Great Barrier Island Environmental News
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by Emma Waterhouse


Mokohinau Islands, 21km northwest of Aotea Great Barrier, are home to seven species of seabird. Photo: I.Mabey

Sometimes it pays to remind yourself that you are not alone. In life and in your hopes for the future. Such was the feeling at the inaugural Auckland Pestival held on Saturday 24 June this year. With over 400 people from 450 community groups across Auckland, the feeling was very much one of being part of a much wider, mainstream movement - to restore native biodiversity by being pest free.    

I was blown away by just how many community groups were undertaking pest control in their own back yards. And it’s happening in many places beyond Auckland—you just have to go on to the Predator Free New Zealand ‘Find a Group’ website. Families, all sorts of volunteer groups and trusts are waging a war on pests across the country. What I am struck by most is that those on the mainland have a few more pests to deal with than here on Aotea Great Barrier. Stoats, Norway rats, possums, hedgehogs...

So it’s really no surprise that attention, one day, might turn to this island, and for others to understand just what a unique opportunity the Barrier presents to create large areas of pest free habitat. We already have the largest tract of possum and stoat free forest in New Zealand. Why not go further?

Not many people would disagree that getting rid of rats is a good idea. It’s the ‘how’ where opinions often diverge. And such debate is good. And necessary.

What Pestival showed was that the technology and approaches to pest control are moving at a very fast rate. We need to keep up - we just don’t know what methods might be available in the future to rid this land (and I mean all of New Zealand) of predators one day.

So what do we do in the meantime? How do we at least halt the decline of many of Aotea’s special birds, lizards and other species. We are, for example, seeing worrying downward trends in pāteke numbers, and tomtit and kākāriki are just hanging on. Last month, Predator Free NZ issued an expression of interest (EOI) for groups interested in obtaining funding for ‘large landscape scale’ projects. Applicants had five weeks to respond to the EOI.

The prospect of obtaining significant funding for pest management on the island, taking a community-led, whole-of–island approach, was suddenly on the table. 

A wonderful collaboration ensued to draft the EOI, led by Ngati Rehua Ngatiwai ki Aotea as mana whenua and the Local Board, with support from the island’s existing sanctuaries, community groups, multiple private landowners, Aotea Conservation Park Advisory Committee, Auckland Council, Department of Conservation and a Technical Advisory Group.

So what was proposed in the EOI? A pathway to restoration of Aotea Great Barrier, following the path laid out in the Local Board’s Ecology Vision. A pathway that does not include wide-scale aerial application of toxins, a pathway that has put the community front and centre and in control, a pathway that builds and expands on existing pest managed areas, and would support projects like Ngati Rehua Ngatiwai ki Aotea’s ‘Bring Back Kokako’ on Te Paparahi. And importantly, a pathway that invests in community education and support.

Shortlisted projects will be announced on 24 November and would need to develop a full funding proposal, due in January 2018.

As this issue of Environment News so clearly illustrates, we have many precious taonga on Aotea Great Barrier, many that could be lost. Why wouldn’t we take this opportunity to protect and restore them?

Noho ora mai

Environmental News Issue 38 Spring/Summer 2017