The Whakaangi Landcare Trust operates in the far north of New Zealand, on the Hihi Peninsula in Doubtless Bay.
The Trust was formed in 2003 to do three main things – to control predators, conserve kiwi and restore the area’s native forest.
It began with a group of about 29 landowners who were pooling funds to tackle the huge problems of possums, stoats, pigs, rats and feral cats on their properties. Most blocks are between 40.5 hectares and 140 hectares.
Successful funding applications enabled the group to become a legal entity, and begin employing professional trappers. Today there are nine trustees, four operational officers and the project is overseen by a well-respected professional advisor.
Colin Salt, says Whakaangi has New Zealand’s northern-most kiwi population and highest concentration of kiwi to landmass in New Zealand. He hopes it will be able to increase its stock of Northland borwn kiwi and eventually re-populate other areas in the north. The area’s other native plants and animals, from pohutukawa to small native plants, have also shown huge recovery with spectacular growth rates, he says.
Size of area under protection
The area of control covers more than 1600 hectares of dense bush on Hihi Peninsula. The Trust also administers a buffer zone of 800 hectares, including Hihi township, which contains pockets of native vegetation in pasture.
The site’s location on Hihi Peninsula, bounded by Berghan Point, Hihi subdivision and Taemaro Bay, provides advantages for predator control. A concentrated line of bait stations along the boundary between bush and farmland helps prevents reinvasions from the land, while the sea provides a protective barrier on the site’s other three sides.
Colin says the topography makes it feasible to control predator reinvasion as long as the perimeter firewall is constantly maintained and serviced.
Maintaining the required level of predator control requires eternal vigilance and many hours of work, and will need to continue forever. To safeguard the zone in the long term, Colin says protective fences may eventually be required to prevent kiwi from escaping into farmland as their population grows.
The Trust also plans to slowly increase the buffer zones to eventually link up with other areas where pests and predators are controlled.
All of this draws heavily on people to make the project work—from the people on the ground who volunteer their time and expertise, to project managers, administrators and project advocates, to those whose role it is to seek funding to buy traps and baits and pay the contractors.
Colin says the project is focused and highly organised, with set programmes determining what happens in each season. Within its first 18 months about 10,000 possums and most pigs were removed from the area, and the stoat and rat populations were significantly reduced. Today, most predators have been removed or are under control, and the juvenile kiwi have a brighter future to look forward to.
With the area nearly predator free, the Trust is considering introducing three threatened native bird species and is looking at generating funding and support through eco-tourism.
The Trust also plans to establish a 25-hectare nursery as part of its next 5-year plan, with the assistance of the Department of Conservation (DOC). It is also investigating the logistics of removing eggs for incubation, as funding is secured.
Kiwis for kiwi helps fund Whakaangi Landcare Trust, along with a range of other sponsors and supporters.
One is the Habitat Protection Fund, administered by WWF-New Zealand on behalf of the Tindall Foundation. The Fund has allowed the Trust to initiate an ongoing kiwi avoidance programme for dogs, and to train a dog to track kiwi. This was done under supervision of DOC, and it is used extensively by the Trust’s vet, Lesley Baigent. Having a trained kiwi dog enables the Trust to better manage the kiwi in its area, Colin says. The dog also helps locate kiwi before commercial forest felling or scrub clearing.
WWF-New Zealand funding also helped the Trust build a clinic for injured or sick kiwi. “This means injured kiwi in the far north can be brought quickly to a facility in the crucial first 24 hours and be attended by our specialist vet,” he says.
Other funders include the DOC-administered Biodiversity Advice and Condition Funds, the Northern Regional Council’s CCPA fund and the Lion Foundation. Sponsors include Conferenz Limited, the Firth Charitable Trust, the Mathias Foundation (New York) and the Mangonui Lions Club.
Colin says their support has allowed the Trust to buy chick and adult transmitters and scanners, kiwi burrow monitoring cameras, and electronic probes to investigate burrows with minimum disturbance to the kiwi.
Kiwis for kiwi funding has allowed the Trust to increase its advocacy programmes to schools and service clubs, and night -time school tours are also held.
The one most important thing
The Whakaangi Landcare Trust considers its greatest achievement is to show that concerned New Zealanders can transform a large bush area to a nearly predator-free zone, allowing the plants and animals to begin to bounce back almost instantly. Although the landowners initially had little experience in pest control, they gathered knowledge from professional people and learnt how to impart their enthusiasm and goals to obtain the necessary funding. The early years brought many knock backs from outside sources, but the Trust learnt to overcome these. It is only too happy to share its large body of knowledge about pest control and administration procedures to help similar groups around the country.
If you would like to help with the work of the Whakaangi Landcare Trust, or would like further information, contact its convener, Steve Scott, at: