It is a decade since the Little Windy Hill Company approved a modest
pest management programme at its AGM in October of 1998. Since that time
the south eastern Great Barrier Island project has grown to 750 hectares
involving 14 landholdings. Over the years through newsletters we have
shared much about the positive conservation outcomes of the project and
in marking this decade of restoration I would like this report to be a
more personal account.
Conservation is about people – it is an enlivening social activity that
engages people in actively protecting and enjoying the natural
environment. Unfortunately, it has, as its downside, the killing of
perfectly healthy animals and plants because we have deemed them
damaging to the native order we value more highly. It is based on human
The decade has been for me, as Project manager and vision holder, a
steep and ongoing learning curve full of surprises, delight (those first
Barrier born robins after 140 years was something else), failures, angst
about getting it right, heaps of support, and darn right doggedness.
Keeping such a successful mammal as the rat down takes ruthlessness.
Getting an inkling of an understanding about the dynamics at play in
this regenerating forest has been inspiring – living in it you learn
much by osmosis but a great deal more from the science of it. I have
loved the learning.
Top of my list is ….
• How amazing it is to live in a place like this and, with the
permission from landowners, to be able to pursue my passion of giving
the native species here the fullest opportunity I can to flourish and be
uplifting to all.
• I thank my husband, Scott, who allows me the freedom combined with a
solid financial backing, to do this.
• This year we have a flock of 14 kaka, and have for the first time,
seen juvenile lizards in the lizard ‘motels’.
• To the field team here—Kevin as field manager and the field workers
Dean, Rachel and Dave – thank you, you are outstanding. These
hardworking people are the engine room of the pest management and
monitoring programme – they are committed, conscientious, and as
interested in the results of their efforts as anyone. The sheer size and
complexity of the project and the biodiversity gains made are a tribute
• I am also hugely appreciative of the advice, support, and
encouragement I get from fellow Trustees, friends, locals, conservation
professionals, and local government personnel.
• The restoration work here could not be undertaken without the generous
support from a number of funding bodies, landowners, and individuals who
are detailed and thanked at the end of this newsletter.
• To have so many landowners, both private and public, working as
cooperatively as we do towards a common goal I regard as an achievement.
• The translocation of North Island robins to Windy Hill marked the
turning of the tide for waning biodiversity on the island and a thumbs
up from D.o.C as to the efficacy of our programme. I look forward to more
birds in March 2009.
• To have developed a committed field team of such a high standard,
formed from people who have had long histories of unemployment is a
bonus. The project has provided an opportunity for these people to shine
and to be recognised for their skill.
• The work of the project is highly regarded. We are well known
throughout NZ and have been recognised through Awards, the participation
of Universities, and the involvement of D.o.C, the ARC, and Landcare
• To have sustained funding over this period of time is also a mark of
the value of our work.
• We have developed a comprehensive monitoring programme with a Control
and have a critical approach to research with a robust scientific base.
The results are widely shared.
• We have promoted the development of the sanctuary area throughout NZ
through newsletters, workshops, and conferences.
• I have proven that biodiversity on private land can be sustained and
enhanced over time by community.
... and failures
We have failed in our original objective of managing pests to low
densities with the absence of toxins. After 5 years of trapping our
monitoring showed we could not get rat numbers down sufficiently with
this method alone. A very cautious introduction of toxins on a twice
yearly ‘pulsed’ basis reduced rat densities markedly over 4 years but
still produced inconsistent results. For example, rat tracking tunnel
percentages at Little Windy Hill doubled this year in spite of intensive
With conditional approval from landowners, the project has converted to
a toxin base and trapping has ceased. This has, for me, meant change
from a long-held philosophical organic view, and a new range of
There have been times when more timely consultation would have been
better, when our practice could have been better, and when my management
skills have come up short. No excuses, other than such is the human
condition of imperfection. We are learning from our mistakes.
Not everybody likes what you are doing – while I am open to robust
debate about our practice and discussion about the ethics of this, I am
occasionally distressed at the levels of intimidation I experience –
angry and vexatious people who use threats, bullying, and even vandalism
of the trapping gear as a way of expressing their opinions.
It is no easy matter accommodating the spectrum of value and belief
systems of the 43 individuals who own the properties in the sanctuary
area, let alone those of the neighbours to the project. And we do make
errors, boundaries being a key one, but where these are pointed out I am
conscientious about righting wrongs in as timely a manner as possible.
Trying to get the risk/benefit balance right is a challenge for any
activity like this.
Finding funding continues to remain a challenge as is meeting the
sometimes exhaustive conditions set by some funders.
The way ahead…
The goal now is to reduce the costs of the project as we head into lean
financial times (some funding bodies have ceased giving grants) and
improve the efficacy of our pest management, ie: to reduce rats, feral
cats, weeds, and pigs even further. These first few months of the
toxin-based programme will be used to establish the minimum amount of
toxin required for the best results.
The Trust has put in place a retrenchment plan which will unfold over
the next 18 months dependent on funding and the determination of the
resource required to manage the new toxin based programme.
I have managed the Trust funds fairly prudently and am confident that we
are well placed to weather the current economic downturn in the short
term and can complete the expansion our restoration sanctuary area to
Thank you to the following Trust Sponsors:
Biodiversity Condition Fund Kelvin Floyd, ARC Environmental Initiatives
Fund Auckland City Council Heritage Fund, Sealink Ltd, Lotteries
Environment & Heritage Fund, Great Barrier Airlines
and to the Great Barrier Landowners:
Little Windy Hill Co Ltd, Helga and Peter Speck (Benthorn Farm), Bruce
and Cynthia Macnee, Nick Wilkinson, Somerville & Nicolson Families,
Blaiklock Family, Robin Henderson, Martina and Pedro Tschirky, Wells
Family, Rachel Wakefield, Harland Family, D.o.C, Rosalie Bay Farms.
After ten years I remain enthusiastic about the sanctuary and committed
to continuing to mange it to the very best of my ability.