environmental wellbeing, strategic planning, return of the kokako
by John Ogden

This is the time of year when the vegetable garden dies, the winter wood supply needs sorting and I get to think about the last twelve months and write my annual report for the Trust.

The year has been an impor­tant one for the governance of Great Barrier, with the formation of a Local Board with greater autonomy than the previous Community Board, and a much clearer legislative requirement to address “environmental well­being”. Much of the Trust’s efforts recently have been to try to get community concerns over bio­diversity decline into the Local Board Plan. These concerns are clearly indicated by the presence of at least five Trusts employing people in rat and feral cat control over considerable areas of private land on the island.  The trustees are encouraging members and supporters to make submissions to the Local Board Plan, which could influence environmental policy on Great Barrier for three or more years, or could just be more feel-good rhetoric (see our sub­mission - link on Home Page)

In summary the Trust’s submission to that plan is that in order to sustain both the ecology and the economy of Great Barrier, activity is needed in three areas:

1.  Improving and protecting biodiversity.  This means considering the options available for pest management and eradication. The whole island – private and public land - must be considered in this regard, which implies wide community consul­tation. Herein lies our proposal for an “Issues and Options” study to address (a) the ecological issues, (b) the economic implications (which are considerable), and (c) the possible effects – through employment – on GBI population growth and demography.  There are tremendous opportunities for capitalising on the improved bio­­diversity outcomes that could be achieved if the major pests could be eliminated or effectively managed.

2.  Visitor awareness.  Ensuring that more visitors are aware of, and can access, what is presently available as biodiversity experi­ence on Great Barrier. Too many visitors go away commen­ting on the lack of bird life.  The Depart­ment of Conservation, Council and tourism agencies need to work together to promote the island and manage the resource and the infrastructure needed to access it. DoC is leading this dialogue. We recommended the appointment of a research officer to collate infor­mation, measure the annual cycle of visitor numbers and assess accommodation requirements into the future.

3.  Building capacity.   Jobs linking biodiversity with economic growth are present now on the island and can be expanded in future. Here also we see the need to grow local skills in these areas for future employment. 

Our submission thus emphasises the third part of our mission statement: “to work towards building an ecology-based economic framework for Great Barrier Island”. 

While rat and feral cat eradication are still central to the Great Barrier Island Charitable Trust’s mission statement, the vision has always been much wider, and our new vision statement  “Bring back the Kokako” encapsulates that and is in accord with the vision of Ngati Rehua.  This iconic bird was illustrated on the cover of Issue 23 of the Environmental News and discussed by Sonya Williams in that Issue. It was once frequent on the island and was still present within living memory.  The last pair were removed to Little Barrier in 1994. Otherwise, they would certainly have been eliminated by mammalian pests. As a com­munity we know that we have lost many bird species, that our forests are not what they once were, and that the Department of Conservation doesn’t have the capacity to deal with these issues. Basically it is up to us to decide what we mean by our personal and local “environ­mental wellbeing” and to make sure that our views are represented in the new legislation. Public meetings and submissions on the ‘mining on Te Ahumata’ debacle clearly showed that the majority of people on Great Barrier put environ­mental wellbeing high on their list of priorities.  I believe we can work out together how to achieve the vision of bringing back kokako, if we as a community have the will to do so.