Great Barrier Island hosts
'Sanctuaries of New Zealand' Conference

Last weekend GBI was host to the annual ‘Sanctuaries of New Zealand’ conference, which attracted over 70 people from all over the country. What are ‘sanctuaries’? They are places with intensive pest control to protect native biodiversity. Maungatautari in the Waikato is NZ’s largest and perhaps best known fenced sanctuary at 3500 ha, followed closely by Zealandia (formerly Karori) in Wellington. Some sanctuaries are fenced to keep pest animals at bay – up to 12 species including rats (3 species), possums, stoats, ferrets, pigs, cats, rabbits and hedgehogs; others are simply areas of intensive pest control where passionate conservationists make every effort to maintain pest control. Some sanctuaries are just a few tens of hectares in size, but they can range up to several thousand hectares. Here on GBI there are two sanctuaries – the fenced Glenfern sanctuary at Port FitzRoy (contact Tony Bouzaid), and the unfenced Windy Hill Rosalie Bay pest- managed area (contact Judy Gilbert). We also have Motu Kaikoura, an island off the west coast of GBI, where Rod Miller and others have been working to achieve low pest densities.

Attendees at the Sanctuaries of NZ Conference

The conference was hosted by Landcare Research, and was attended by representatives from sanctuaries all around NZ from Northland to Southland, as well as by DOC and Landcare Research scientists, students, Forest and Bird representatives, regional council and DOC staff, and university researchers. Attendees stayed in the Orama Christian Camp, as well as visiting both Glenfern and Windy Hill on subsequent days.

Participants heard about a range of topics. John Innes (Landcare Research) discussed the huge range of sanctuaries that exist and noted that they cover only about 0.2% of the NZ mainland. Rod Miller (Motu Kaikoura Trust), Judy Gilbert, and Tony Bouzaid spoke about their local experiences running sanctuaries – everything from providing local employment to running pest control operations. Colin Campbell-Hunt (Otago University) outlined a recent survey of sanctuaries staff, and spoke of their passion for conservation. Liz Parlato and Helen Nathan, students from Massey and Auckland Universities respectively, described the challenges of reintroducing North Island robins to pest-free areas (Liz) and the problem of detecting small numbers of mice on islands (Helen). Andrea Byrom (Landcare Research) reviewed recent research results for the pest that was on everyone’s mind (ship rats), and Roger Pech (also Landcare Research) spoke about the need to put the sanctuaries network in a ‘bigger picture’ of linked conservation sites across NZ landscapes. The presentation by Craig Gillies (DOC scientist) highlighted the urgent need to maintain the DOC Mainland Island network, which demonstrates just how pest control can really make a difference to native biodiversity. The day was completed by a fascinating talk by Gary Barker (Landcare Research) who described a little-known element of NZ’s fauna – land snails of which NZ hosts some 36 species.

The sanctuaries conference was a chance for all participants to catch up on everything from the latest pest control and fencing technologies through to the latest research on pest species and native animals. Everyone went away rejuvenated and enthused.