Stewart Islanders are working hard to create safe living spaces for their local native species, including the nationally vulnerable Stewart Island tokoeka.
The Stewart Island/Rakiura Community & Environment Trust (SIRCET) is on a mission to ‘pursue projects that will enhance both our community and environment’. The non-profit organisation was formed in 2002 by island residents concerned about the number of sooty shearwater/tītī and little blue penguin deaths near the main township of Oban.
Volunteers began controlling predators in the area, and, with the support of landowners, their project has grown to protect 210 hectares, from Ackers Point to Golden Bay Road. Trapping is the main form of pest control.
While the Trust has several projects under way, including a native plant nursery and trap library for residents to lend traps, the main project is the Halfmoon Bay Habitat Restoration Project. This aims to create an open sanctuary in the heart of the southern island’s community by:
- Creating a safe haven for Stewart Island tokoeka and other threatened species by controlling predators—rats, possums and feral cats.
- Improving their natural habitat by controlling browsing mammals.
- Increasing food sources and local native biodiversity by controlling weeds and re-vegetating with native plants.
Project Administrator, Bridget Carter, says the Trust would like to see an increase in tokoeka within the habitat restoration project area. Kiwi are present within the project area, with an additional eleven translocated in 2013. Weka were re-introduced in 2005. A monitoring project set up in 2011 will help confirm changes in the numbers of each of three species (tokoeka, weka and morepork /ruru) over time, complementing forest bird monitoring which has occurred since 2004.
‘We want to detect trends in the kiwi population so that we have more information on Stewart Island tokoeka,’ says Bridget, ‘we also want the call count monitoring to be an advocacy tool. It’s a great way for local families to become more aware of tokoeka in their back yards.’
Bridget is one of SIRCET’s two employees, whose role is to carry out the day-to-day operation of the Trust’s projects. As Project Administrator for the Trust, she manages communication, administration and education outreach within the community. The Trust’s Pest Manager is Willy Gamble, who oversees pest animal and weed control and co-ordinates and supports volunteers.
Bridget says one of the Trust’s biggest challenges, as a remote community, is maintaining the volunteer numbers and energy required for the continued success of these projects.
“It has been wonderful to see the number of resident and bach owner’s dogs going through our Kiwi Avoidance Training workshops. Each year we have about sixty dogs attend, a remarkable effort from the community given there are only about 380 island residents.”
“A highlight in 2018 has been the thoroughly excellent problem of having Stewart Island tokoeka walking through our sooty shearwater / tītī camera monitoring”.
To continue the Halfmoon Bay restoration project, the Trust needs the support of a network of volunteers and more than $71,000 each year, to sustain pest control, weed control and re-vegetation, species monitoring and environmental education.
The Trust receives funding from the Department of Conservation’s Community Fund, World Wildlife Fund of New Zealand, Predator Free 2050 Community Fund, Community Trust of Southland, Environment Southland, Southland District Council and donations.
Projects only begin once funding is secured.
The one most important thing
Volunteers are the life-blood of the Trust, whether they are snap-happy ratters, possum control warriors, hedgehog limiters, feral cat finders, weed busters, green-thumbed nursery wizards, people who donate or cut wood, financial whizzes, people who clean stuff, kiwi avoiding dog training experts, trap-making gurus… the list goes on,” Bridget says. Volunteers having contributed more than 1800 hours last year alone. The success of SIRCET’s work hinges on the hard work and dedication of its volunteers. “It is especially incredible when you consider the volunteer effort has been sustained since 2004. ”
If you would like to volunteer with the Stewart Island/Rakiura Community Environment Trust, or would like further information, contact the SIRCET Project Administrator:
Postal address: PO Box 124, Halfmoon Bay, Stewart Island/Rakiura 9846