The Whitianga Papa Tupu Ora Trust was set up in 2009 to protect 3,848 hectares in the Upper Reaches of Whanganui River Region. The area is covered in native podocarp forest. It’s wild, not very accessible and perfect habitat for kiwi.
But what makes it perfect for kiwi also makes it perfect for not-so-welcome residents like stoats, possums, rats and even goats. If these intruders aren’t kept under control, the kiwi will lose their home.
Before any pest and predator control began, Ngā Whenua Rāhui did a baseline impact monitoring survey to determine what species were present and at what densities. The results showed poor forest health, plenty of pests and a handful of kiwi. As kiwi are a taonga species on the Whanganui Awa, the Trust knew the resident population needed to be protected and enhanced.
Pest and predator control isn’t easy in an area so large and inaccessible. To get in and out, you need to use either a jet boat or a helicopter. Most methods used by many of the community-led kiwi conservation groups that we support, like traplines, possum shooting, kiwi listening by volunteers etc., won’t work.
Working with the multitude of landowners within the area under their care, the Trust began a more intensive and collaborative pest and predator control programme in 2015. The Trust and Ngā Whenua Rāhui worked with the Whanganui Department of Conservation and Horizons Regional Council to set up and carry out an aerial 1080 operation. This covered 1,000 hectares to measure the effectiveness of the operation pre and post 1080 drop.
The results of that test are now showing themselves. Kiwis for kiwi was pleased to be able to help the Trust this year by funding a call count survey using acoustic recorders to monitor the number of kiwi in the area.
Again, the terrain of the land means that this is no easy feat, so Kiwis for kiwi’s funding helped cover the cost of a helicopter and the people needed to do this, as well as lending the Trust acoustic recorders to use. The Whitianga Papa Tupu Ora Trust along with Ngā Whenua Rāhui worked with Kiwis for kiwi in ensuring that whānau were among those who completed the mahi.
“When the funding was provided by Kiwis for kiwi and we placed the acoustic recorders, I was fortunate enough to view the Whenua by air,” explains Gary Taiaroa, a Trustee, “and what was noticeable to me was a quarter of the Whenua was green whilst the rest appeared brown, almost grey. The pilot advised me that the green area represented where 1080 had dropped. Thirty years ago, 1080 was a dirty two number word. I don’t claim to know everything but, for me personally, that shows that the science, application and learning has advanced.”
The visual damage to the trees in the areas not covered by the 1080 drop is also a sign of the danger to native wildlife, including kiwi. Possums, stoats and rats have all thrived in a forest where there is no pest and predator control and they’re all a threat to kiwi. 1080 targets these invasive predators, with no danger to kiwi, and allows our native species to once again claim the forest as their own.
The results of the acoustic survey backed up Gary’s observation from the air – a significant amount more kiwi calls were heard this year compared to the 2015 survey, which is great news!
We’re always thrilled to hear results like this that show that community- and Māori-led kiwi conservation is working. Of course, there is still much to do. For the Whitianga Papa Tupu Ora Trust, the aim is to help the forest recover and reverse the damage done by invasive pests. “Ultimately, our real goal is to get our ngahere, and everything around us, back to how it originally was,” says Gary. “We basically started from ‘there’s a whole lot of bush and nobody’s doing anything on it’ but now, things are happening. For example, one of our other partners is Air New Zealand, who have provided funding to conduct a territory, sex and age class survey for kiwi. Young kiwi were found and that’s accredited to all the external agencies resources that have been provided and the hard mahi that has happened on the ground.”
The Trust’s aim is common among many of the Māori-led conservation groups that we work with. As kaitiaki of the land, they are working to return it to its natural state after the damage that has been done over the past few hundred years.
Pest and predator control is key to this and Kiwis for kiwi is proud to support groups across the country to plan and carry out these programmes.
Another important role for Kiwis for kiwi is to help build networks and enable collaboration between community and Māori-led kiwi conservation groups. We do this by building up strong networks ourselves and sharing these, and by bringing groups together both on an ad-hoc basis, and through our hui.
“Having those relationships and working collaboratively with other organisations – that’s going to support the environment, and especially the land,” explains Novena McGuckin, who is also a Trustee. “It’s about working in partnership with other groups.”
Gary adds that although the relationship between Kiwis for kiwi and the Trust is still relatively new, he has already come across mutual contacts. “When we mentioned Kiwis for kiwi to one of our business partners, we found out that they work with you as well and so that has opened up doors for us…so we’ve got another key stakeholder in there.”
We’re proud to be able to assist groups like the Whitianga Papa Tupu Ora Trust not only with their work on the ground, but also to help expand their capacity and make new connections. We look forward to continuing to help return the Whitianga Whenua to its former glory.
Header image (c) Whitianga Papa Tupu Ora Trust