by Emma Waterhouse
Mokohinau Islands, 21km northwest
of Aotea Great Barrier, are home to seven species of seabird.
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,
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.
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