The Next Wave

February 15, 2019 10:35 am

Photo: Mt. Te Kinga and Lake Moana

Over January I’ve managed to get around some of the new places that Predator Free 2050 Limited could potentially work in.

We’ve been flat out over the past year bedding down and entering final negotiations with the seven projects our first tranche of government funding has enabled.

So, it was a welcome break to accept an invitation to the West Coast to look around the landscapes of Lake Brunner/ Moana.

Pioneering naturalist W.W. Smith said in 1888 “no more interesting or profitable district could be visited by the botanist or ornithologist in New Zealand than around the shores of Lake Brunner.” He recounted “considerable numbers” of kiwi, “flocks” of yellowheads and saddlebacks and an “abundance” of parakeets. But he also recognised the increasingly rare sightings of the “remarkable” kākāpō, the “jubilant” the New Zealand thrush (piopio) and the “beautiful” yellow-wattled crow (South Island kōkako) and worried what the arrival of the railway and further settlement would bring.

The latter two birds have sadly disappeared completely from our shores but representatives from Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Waewae, Grey District Council, West Coast Regional Council, Department of Conservation, Federated Farmers and Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment are keen to work together to breathe life back into the area.

Recent surveys and scientific reports have highlighted the potential of a predator-free zone centred on Mt Te Kinga with a buffer zone around surrounding farmland to the township of Moana, a tourist stop on the TranzAlpine Express. It has huge potential.

Further south, I met with staff from Department of Conservation, Environment Southland, Southland District Council and Venture Southland keen to create predator free futures.

I heard from the Predator Free Rakiura Leadership Group – made up of representatives from the Stewart Island resident community, business, hunting interests, fishing and aquaculture industry, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, Rakiura Tītī Committee, Rakiura Tītī Islands Administering Body, Rakiura Maori Land Trust, Department of Conservation, Environment Southland and Southland District Council – about plans to wrest the island from its plagues of rats, feral cats and possums.

An evening meeting at the Southland Community Nursery in the Invercargill suburb of Otatara drew around 40 predator control volunteers, keen to connect and ramp up their efforts.

Chairperson of the Bluff Hill Motupohue Environment Trust, Estelle Leask, shows us around the trap lines Photo: Chairperson of the Bluff Hill Motupohue Environment Trust, Estelle Leask, shows us around the trap lines.

I learned of the importance of Motupohue to Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu. It forms the taurapa or stern post of Te Waka a Maui and looks out at the puka or anchor stone of Rakiura Stewart Island.

Efforts to restore its mauri by the Te Korowai Whakahou Native Plant Nursery and Bluff Hill Motupohue Environment Trust include trapping over 1000 predators in 2018, helping to keep its rare mainland titi colonies safe.

Rhys Millar from Predator Free Dunedin joined me on the visit, to share his experience pulling together a coalition of more than 20 groups and agencies into a well-resourced, city-wide eradication campaign.

The Coast and the Deep South reminded me to look up from our current work and see another wave is building.

There’s an infectious energy and enthusiasm in the regions for landscapes where our native taonga can thrive once again.

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