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Inspirational Examples of Ecological Restoration
by Kate Waterhouse

The joint conference of the Society for Ecological Restoration Australasia (SERA) and the New Zealand Ecological Society (NZES) was held in Hamilton on 20 November 2016. If you ever doubted the level of public support for restoration and all that it requires across New Zealand, then sitting in on this conference for a day would certainly dispel it.

Of the almost 1,000 people present, attending six parallel seminar streams, were the technical and scientific muscle of conservation in New Zealand, alongside councils, volunteer trusts and community heroes making the difference locally to their own treasured places.

When you are walking amongst such people, the return of kokako to Te Paparahi seems not just possible, but probable.

As well as the findings of Joanne Aley’s recent masters research, three examples stood out – and for three completely separate reasons: Wild for Taranaki for its strategy of collaboration, prioritisation and urban engagement; North Auckland’s Forest Bridge Trust for vision and focus on education and enabling landowners; and the Moehau Environment Group’s Waikowau Bay restoration for sustained learning and practical kiwi innovation.

Leigh Honnor1 spoke for Wild for Taranaki - an inspirational coalition of iwi, government and private organisations who have agreed the restoration hit-list for the whole of the Taranaki region. The aim is to get the best for Taranaki rather than competing for the attention of funders.

And they’re starting in New Plymouth’s catchment. Why? Because they know that to win the hearts and minds of the public for region-wide change, they need to make a difference in an urban area.

Launched in 2016, Wild for Taranaki is the identity of the Taranaki Biodiversity Trust and is made up of 27 community groups, organisations and agencies involved in conservation work in the region. Wild for Taranaki was formed when a number of private trusts and NGOs realised there was too much competition for funding and they needed to put Taranaki first and prioritise what was saved and restored. As well as pooling information and co-ordinating the work of its own members, Wild for Taranaki administers the Community Biodiversity Fund, a funding pool available for biodiversity projects that support the Trust’s ecological priorities.

Forest Bridge Trust.  Gill and Kevin Adshead’s story of returning kiwi and other species to their forests on the Kaipara is well known.  But instead of stopping on the Kaipara, they are going all the way to the Pacific as one of six founding trustees of the Forest Bridge Trust2.

They work alongside landowners to help them manage their pieces of a coast to coast wildlife corridor, and with ‘Catchit Schools’ who manage pests and monitor results – a winning combination of maths, science, ecology and community.

The Forest Bridge Trust was set up to engage and unite landowners between the Kaipara and the east coast of the North Island between Mangowhai and Matakana. The Trust has been hugely successful in supporting landowners to fence streams, replant and restore remnant forests. 

The Trust works with schools to become ‘CatchIT Schools’, a programme developed with the University of Auckland  that engages students in learning about threats to our native species, motivating them to engage with nature and become hands-on ‘trappers’ in their own backyards. Students are drawn into meaningful science and maths activities as they analyse data while learning about pest and predator control.

Moehau Environment Group

And finally, from closer to home, the Moehau Environment Group a number-eight wire story3 about a community working with the Department of Conservation and the council and seeing the results in the Waikowau Bay wetlands.

The group includes volunteers and nine landowners working collaboratively with the Department of Conservation and regional council to manage pests in Waikowau Bay. 

Early on, the Group realised that it had to manage the estuary and surrounds as a total system – the estuary was silting up, wiping out pipis. No fences meant cattle damage, with the full suite of pests and weeds present. Baits and traps had to be set on stakes out of reach of high water events and tied on with rodent resistant old bike tyres.

Mataka/fernbirds are up from 26 individuals in 2006 to more than 200 today - mice and rats are the issue there - and they’re enjoying banded rails on their lawns as well as visiting spoonbills. Pateke/brown teal have been attracted to the area for several years – now at 240 and growing, unlike declining populations on Aotea/Great Barrier.

Waikowau Bay on the Coromandel Peninsula, where innovation and hard work have led to significant biodiversity gains.
Photo: Moehau Environment Group


1Restoring Taranaki – Initiating regional scale engagement to restore the health of our environment. Leigh Honnor, ERA2016.

2Conservation of biodiversity on private land in the Hoteo catchment, Kaipara. Shona Myers, ERA2016.

3Community-led wetland restoration in the Coromandel: A decade of practical action and novel No.8 wire research. Wayne Todd, ERA 2016.


Aotea/Great Barrier Island - the biodiversity facts of ‘our taonga

While we do not have the amount of data that Taranaki has on its ecosystems, we do know that Aotea/Great Barrier is a biodiversity asset for New Zealand. Consider this: 

· Largest tract of possum and stoat-free forest in New Zealand, with no other mustelids, deer or goats.

· Site of highest biodiversity in the Auckland region – Hirakimata, one of four nationally significant biodiversity
     sites on the island.

· Main New Zealand populations for taiko/black petrel, pateke/brown teal, and chevron skink.

· Regional stronghold for kaka, kereru, dotterel, kakariki, banded rail and fernbird.

· Key site for bottlenose dolphin population in the Hauraki Gulf.

· Situated on the ‘seabird super highway’ (see article on page 4) and the potential to be a significant seabird
     ‘hub’ if rats can be removed from even small islands.

· Highest quality marine environment - especially Port FitzRoy and the north east coast.

· Approximately 20% bigger than Abel Tasman National Park – the majority in conservation estate (Aotea
    Conservation Park).  

· Two pest-free sanctuaries (at Windy Hill in the south, and Glenfern in the north) and numerous private pest
     management projects covering significant non-DOC areas.