This blog follows on from the previous blog, summarising a 3-day event that took place at Hamilton Gardens (Aug 14-16, 2018). The Sanctuaries of NZ (SONZ) meeting theme: Collaboration for Conservation was well evidenced in the morning’s soapbox session. Twelve participants from Regional Councils, community trusts as well as conservation entrepreneurs signed up for short speaking slots. After the soapbox, field trips departed to local peat lake and catchment restoration projects: the predator-fenced Rotopiko and Waiwhakareke, adjacent to Hamilton Zoo.
The Soapbox session began with Matt Maitland (Shakespear Open Sanctuary Society/Auckland Council). He highlighted the need for detailed post-translocation monitoring – in this case, little spotted kiwi. Had the group not put transmitters on each (bird instead of half as initially recommended), then incidences of avian malaria (the primary cause of death) and other deaths (e.g., by falling from cliffs) would have been underreported.
A pervasive theme throughout the 3 days was how Sanctuaries fit into the bigger conservation picture. In Taranaki, for example, there is a major philanthropic project (Taranaki Maunga), large-scale community-led initiatives (East Taranaki Environment Trust and Parininihi) along with Regional Council-led and supported programmes (e.g., Wild for Taranaki). Simon Collins (Rotokare Scenic Reserve Trust Manager), described how this creates a complex landscape with many unknowns in terms of how best to work collaboratively and ‘keep in the loop’ i.e. ensure effective communication between initiatives.
We learned about several new initiatives: using crypto currencies to fund restoration from Danny Parker. He aims to set up a system based on the sale of manuka honey to support large scale restoration in the Waikato with crypto currencies providing an income stream.
Paora ‘Baldy’ Haitana and Steve Hirini from the Raetihi-based Unenuku Charitable Trust outlined a new project in development: Pōkākā, a new fenced sanctuary that will cover 200 ha. Steve emphasized ‘I can’t be proud unless we get it right’. Over a decade of accumulated knowledge though practical experience within the SONZ network is a huge bonus for new projects. Building momentum with the local community is vital: Gillian Waddams from Auckland’s Ark in the Park described huge community support for the west coast project, with up to 400 active volunteers participating.
Willow van Heugten from the Hunua Kokako Recovery Project (Auckland) showed how sustained pest control can improve kokako numbers – from one breeding pair in 1994 to 55 currently. Research is ongoing at Windy Hill Sanctuary, Aotea/Great Barrier. Judy Gilbert provided an update on the group’s research comparing the attractiveness of different flavours of Nara Long Life Bait trials to Rodents. The group’s study has had greater success with non-toxic baits soaked in peanut oil than other variations (meat, fish, vanilla), and variable results using Goodnature A24 self-setting traps. Pest control entrepreneur Heiko Kaiser has worked closely with Windy Hill providing a range of pest trapping equipment and continues to experiment with developing different non-toxic lures for rodents. Judy also showed a double ended cat trap fitted with an Econode sensor that generated a lot of interest from SONZ participants.
The 564 ha Motu Kaikoura lies only 80 m off the west coast of Aotea/ Great Barrier. Motu Kaikoura Trust Chair Rod Miller emphasized the added cost and logistical considerations for building infrastructure on a small island. When the original lodge was destroyed by arsonists, considerable materials and labour were donated for the rebuild. Parts of the structure were prefabricated and helicoptered into place.
Sanctuary Mountain (Maungatautari, Waikato) co-chair Melissa Sinton updated SONZ participants on the status of agreements reached with landowners adjacent to the fence. Alan Saunders (Waikato Regional Council) highlighted the vital role of local government in supporting sanctuary initiatives. WRC have been on board since the inception of the 3400 ha Sanctuary – the largest sanctuary in NZ – in 2009 as a funder and advising on the restoration and strategic planning. At Bushy Park Sanctuary (Whanganui), the Manager’s position, held by Mandy Brooke, is now financially supported by conservation NGO, Forest and Bird.
Robert Schadewinkel (Ecosystem Ranger, Brook Waimarama Sanctuary) surprised us all with the news of unexpectedly high numbers of hedgehogs counted from inside the 715 ha sanctuary, along with one or more deer. A dense network of tracking tunnels documented the hedgehogs which were subsequently removed through trapping operations. Of late, the sanctuary has had some major setback with fence breaches – steep terrain combined with large tree falls pose an ongoing issue. Rotokare by comparison has little issues with fence maintenance as the fenceline follows the ridgeline at the top of the lake catchment, with mostly farmland adjacent. Meanwhile, Conservation Manager Elton Smith (Orokonui Ecosanctuary, Dunedin) talked about domestic cats being ‘the elephant in the room’ – little talked about but an ever present issue.