with bullet holes were floating in the water near Little Barrier Island over Auckland Anniversary weekend.
Fluttering shearwaters have a conservation status of ‘relict’, meaning they have a small but stable population, and like all seabirds are absolutely protected by the Wildlife Act. Anyone harassing or harming them could be liable for prosecution and face a jail term of up to two years or a fine of up to $100,000.
DOC says information gathered by the public can help in investigations. “Taking clear photos of the incident at the time and quickly writing down notes of what was observed can prove to be critical.”
The Department of Conservation expects to undertake a pest eradication operation on Rakitu Island near Great Barrier in the 2017/18 financial year.
The Weka Recovery Group recently confirmed that weka introduced from the mainland many years ago function provide important security for the species. Planning will take retention of the weka population into consideration.
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.
For the first time in a century, the Duvaucel’s gecko can now be found in mainland New Zealand thanks to a successful reintroduction of the species into Tāwharanui Open Sanctuary.
Auckland Council’s Regional Park Rangers and Biodiversity team worked with Massey University, volunteers from Tāwharanui Open Sanctuary Society Inc. (TOSSI), Ngāti Manuhiri and other iwi to release the geckos into the sanctuary.
Tāwharanui Open Sanctuary is predator free apart from mice. Scientists will study the effect of mice on the native gecko population over time. This will also indicate the impact mice could have if they are introduced to offshore islands.
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.
Hauraki Gulf islands have helped takahē numbers to reach 300 for the first time in more than 50 years.
Takahē live in 19 different sites around New Zealand, with populations on Tiritiri Matangi, Motutapu and Rotoroa islands.
The bird was ‘rediscovered’ in 1948 in Fiordland’s Murchison Mountains and has been the subject of a marathon conservation effort since.
A voluntary protocol which asks ships to slow down to avoid whale strike appears to be working.
There have been no recorded deaths of Bryde’s whales in the Hauraki Gulf in the last two years.
Previously, an average of two whales a year died from being hit by ships transiting the gulf, but the last whale death from ship strike was reported in September 2014.
The voluntary initiative was brought in three years ago by the Ports of Auckland and the shipping industry.
“The mortality rate of this small population of whales was probably unsustainable prior to the shipping industry’s commitment to slow down, but now these whales have a more certain future,” said University of Auckland’s Dr Rochelle Constantine.
Average ship speed has dropped from 14.2 knots to around 10.5 knots.
NIWA scientists are asking for help from people who have had a long association with the Hauraki Gulf.
They are researching the areas where juvenile fish have congregated to find out how these nursery environments have changed over the years.
NIWA marine ecologist Dr Mark Morrison says they are particularly interested in populations of juvenile snapper, less than 10cm long in coastal waters.
He says young fish are strongly associated with what’s on the seafloor, especially seagrass meadows, horse mussel beds and sponge gardens.
Historical photographs, personal field diaries or fishing logs would be particularly valuable to document environmental change.
A computer model will be built to enable the researchers to explore ‘what if’ scenarios to help decide on the best management actions for the future.
Minister for the Environment Dr Nick Smith has announced a new collaborative group to develop a National Policy Statement on Biodiversity.
The Biodiversity Forum will identify ways to improve native biodiversity on private land and will include representatives from Forest & Bird, Federated Farmers, the Environmental Defence Society and the Forest Owners’ Association, as well as iwi as Treaty partners.
Work will begin this year a National Policy Statement is due by mid-2018.
A recent thesis has provided the first population estimate of common dolphins in the Hauraki Gulf.
Massey University student Dr Krista Hupman estimated 10,500 common dolphins visited the Gulf between 2010 and 2013. The baseline abundance estimate enables monitoring and future re-evaluations.
While the most abundant of the Gulf’s dolphins, common dolphins face numerous pressures (including fisheries by-catch, pollution, vessel strike, and tourism) and the study suggests this population size should not be assumed to be sustainable.
Surveys of parekareka/ spotted shags by Auckland Council show the importance of 300 remaining nests on predator-free Tarahiki Island and at the eastern end of Waiheke (at Hooks and Anita Bays).
No breeding colonies we found on Coromandel’s offshore islands, where they were reported before 2000, and have disappeared from many parts of the North Island. The birds are vulnerable to set nets, predators and disturbance at breeding sites.
Unique to NZ, spotted shags have distinct crests on their heads, a green patch near the eyes and dappled spots on their back during breeding season, in late winter and spring.
Great Barrier Island’s Windy Hill Sanctuary area has grown by 150 hectares thanks to the addition of private, family-owned land above Mulberry Grove.
Intense predator control across a total of 770 hectares will create an east to west coast corridor for birds and other threatened species.
Sanctuary trust manager Judy Gilbert said new pest management methods and equipment are enabling greater areas to be managed with the same level of resource. The sanctuary has trapped over 3500 rats per annum in recent years, benefiting birds, lizards, weta fruit and berries.
Scanning the content of this issue it is striking how many collaborative and co-governance processes are coming to fruition or being initiated.
The Department of Conservation has just released a draft Conservation Management Plan for Te Hauturu-ō-Toi/Little Barrier Island Nature Reserve created alongside Ngāti Manuhiri.
The Snapper 1 Strategy Group has agreed measures to rebuild the region’s snapper stock to a biomass target of 40% of the unfished state by 2040, while in the neighbouring Waikato and Waipa catchment a Collaborative Stakeholder Group has drafted a plan to make the rivers safe for swimming and food gathering in 80 years.
These are wickedly difficult challenges and the commitment and innovation required to resolve them is not easy.
The Stakeholder Working Group created three years ago to address challenges facing the Gulf will present its Sea Change Tai Timu Tai Pari marine spatial plan to sponsoring agencies shortly, before a public launch later in the year.
The Government has announced new challenges in the form of a public-private partnership to make New Zealand predator free by 2050 and a new Biodiversity Forum has been tasked with improving native biodiversity on private land.
On one hand it is easy to point out the challenges we face. The Forum has done that very effectively through its triennial State of our Gulf assessments. With the other it is harder to bind people into generating an adequately scaled and effective response.
But this is what we must do if we are to succeed in our role of protecting and enhancing the Gulf environment.
Our seminar this year Do the Right Thing looks to tease out the many strands required on that journey.
It is great to see the philanthropic sector coming on board to support the step changes that will be necessary.
Foundation North’s Gulf Innovation Fund Together (GIFT) will provide $1 million for the next five years to incentivise new ideas and prototypes. The Nature Conservancy will share its knowledge of ecological restoration and resource mobilisation with projects here, while the Tindall Foundation and the Next Foundation are already big and strategic players in the Gulf.
The next term of the Forum will be an exciting one as it looks to build on success and strengthen its leadership for changing times.
The birdsong of the native North Island robin or toutouwai will once again fill Shakespear Open Sanctuary following the release of the first pairs in April.
Shakespear Open Sanctuary has been pest-free for almost five years through work by Auckland Council park rangers and biodiversity staff and volunteers from Shakespear Open Sanctuary Society Inc. The translocation of 20 birds from the Mangatutu (King Country) was led by Parker Conservation and Massey University and funded by the Royal Society of New Zealand.
Three of the North Island’s rarest kiwi caught a waka to their new home in the Hauraki Gulf in April.
The adolescent birds were released into the predator-free environment of Motutapu Island as part of an effort by several conservation groups to save the Coromandel brown kiwi.
The three kiwi, two female and one male, were found as eggs in Thames, taken to Auckland Zoo for incubation and then raised on Rotorua Island.
Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki chair James Brown said the journey was symbolic and signified traditional protocols and rituals.
They joined 22 other kiwi released on the island. Shore plovers and patake have also been released on Motutapu in recent months.
Te Whangai Trust was the Supreme Winner at the 2016 Green Ribbon Awards in June.
The Waikato-based trust has contributed to restoration projects bordering the Gulf, including recent development of catchment management plans for the Mangatarata-Miranda-Kaiaua Community Care Group. The Trust develops life skills and future employment prospects while helping community partners to restore ecosystems, wildlife corridors and waterways.
Conservation Minister Maggie Barry said “Te Whangai Trust’s community biodiversity project has changed people’s lives and made huge environmental strides in the Waikato. It’s all about teaching people skills while caring for the natural environment.”
The purchase of the 83ha Glenfern Sanctuary on Great Barrier, created in 1992 by Tony Bouzaid, was announced in June. It was enabled through a combined $1.25 million by Auckland Council and the Great Barrier Local Board. The Minister of Conservation, through the Nature Heritage Fund, will contribute $975,000 and Foundation North $675,000.
Auckland Mayor Len Brown said “we will care for Glenfern and continue to contribute to the conservation of the Kotuku Peninsula with pride.” Great Barrier Local Board Chair Izzy Fordham said the sanctuary creates opportunities for conservation, education and economic outcomes for the island and the Hauraki Gulf.
The sanctuary and two adjoining properties are enclosed by a 2km pest proof fence. Auckland Council will own the new park, with governance details still to be finalised.
Auckland University of Technology researchers have used drones to capture footage of whales feeding in the Gulf.
Post-graduate students Ticiana Fetterman and Lorenzo Fiori used a custom-built multi-rotor drone to film a Bryde’s whale lunging after prey, accompanied by a young calf.
Dr Barbara Bollard Breen, the students’ supervisor, says “drones could be a useful addition to boat surveys, for scientists who are studying the foraging behaviour of this critically threatened species.”
Around 50 Bryde’s whales are resident in the Gulf.
All seabirds are precious taonga to Ngati Rehua-Ngatiwai ki Aotea people and even more so the tāiko who breed exclusively on our sacred maunga Hirakimata and Hauturu-a-toi. We want to ensure that the last remaining colonies of tāiko are protected to ensure they remain part of our natural heritage and legacy for all future generations of New Zealanders.
Boaties are being urged to show more care after several incidents with marine mammals over summer.
A female orca with a dead calf, believed to have been killed by a boat strike, was reported off Tiritiri Matangi Island prior to Christmas.
The Coastguard and Department of Conservation also responded to reports of dolphins being harassed by boats at Whangaparaoa, Leigh Harbour, Omaha Bay and by boats approaching “boil ups” of fish, which dolphins drive to the surface.
Marine mammal regulations require boats to travel at less than 10 knots within 300 metres of any marine mammal and to approach them from behind and to the side. No more than three boats, including stand up paddle boards, are allowed at any one time within 300m. Boats are required to keep at least 50m from whales and orca and 200m from a mother and calf. Swimming with seals and dolphins is allowed providing there’s no young, but not with orca or whales.
Monitoring at Goat Island Marine Reserve shows that numbers of crayfish and snapper are now lower than when the reserve was established in 1975.
Following the creation of the reserve, numbers of crayfish recovered quickly, increasing four-fold in number by the 1990s with snapper also becoming bigger and more common.
Leigh Marine Laboratory’s Dr Nick Shears attributed the decline to fishing on the reserve boundaries and the state of the wider fishery and said the pattern is similar at marine reserves at Tawharanui and Hahei.
He said that the reserve boundaries needed to be extended seaward to protect resident animals and to safeguard the scientific and recreational values of the marine reserves.
Average large vessel transit speeds through the Gulf are approaching the internationally-recognised target speed of 10 knots.
A meeting in September of a collaborative working group set up to address ship strike of Bryde’s whales found average speed to be 10.9 knots, which should reduce the chances of collisions and also the lethality of strikes by around 50 percent.
The Gulf’s resident whale population was suffering an average of two deaths per year before the group was established to find urgent solutions. Only one death has been reported since Ports of Auckland Ltd introduced a voluntary protocol in September 2013.
The group, supported by the Hauraki Gulf Forum, will share data on vessel speeds each quarter.
Marine conservation pioneer Dr Bill Ballantine passed away in November.
Forum Chairman John Tregidga said “Bill was instrumental in creating our marine reserves legislation and one of the world’s first marine reserves at Leigh, where he lived, despite considerable opposition at the time. His legacy is
a much greater understanding and appreciation of the importance, functioning and vulnerability of
our marine environment.”
He attended the announcement of the Kermadec Sanctuary and the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Seminar in the weeks prior to his death. He was 78.
Tiritiri Matangi has given a helping hand to restoration efforts in the eastern Bay of Islands.
Project Island Song arranged transfer this month of 40 Tiri-raised popokotea (whiteheads) and 40 tieke (saddlebacks). Popokotea have been absent from Northland for more than a century and were transferred to Motuarohia Island.
The tieke arrived on Moturua and Urupukapuka by helicopter, to be welcomed by conservation workers, volunteers, schoolchildren, hapu members, Members of Parliament and TV personalities.
The Revive our Gulf charitable trust, formed to trial the restoration of subtidal mussel reefs in the Hauraki Gulf, was a finalist in this year’s Green Ribbon Awards, run jointly by the Department of Conservation and Ministry for the Environment.
Revive our Gulf’s latest newsletter notes juvenile mussels have been found growing in the first reef it created in December 2013 following the deposition of seven tonnes of live adult mussels off eastern Waiheke Island. The 35mm size suggests the recruits would have settled into the beds since establishment rather than having been transported with the original mussels.
Two takahē have been released on Rotoroa Island, an exchange of taonga between Ngai Tahu and Ngai Tai ki Tamaki.
There are 270 takahē in the world and up to five breeding pairs are bound for the island.
Rotoroa Island Trust chair Barrie Brown said takahē were the sixth wildlife species introduced to Rotoroa in the past twelve months, and would help enhance the island’s schools programme.
Auckland Zoo director Jonathan Wilcken said placing takahē on lots of smaller islands was a way of ensuring their survival. The birds were hatched at the Department of Conservation’s Burwood Bush Takahē Rearing Unit near Te Anau.
Black petrels are due back in the Gulf over the next month and the commercial long-line fleet are trained and ready.
Each of the 55 commercial boats fishing around the Gulf has a trained ‘seabird smart’ skipper, a seabird management plan and mitigation devices on-board. Black petrels are superb divers and can get hooked if they can see and reach baits.
They spend winter off South America and around 2000 pairs come home each year to breed on Great Barrier Island, and a smaller satellite colony on Hauturu/ Little Barrier.
A series of events is planned to mark the return of migratory seabirds and spread the word about how we can look after them while they’re here.
Living Water – a partnership between Fonterra and the Department of Conservation – has developed a three year plan for work in the Pūkorokoro /Miranda area.
The project will focus on protecting, enhancing and expanding shorebird habitat, including high tide roosting habitat and salt marsh, and managing weeds and predators; supporting advocacy to protect international flyway sites and showcasing examples of best practice sustainable dairy farming.
Ngāti Pāoa, the Pūkorokoro /Miranda Naturalist Trust and local educational programmes will receive support.
Pūkorokoro /Miranda is part of the Tīkapa Moana / Firth of Thames Ramsar site, an 8,500 hectare wetland of international importance. It provides important high tide roosts for nine shorebird species and habitat for a range of rare and threatened plant and animal species.
Ten Fonterra farms are in the catchment, six adjacent to the shore bird habitat area. Farmers will receive support to adopt practices which improve water quality and enhance biodiversity.
The Gulf’s most significant nature reserve is marking its 120th anniversary this month but its history is a chequered one, particularly for Ngāti Manuhiri.
Little Barrier Island was declared a nature reserve on 26 September 1895, New Zealand’s first such sanctuary.
However the island was appropriated a year earlier. With much of the Northland coast cleared of kauri the Government of the day established the Little Barrier Purchase Act to force the sale of Te Hauturu- ō-Toi from its Māori owners.
This history is acknowledged in the Ngāti Manuhiri Claims Settlement Act 2012. The Crown issued a formal apology for these and other historical actions which left the tribe virtually landless. The settlement recognised Ngāti Manuhiri as mana whenua and kaitiaki of Hauturu, vesting 1.4ha into its ownership to re-erect their original marae and dwellings, left burnt and ransacked after the eviction. The island was placed under the guardianship of Ngāti Manuhiri for seven days then gifted to the people of New Zealand.
Today Te Hauturu- ō-Toi/Little Barrier is managed by the Department of Conservation as a nature reserve, according to Ngāti Manuhiri values, protection principles and agreed actions.
The island has one of the highest levels of fauna species diversity for forest habitat in New Zealand and is a taonga of international significance. Conservation work is assisted by the Little Barrier Island (Hauturu) Supporters’ Trust.