I recall lots of opposition to this work because we were going out to
produce a productive native forest. My response was that when the trees
matured in 100–120 years the choices would be made then. In the mean
time the planting would improve the forest diversity in areas where
these trees grew originally but now had very little local source for
In 1985 the goat eradication programme started in Te Paparahi, the north
of the island. The Lands and Survey assisted through funding and the
Forest Service provided the goat hunters. This programme in my view has
to date been the biggest and most rewarding for conservation on the
Big things happened in the late 1980s. The restructuring of many
government departments, the demise of some and the formation of new.
This was later followed by local government restructuring. Great Barrier
Island did not go unscathed. The vast crown lands previously managed by
the NZ Forest Service and Lands and Survey were re-allocated in 1987.
Most went to the new Department of Conservation and leaseholds went to
the new State Owned Enterprise, Landcorp. The Great Barrier Island
County Council was replaced by Auckland City Council.
In 1986 we moved from Okiwi to Port Fitzroy to take up my new role with
the Forest Service. By then we had a growing understanding of pests,
both plants and animals. The first thing I did as an after work chore
was tackle the ginger. It took 2 years but eventually I had totally
eradicated one area above the house through pulling and burning but
succumbed to the use of herbicides to manage the other bigger area below
the house. Even now the odd plant will show but most of the area now has
a good covering of native vegetation.
In 1987 the goat eradication programme in the north was in full swing.
Already the change to the forest floor up to 1.5m was incredible. A
mixture of seedlings were showing everywhere and many trees,
particularly kohekohe, were coppicing. This programme was initially
planned only for the Te Paparahi block with controls and monitoring set
up between Whangapoua and Motairehe. After some convincing the programme
was extended to include all feral goats throughout the island. So a full
22 years later we have unofficially, a feral goat-free island.
In 1993 we were fortunate enough to purchase almost 11 acres of prime
land at Okiwi from Owen Cooper. Previously farmed for milking cows and
then dry stocked, it was bare land gently contoured towards the north
with two small creeks running though parts of it. Immediately I set
about fencing and planting. Nearly 6000 native seedlings later, raised
in my own nursery I had completed my plan of planting creek edges, damp
areas and boundaries to create an extension of natural corridors and
provide shelter and windbreaks. The benefits now include; improved bird
and animal habitat, increased birdlife, cleaner stream water, greater
variety of colour on the property and the simple joy of watching the
incremental growth each year. With benefits come disadvantages. These
are few but have long term impacts. The rabbits were very happy with the
extra cover that the plantings provided so proceeded to multiply and
occupy a space that was supposed to produce replacement plants through
the natural process from the many seedlings planted. The only species
that they don’t eat are kanuka and totara. Unless rabbit numbers are
dramatically reduced all our regenerating areas will look the same, a
real loss of diversity. Rats beat the rabbits. I have observed them at
night eating fruit and seeds from a number of species. So there we have
a double whammy, the seeds the rats don’t eat if given the chance to
germinate are devoured by the rabbits as soon as they rise above the
ground. I have also had to put netting around many trees to prevent
ringbarking by rabbits. They don’t stop there though, digging down to
and eating tree roots is another means of getting sustenance.
I do believe the future for the island is bright. There is a growth of
understanding for the special things that are unique to the island and
the ways of improving things to increase this uniqueness. A number of
people have led the charge to reverse the ‘take and don’t care’ trend to
make things safer and healthier so that serious consideration can be
given to bringing back a number of species that have not been seen or
heard by most of the current generation.
I was fortunate to play a part in the relocation of the two last known
kokako from Te Paparahi in 1994. They were moved to a safe environment
at Hauturu where there is every opportunity for them to breed with
resident birds there. The plan is that one day when all threats are
removed or managed their offspring will be brought back.
Planning for these events has to be thorough and do take time. Every
body that has an interest needs to be part of the process. Only then
will any completed works be called a success. My saying now is ‘all good
things take time’ and I don’t mean cheese.