“There is no I in team says Stella Schmid, one of three Trustees for Bay Bush Action. “If you can train your mind to think of the ‘we’ and the ‘us’, then you’re already heading in the right direction”.
As far as Stella is concerned, anyone and everyone can help with conservation – it’s mahi aroha (work of love) protecting the endemic and native species of our country. Whether that’s by having a trap in your backyard, educating your tamariki (children) about what’s happening in our forests, donating time, or for those who aren’t able to make it into the bush, donating putea (money), every little bit counts and helps. It’s a sentiment Kiwis for kiwi wholeheartedly agrees with and we’re pleased to work alongside Bay Bush Action to help protect kiwi in their area.
Bay Bush Action have been working to restore the natural balance of the Opua State Forest for around eight years and currently have 2060 multi-species traps laid out over an area of around 300 hectares. As with many community-led kiwi groups, it all started with one person. Brad Windust, also a current Trustee, saw the damage being done to the forest by species that have introduced into our country and decided to do something about it.
Since beginning an intensive pest and predator control programme, the difference in the forest has been remarkable. The traplines run around both Brad and Stella’s houses so they get to witness the benefits of the hard work that they, and their team of volunteers, strive to achieve within their core area. “We’ve seen things regrow,” says Stella. “Where trees had been eaten back and should have died, they’re now alive and flourishing. Also, the birds are more abundant around our homes.”
A big part of this success has been due to the support and involvement from the local hapū and the wider community. “My hapū is very supportive,” explains Stella. “The area of land that we trap once belonged to the hapū but now it is administered to by DOC, my hapū Ngati Rahiri, Ngati Kawa is from here, and we consult with them and DOC in our mahi as kaitiaki whenua (guardians of the lands) Just recently they gave me the honour of being the kaitiaki (guardian) of the birds that are injured or that die. That’s a huge privilege.”
The local community has also got behind the work being done by Bay Bush Action. “The people in our area have done nothing but try to help us push this kaupapa (programme) forward,” says Stella. “They trap in their own homes, they donate their time and efforts and they attend our events in support too. Thanks to many organisations and individuals donating, we have been able to give out over 200 traps and bait for our community to use.”
One of the great successes for Bay Bush Action has been getting the young people in the area involved. They have a group of children known as Ngahere Toa (Bay Bush Warriors), who help with setting traps as they learn about the forest and native species. “We love our kids, and they’re a very special part of Bay Bush Action,” says Stella. “They’re advocacy kids for conservation. Children just get it and I think it’s so important to focus on the up-and-coming generation because they’re the ones that will take our place and travel in our footsteps when we’re gone.”
All of the hard work done by Bay Bush action, with the support of the people and tamariki in the area, is paying off. As well as the visible difference in the health of the forest, the group also estimates that the number of kiwi in the area has doubled since they started, which they are delighted about. “We were thinking of looking into the translocation of kiwi to the area,” says Stella. “But it looks like we’ve been so successful that we might not need to.”
That’s not to say that their work is done. The group has ambitious plans to increase the area that they trap to 1,000 hectares. Kiwis for kiwi is very proud to be involved and help advance this kaupapa with a grant of $10,000 towards more traps. “Kiwis for kiwi are helping us achieve our expansion goals,” says Stella, “Kiwis for kiwi have been a great help to us – their support has made a huge difference.”
When asked about her vision for the future, Stella explains why it’s important to keep going. “The things we are trying to protect are very special to us…they were here first and now their home is not safe enough for them to live in. We would like to install a sense of connection and appreciation for the true owners of these lands, the things that existed here before we all arrived. We’d like to create safe places for these species to live in on the mainland, and lastly ensure that we have others in place to take over this important mahi when it’s our time to leave”
Success in anything comes from having passion, consistency and working smart and hard, which is exactly how Bay Bush Action functions. Their passion and commitment for preserving our endemic and native species for generations to come is inspiring and we’re very proud to work alongside them.
Header image (c) Bay Bush Action