Articles tagged 'Conservation'

Where does the pacific golden plover – the kuriri – come from?

The shores of Miranda, in the Firth of Thames, are the part-time home to the kuriri. The fourth most common of the Arctic migrants that visit each summer, the kuriri used to arrive in their thousands each year to escape the Northern Hemisphere’s winter. Now, fewer than 200 visit. Why the numbers coming to New Zealand have declined is a mystery, as is much about the birds’ life.

Each year the small birds migrate to somewhere near the Arctic Ocean to nest. It’s not known whether this is Siberia or Alaska, what route the birds take to get there or if and where they might stop on the way. There’s speculation a habitat they might use as a stop-off point might be degraded.

This summer the Pūkorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre is going to try to find answers to fit 10 of the birds with tiny GPS trackers to see where they go. $20,000 was raised for ten lightweight GPS trackers. With permission from the Department of Conservation and Massey University Animal Ethics Committee, the notoriously flighty birds have been successfully tagged.

You can follow the progress of the campaign on the Pūkorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre website.

Newsroom reporter Farah Hancock reported on this recently here.

Attracting Spotted Shags back to the Noises

The Hauraki Gulf is home to a threatened population of Spotted Shags, thought to be genetically distinct. Whilst the Spotted Shag is relatively common in other parts of the country, in the Hauraki Gulf the birds are now limited to just two colonies, on Tarahiki and Waiheke Islands, with an estimated population of 300 breeding pairs.

In an attempt to attract Spotted Shags back to the Noises group of islands, a replica colony of Spotted Shags has been installed on the steep cliff face of Otata Island – the largest of the Noises group. The replicas were made from six Spotted Shag specimens in the Auckland Museum’s collection, that were collected by Museum staff from the Noises back in 1913.

The Museum’s specimens have been scanned, 3D printed and painted. As well as the replica birds, nests have been constructed from dried seaweed and a solar-powered sound system installed to transmit bird calls.  White paint has been used to mimic the droppings that mark seabird colonies.

Damian Christie from the Aotearoa Science Agency was on hand to film the installation.

You can also watch Auckland Biodiversity ecologist Tim Lovegrove and Auckland Museum’s Matt Rayner take part in an annual survey to monitor the threatened populations of Spotted Shags in the Hauraki Gulf here.



Growing the rare shore plover / tūturuatu population

In December the Department of Conservation announced that seven critically endangered shore plover chicks have hatched on pest-free Motutapu Island in the Hauraki Gulf, and in early February, the Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre released four juvenile shore plover on Motutapu Island.

Endemic to New Zealand, the shore plover / tūturuatu were once widespread around the coast of the North and South Islands but were driven to the brink of extinction by rats and other introduced predators.

In 1990 there were only 130 shore plover / tūturuatu All these birds were on one island, predator free Rangatira Island in the Chatham Islands.

Today the total population of shore plover / tūturuatu in New Zealand is around 245. Shore plover were first released on pest-free Motutapu in 2012 – a year after Motutapu and neighbouring Rangitoto were declared pest-free.

Read more from DOC and also from the Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre.

Cruise ships urged to dim the lights

In a dramatic incident in the Gulf last year, about 60 Buller’s Shearwaters ended up on the deck of a cruise ship after being attracted by the vessel’s bright lights. Some of the birds died because they were placed in boxes together and became distressed. Regrettably, 33 died and several were injured.

Since then, the Department of Conservation (DOC) has been consulting with international cruise companies and the NZ Cruise Association on how to keep the birds safe. Advice has now been distributed to cruise ships  when they sail into NZ ports.

In advice to ships, DOC urges those on ships to close blinds and curtains on cabin windows, reduce unnecessary exterior lighting, and to try to shield essential external deck lights so they are directed downwards and to reduce light wattage where practical.

Read more here.

The World’s First Predator-Free Urban Island

Waiheke Island is already possum free, and now plans are underway to see the island become rat and stoat free by 2025.  If successful, this could make Waiheke Island the world’s first predator-free urban island. This is no small undertaking for an Island that has a permanent population of about 9000 residents and over a million visitors annually. 

Auckland Council, Predator Free 2050 and Foundation North have jointly provided $10.9 million to cover a five to a seven-year programme on the island called Te Korowai Waiheke: Towards Predator Free Waiheke.

To find out more and get involved visit

Kiwi chick’s new home on Motutapu

In late October, a 23-day-old Coromandel brown kiwi known as “Waipahu” was released onto Motutapu Island. The first chick released for this season, Waipahu is the 62nd kiwi released to the pest free island.

Read more here


Back where they belong

From the age of dinosaurs up until the mid-1800s, wētāpunga lived between Waiheke Island and the Far North’s Paihia. But by the early 1900s, habitat destruction and predation from exotic pests saw to their demise. Auckland Zoo has been extremely successful at breeding wētāpunga and is safeguarding the giant insects’ future. So far about 4,300 of the zoo’s wētāpunga have been set free on Hauraki Gulf islands.

Read more here


McCahon kauri planted on Rotoroa Island

Kauri surrounds the late artist Colin McCahon’s Titirangi house and were included in many of his paintings.
But the area is badly affected by Kauri Dieback with 23 of the 25 trees now dying from the deadly wasting disease.

In a project to save the rich heritage of the McCahon trees, The Kauri 2000 Trust, the Colin McCahon House Trust, and the Bank of New Zealand were behind seeds being taken from their cones and grown to produce young tree’s. Heavily quarantined as they grew, 100 young plants have now been transported to Rotoroa Island and planted by volunteers.
Read more here

Gulf awash with blue whale

Exceptionally warm water off the east coast and Hauraki Gulf during last summer may be behind more blue whales being seen in the Gulf this winter.
Six of the giant marine mammals, including a mother and calf, were spotted in just one week.

Regularly out on the water, Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari staff say there are usually 15 sightings a year, and in 18 years they have not seen this many.

Both Pygmy blue whales and the Antarctic ‘true’ blue whales can be seen in our waters. Their populations are still recovering after being severely depleted by commercial whaling last century. Whaling saw the Antarctic population plummet from around 20,000 to under 2,000.

Read more here

Saddlebacks for Shakespear

Even though it is just 3.4 kilometres off the coast, the Whangaparaoa Peninsula is normally a flight-too-far for tīeke/saddlebacks on Tiritiri Matangi Is.
But 40 were given a helping hand to resettle there in May, behind the safety of Shakespear Regional Park’s predator fence.

The park is proving its credentials as a safe mainland sanctuary for native wildlife with Whiteheads, North Island Robin and little-spotted kiwi also released behind its fence.
Whangaparaoa residents are already seeing the benefits with more native birds flying into their gardens.

Read more here

Cruise ship bird deaths

New guidelines from the Department of Conservation, for the handling of seabirds on cruise ships, are being called for after the death of 20 shearwaters that landed on one of the ships, last summer.
Attracted by the ships bright lights, the 64 birds had been placed together in cardboard boxes by the crew, with stress from being in such close quarters and injuries from fighting, behind the deaths.
See our feature story for more on the impacts of cruise ships on the Hauraki Gulf.

Read more here:

Reserve is giant snapper nursery

A genetic study comparing snapper inside and out of Cape Rodney-Okakari Point Marine Reserve (Goat Island) has found that the reserve contributes 10 times more juveniles snapper than if it was not a reserve.

Offspring of spawning adults from the reserve were found up to 40km away.

Read more here

Budget Boost

The coalition government’s 2018 budget includes a $181.6m increase in funding for the Department of Conservation over four years, a 16 per cent increase on the current departmental allocation. It includes $81.6m for landscape-scale predator control. The budget has also allocated funding to support an independent review into the fisheries management system as well as to upgrade fisheries monitoring and compliance efforts.

Read more here

Love is blue

They were saved from starvation and fell in love while they recovered in captivity on Waiheke Island. But there was an emotional dilemma for the little blue penguins at the heart of this love story when one was ready to be released but the other wasn’t.

Find out what happened …

Kiwi for Coro

Young kiwi have been returned to the wild on the Thames coast at Te Mata. The 19 youngsters were taken from the area, while still in their eggs, to be hatched in the safety of Auckland Zoo. They grew up on Rotoroa Is until heavy enough to fend off predators before being returned to their original wilderness home.

Read more here

John’s Perspective

I’m pleased a response to the Sea Change Tai Timu Tai Pari marine spatial plan is on the list of priorities for the new Minister of Conservation to consider in her first 30 days, in recently-released Briefings for the Incoming Government.

It is a year since the plan was launched and this is now long overdue.

The idea of an independent advisory group to advise marine ministers on implementation and lead additional consultation is a good one and I look forward to supporting it.

As this issue of the Gulf Journal shows there are exciting things happening around the Gulf.

Dan Hikuroa believes our success in marine spatial planning and protecting Bryde’s whales comes from listening to the voice of the Gulf.

The work of the Revive our Gulf project has reached a new stage, with mussel reefs now being created around Mahurangi harbour.

Elisabeth Easther has been revisiting people and places made familiar by her mother’s television series and book in the 1960s.

And Mary Frankham is catalysing conservation projects and stitching them together from the Gulf to the Waitakere ranges.

Enjoy these stories and a long, hot summer out and about on the Gulf.

– Mayor John Tregidga

Pygmy blue whale

Pygmy blue whale sighting

A team from the Northern NZ Seabird Trust reported an unexpected sighting on their way back from a seabird survey of Rakitu (Arid) Island to Omaha last month.

Several kilometres west of Miners Head (between Aotea/Great Barrier Island and Hauturu/Little Barrier Island) they encountered five pygmy blue whales on a natural slick line. Chris Gaskin reports there had been lots of bird action just prior to the encounter.

“At first, we saw two whales, then three more, two of which joined the others. These were very large, pale grey (mottled or patchy) whales, with a high vertical blow, and very, very small fins long way back on the body. The whales were very active, rolling with pectoral fins out of the water on occasion, surging, stunning turquoise against the dark water. There were heaps of salps, krill, algae, seaweed, and feathers in the water – very low vis underwater sadly.”

– Chris Gaskin

This photo, along with others taken by Edin Whitehead, were used to confirm the whales as pigmy blue whales, a sub-species of the blue whale and known to be occasional visitors to the Gulf.

Waiheke marine reserve report

The Waiheke local Board has release a commissioned report following ecological surveys of potential marine reserve areas on Waiheke Island.

The report considers five locations and recognises their merit as part of a marine reserve network for Waiheke Island.

The board agreed to release the report for community consideration and to encourage community groups to lead on any marine reserve applications.

Read more here.

More conservation dogs

The Hauraki Gulf will benefit from Kiwibank’s support for DOC’s Conservation Dogs Programme.
Increased funding means pest detection dog handlers will now be based in Auckland, Whangarei, Warkworth and Whitianga, assisting with biosecurity monitoring, including surveillance and incursion-response. Read more here.

Island interest in predator free future

Predator Free 2050 Ltd, the Crown company established to secure funding for predator-free projects around the country, has received over 40 expressions of interest for funding and support for large-scale efforts by conservation groups. They include proposals from Waiheke and Great Barrier Island groups.
Several will be shortlisted and funded as ‘pathfinder projects’, to prove new tools and collaborative approaches.

Hauturu plan approved

The Hauturu-ō-Toi / Little Barrier Island Nature Reserve Management Plan became operative on October 2 after approval by the Ngāti Manuhiri Settlement Trust and Auckland Conservation Board. The settlement legislation recognises Ngāti Manuhiri as kaitiaki, or guardian, of the nature reserve. The plan is the second post Treaty settlement management plan to become operative and be implemented. It provides DOC with a guide for managing the island, a safe haven for many critically endangered species and taonga for Ngāti Manuhiri. Read more here.

Council triples pest control budget

Auckland Council is proposing spending $307 million over the next 10 years to rein in the region’s pests – more than threefold its current $88 million budget. The battle to curb kauri dieback and Dutch elm disease was at the heart of the funding increase, getting 10 times more than the $5 million currently allotted to it. Meanwhile, $40 million would go towards culling possums. Read more here.

Innovation Awards

World Wildlife Fund’s Conservation Innovation Awards search out the brightest and boldest environmental inventors, creators and dreamers to help transform their conservation ideas The WWF-New Zealand’s 2017 Conservation Innovation Awards, announced this month, recognised a high-tech thermal imaging solution for invasive species’ management; a device that detects real-time E. coli contamination in freshwater; and an innovation that combines thermal imaging and artificial intelligence for a predator free New Zealand. A record-breaking 47 entries were received for this year’s awards. Read more here.

Motutapu re-opens

Motutapu re-opened to the public on Labour Weekend, seven months after Cyclone Debbie damaged roads and tracks. The Rotary Centennial Loop Track has been repaired, helped by the Rotary Club of Newmarket and Dole NZ, and the campground at Home Bay is open but numbers are restricted due to damage.

Rising from the ashes

On the 15th of July 32 people volunteered their Saturday to pull up weeds on Motukorea (Browns Island). Accompanied by Auckland Council rangers the group made a strong start on removing weeds which had risen from the ashes after a fire devastated much of the island in November 2016. In the short time since the grass was burnt a wide variety of weeds have grown on the crater slopes, including apple of sodom, moth plant, wooly nightshade, mullein, bone seed and rhamnus. More than 6,000 weeds were removed but there is still much more work to do. John Laurence, chairman of the neighbouring Motuihe Island Trust, says the island is a stepping stone for weeds to travel further into the Gulf. Volunteers, including Cr Mike Lee, were ferried to the island by members of the Outboard Boating Club.

Auckland is one of the weediest cities in the world, with exotic species outnumbering our native plants. However a native bracken has also benefited from the fire and established in the crater. The bracken will provide better habitat for the rare reptiles that inhabit the island including the moko skink.

If you would like to volunteer visit

Bring back kōkakō

Ngāti Rehua is leading a project to eradicate pests from the Te Paparahi block at the north end of Aotea/Great Barrier, with the ultimate objective of seeing the return of kōkakō to the island.

The last kōkakō were removed in the early 1990s and transferred to Hauturu/Little Barrier.

The Department of Conservation is supporting the project through the DOC Community Fund. A feasibility study confirmed that the concept was achievable.

Planning work is currently underway to establish monitoring lines in the block and to assess the methodology for pest eradication.

Sweet sponsor

Storm-damaged Motutapu Island’s restoration project has received fresh funding from global fruit provider Dole.

Motutapu Restoration Trust General Manager Liz Brooks said the funding would enable the trust to further develop habitats to achieve its long-term goal of creating sustainable populations of takahē, Coromandel brown kiwi, tieke/saddlebacks and other threatened species.
Dole NZ General Manager Steve Barton said the company’s investment would provide stability and flexibility for restoration efforts

Motutapu has been closed to the public since roads, tracks and more than 5000 trees were damaged by Cyclone Debbie.
Volunteers have continued the planting programme with the island due to re-open to the public on Labour Weekend.

Hauturu showreel

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.

Tiri helps hihi back

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.

Dolphin release praised

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.

Read more here

Debbie hits Motutapu hard

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%.

Point England development

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.

Read more here

Community work boosted

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.

Read more here

Seabird slaughter

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.”

Read more here

Sanctuary additions

Shakespear Open Sanctuary is due to receive 40 little spotted kiwi in April and a further 20 birds in 2018.

The sanctuary offers a safe habitat of 500 ha which can contribute to the overall population growth of the smallest of New Zealand five kiwi species.

Read more here

Rakitu Island eradication

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.

Sea Change plan available

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

Gecko return

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.

Read more here

Evasive Weeds

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.

Takahē reach 300

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.

Read more here

Drone footage of a Bryde’s whale lunging after prey

Whale protocol working

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.

Read more here

Where are the little fish?

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.

Read more here

Marine environment report

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

Great Barrier investments

Great Barrier Island has a new Department of Conservation base at Okiwi, rebuilt and redeveloped following damage in the June 2014 cyclone.

Following the storm DOC has invested more than $2.5 million repairing tracks and facilities on the island.

Meanwhile, community trusts on Kotuku Peninsula, which includes Glenfern Sanctuary, and at Windy Hill Rosalie Bay have received funding of $108,000 to advance conservation work.

Rare species such as the black and Cooks petrels, pateke and chevron skink cannot survive without intensive pest control.

Read more here

Biodiversity Action Plan

New Zealand has a new action plan setting targets for protection of our unique native animals and environment.

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry says New Zealand’s Biodiversity Action Plan 2016-2020 sets out how to turn the tide of biodiversity loss and counter threats to native species.

The updated Action Plan includes Predator Free 2050, the Government’s commitment to ridding the country of rats, stoats and possums.

It also includes targets to rid 500,000 hectares of wilding conifer infestation and expansion of the Healthy Nature, Healthy People programme.

Biodiversity forum

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.

Read more here

Haturu – Little Barrier Island

Hauturu plan

The public has until October 11 to submit on a draft Conservation Management Plan for Te Hauturu-ō-Toi/Little Barrier Island Nature Reserve.

The draft ten-year plan has been prepared by the Department of Conservation in consultation with the Ngāti Manuhiri Settlement Trust and the Auckland Conservation Board.

It is part of a redress contained in the Ngāti Manuhiri Settlement Act 2012 that acknowledged Ngāti Manuhiri as kaitiaki of the Nature Reserve and provided for co-governance.

Common Dolphin

Common dolphin estimate

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.

Photo-identification and its application to common dolphins in the Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand

Nesting Spotted Shag

Spotted shag refuge

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.


GBI sanctuary expands

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.

Read more here

Haturu – Little Barrier Island

John’s Perspective

Big ambition

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.

Do The Right Thing: The 2016 Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Seminar

Do the right thing

The 2016 Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Seminar asks what it takes to Do The Right Thing

  • Can our primary industries reinvent themselves and their relationship with ecosystems?
  • What is people-power unleashing around our islands, reefs and harbours?
  • How can 600 years of indigenous knowledge and culture inform the way?
  • Are fly fishing for kahawai and sailing with whales signs of the times?
  • And where might the government fit in all this?

The Hauraki Gulf Forum has assembled an outstanding line-up of speakers for its seventh annual seminar on Tuesday, September 13 at Auckland Museum.

Book here

Mercury Island tusked weta

Great Mercury/Ahuahu pest free

Great Mercury/Ahuahu was declared pest free by the Department of Conservation in May. This followed a rat eradication operation in winter 2014, which has removed kiore, ship rats and feral cats.

All islands in the Mercury group are now free of pests, making the significant biodiversity on the smaller islands much safer from pest invasion from Great Mercury/Ahuahu.

The islands are home to a tusked weta found nowhere else in the world, kaka, saddleback, little spotted kiwi, tuatara, 10 different species of lizards and hundreds of thousands of seabirds.

The operation was partly funded by the island’s part owner Sir Michael Fay, who says the challenge now is keeping the islands pest free.

“All it takes is for one person to allow a stowaway pest on their boat to escape and undo all the hard work that has gone on here in recent years.”

Read more here

Robins return to Shakespear sanctuary

Robins return

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.

Coromandel brown kiwi arrive on Motutapu by waka

Lift by waka

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.

Read more here

Green winner

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.”

Funds for conservation

Groups have until 1 July to apply to a multi-million dollar fund set aside to support community conservation.

The DOC Community Fund was set up in 2014 to distribute $26 million over four years to inspire and enable community-led conservation projects around New Zealand.

Read more here

Purchase package for Glenfern Sanctuary

Glenfern purchased

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.

Read more here

Drone footage of a Bryde’s whale lunging after prey

Drone captures whales

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.

Read more here

Nicola Macdonald face to face with a taiko carefully held by Skip

Haere Mai Tāiko

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.

Great barrier, Ocean, Dolphins

Whale and dolphin alert

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.

DOC: Sharing our coasts with marine mamals

Hunua Project kokako Hunua Kokako Recovery Group's Dave Bryden with a kokako chick. Hunua Project kokako One of the Hunua Kokako Recovery Project's newest chicks, hatched in summer 2016.

Hunua birds thrive

Dozens of kōkako chicks have hatched in the Hunua Ranges, which border the western Firth of Thames, thanks to Auckland Council’s biggest ever pest control operation this summer.

Rat and possum densities were significantly reduced through the 1080-based pest control programme, which is expected to also benefit native plants, frogs and bats in the area.

Council staff worked closely with seven iwi with tribal ties to the area and other agencies to complete the successful operation.

Read more on the Hunua Kōkako Recovery Project’s Facebook page

First rabbit caught in DOC200 trap – Jan 2015

Rabbit incursion

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.

Goat Island Marine Reserve, Goat Island, Cape Rodney-Okakari Point Marine Reserve (Goat Island)

Marine reserve declines

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.

Read more here

Dead shorebirds

Botulism outbreak

Fish and Game and the Miranda Shorebird Centre have expressed concern at an outbreak of avian botulism in the southern Firth of Thames.

The disease, linked to warm temperatures and water with low oxygen content, has killed hundreds of game and migratory birds around the Ramsar Convention-recognised wetland in recent weeks.

Dead ducks and wading birds have been collected by wildlife officers and Department of Conservation staff and samples sent to Massey University for post mortem analysis.

Fish & Game’s David Klee said botulism is symptomatic of severely degraded environments and the extent of the outbreak was upsetting for staff and volunteers.

Read more here

Pateke on Rotoroa.

Pateke spread

Three breeding pairs of pateke are the latest native species to be re-introduced to Rotoroa Island.

In September the rare native duck joined saddleback, whitehead, kiwi, moko, shore skinks and takahe on the island, through a partnership between Auckland Zoo and the Rotoroa Island Trust.

The project plans to introduce up to 20 species by 2018, providing hands-on education and conservation training “to foster future conservationists.”

WATCH: Zoo Tales – Pāteke released to Rotoroa Island

Slowing for whales

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.

Ports of Auckland and Shipping Industry Helping Make Life Safer for Bryde’s Whales

Bill Ballantine

Ballantine legacy

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.

RADIO NZ: Father of marine conservation dies at 78

Winter planting opportunities

Plant now

Volunteer Week is June 21-27 with the theme “there is a place for you to volunteer”. Winter tree planting activities are being organised on Gulf islands and in regional parks.”

Motuihe Island recently celebrated planting its 400,000th tree since 2003. Red Boat Ferries run to the island every 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month.

National Volunteer Week

A tieke (Saddleback)

Tiri gifts

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.

Aerial photo of the length of Medlands Beach and Oruawharo Bay, Great Barrier Island.

Barrier announcements

Two important conservation milestones were announced on Great Barrier Island/ Aotea during the National Party’s Bluegreens Forum held in Tryphena in April.

The Aotea Conservation Park was opened, formally protecting 12,000ha or more than 40% of the island for future generations.

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry also announced a planned acquisition of Glenfern Sanctuary on the Kotuku Peninsula—legacy of the late Tony Bouzaid—in a partnership between DOC and Auckland Council.

Securing Glenfern Sanctuary’s Future

Restored mussel bed

Gulf revival

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.