An ecological restoration programme under way is transforming part of the regional park into New Zealand’s first mainland island that combines farming, public recreation and conservation of native species. The aim is to create an open sanctuary free of plant and animal pests, which showcases how aspects of sustainable land management – recreation, conservation and farming – can be compatible.
This work is supported by the Tawharanui Open Sanctuary Society Incorporated (TOSSI), a non-profit group that works in partnership with the regional council to provide volunteers, raise funds, grow locally seed-sourced plants and co-ordinate other activities.
Society chair, Paul Williams, says Tawharanui is an ideal location because the peninsula lends itself to a predator-proof fence to keep out animal pests. It is also close to islands, such as Little Barrier/Hauturu, and is a stepping-stone for birds such as kereru, kaka, bellbird/korimako and seabirds.
Size of area under protection
The Tawharanui Open Sanctuary plans to restore around 350 hectares of coastal lowland forest and 80-90 hectares of wetlands within the 588-hectare coastal farm park. About 150 hectares is farmed with sheep and cattle. Pest eradication work covers nearly 240 hectares and 10 kilometres of trap lines.
Creating a predator-free mainland island safe for brown kiwi and other native species means getting rid of introduced pest animals and weeds. Ten species of animal pest (including mice, rats, mustelids, possum, hedgehog, feral cats and rabbits) were targeted. In 2004, a 2.5 kilometre coast-to-coast predator-proof fence was completed, and pest eradication began, both inside and outside the sanctuary.
Within six months of the predator-proof fence going up, rats, stoats, ferret, weasels and feral cats were gone. Within eight months, possums were gone. A few hedgehogs and rabbits persist, and mice are a stubborn challenge.
The removal of animal pests has allowed the reintroduction of native species, including 40 brown kiwi, to create a founding population. The birds came from Motuora Island, in the Hauraki Gulf, one of the Operation Nest Egg™ creches.
Also reintroduced have been North Island robin, whitehead and brown teal/pateke, while bellbirds/korimako quickly brought themselves back once the predators had gone. As well, shore skink numbers have increased by 45% and New Zealand dotterel, kereru and tui have increased in number.
The one most important thing
Paul says for any group that wants to bring kiwi into its area, and wants to know the birds are safe from predators, the one most important thing is to put up a predator-proof fence around the project area.
Also important is the strong support of dedicated people. ‘We have a high level of volunteer input,’ he says, ‘to the extent that the Auckland Regional Council has quite radically changed its views on partnerships with the community. We are now held up as an example of a successful community organisation. In some ways it’s because the park is unusal and unique and people have a good feel for it, and we also have a handful of people who are very dedicated and have stuck around.’
If you would like to learn more about the society and its work, or volunteer your efforts, you can contact the Tawharanui Open Sanctuary Society Incorporated chair, Paul Williams, at:
Phone: 09 425 9877
Postal address: PO Box 112, Matakana, Warkworth 0948