Thursday, July 14, 2011

Noisy birds in Kia Wharite project area

Contractors working in the Kia Wharite project area have been coming back with reports of increased bird numbers in recent years.

Independent contractor Jason Hart, manager of Back Country Contractors spends a lot of time in Whanganui National Park and surrounding reserves. Jason and his team have recently completed over 2000 hrs of goat hunting work in the northern part of the project area so have a good idea of the goings on in the back country.

Camping in pairs with tents they are flown into some of the most remote and rugged back country areas in NZ where they set up camp and base themselves for 10-12 days at a time.

“The work conditions can be extreme but the upside is you get to go into some very remote places and enjoy the great outdoors” says Jason.

Jason and his team have noticed an increase in birdlife throughout the Kia Wharite area. “We work all over New Zealand and feel that the bird life in here is better than or as good as anywhere else in New Zealand, it has really picked up in the time we have been completing our contract work and is similar to that of places like Pureora Forest Park which has been under pest control for many years showing the positive benefits of sustained pest management”

Other contractors are finding a different environment than that which they started working in many years ago. “The campsites are alive with kiwi screeching all night long, they’re keeping us up and that has never happened before” says Woody Reed, goat hunter.

This is great news for the future of Kia Wharite and these are just some of the positive results that the project is delivering.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Successful open day raising awareness for native whio

Raising awareness for New Zealand’s bluest duck is not the hardest thing to do. Throw together a whole lot of people and organisations who are passionate about whio and open the doors to the public. The result? Anyone who’s interested can learn all there is to know about saving the whio.

Whio Open day was held at the Tongariro National Trout Centre in Turangi on March 19th, where over 500 people attended. Major sponsors of the day, Genesis Energy, were there in full force with Department of Conservation staff, Forest & Bird supporters and Central North Island Blue Duck Trustees working in the community to raise awareness and funds that would help whio recovery in the region. An auction was held using donated prizes raising over $2000. Dan Steele from Blue Duck Lodges in Whakahoro was the auctioneer using his talents to get top dollar for the donated goods which included a beautiful whio painting by artist Ellie Watson and accommodation packages put together by Forest & Bird and Blue Duck Lodges.

A bouncy castle and face painting kept the kids amused and displays and talks took place over the course of the day, informing everyone on the whio projects taking place in the region. A highlight was DOC’s Andy Glaser with his whio dog ‘Neo’ and Alison Beath with her radio tracking display and whio obstacle course.

March has been “Whio Awareness Month” for two years now and the major sponsors and supporters are hoping many more people will get involved next year. Richard Gordon, Genesis Energy’s Public Affairs Manager, attended the Whio Open Day and noted how successful it was. “It is fantastic to work alongside the Department of Conservation, Forest and Bird, the Central North Island Blue Duck Trust and other community groups to raise the awareness of whio. We are impressed at the work being done in the central North Island to help this important and endangered New Zealand species,” he said. Kia Wharite was also a focus for DOC & Horizons staff who enjoyed sharing information with the public and spending a day with their colleagues’ who came from as far and wide as Whanganui to Whakatane, to spend a day supporting the whio.

Monday, February 28, 2011

March the month to tell New Zealand about the Star of the $10 bill

While the importance of protecting kiwi from extinction is well known throughout New Zealand, the fate of another iconic bird hangs in the balance.

Numbers of Whio, or native blue duck are dangerously low. With less than 3000 of the species left, the Department of Conservation, New Zealand Forest and Bird, Genesis Energy and the Central North Island Blue Duck Charitable Trust have joined forces to raise awareness of the native whio.

The highly endangered whio is not only unique to New Zealand but also unique among the waterfowl. It is unrelated to any duck elsewhere in the world and many of its habits are peculiar to the species. The whio is also an important indicator of the health of our fresh waterways.

March is Whio Awareness Month, please join Genesis Energy, DOC, Central North Island Blue Duck Charitable Trust and Forest & Bird and help us to raise awareness of the whio. See the Genesis Energy website for more details or email

If we help out now, the ten dollar note won’t be the only place we’ll be seeing whio in the future.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Meeting project objectives

Kia Wharite is an integrated approach to managing 180,000 hectares of the Whanganui River catchment. The project has a number of outcomes that focus on improving the status of several threatened species, improving habitat condition and in the longer term water quality in sections of the Whanganui catchment. Essentially the project is about integrated management of a large section of the catchment. The key to the success of the project is
  • integrating the work of the Department of Conservation and Horizons Regional Council to most efficiently and effectively tackle the threats to species, habitats and water quality

  • the two agencies are working in partnership with iwi and landowners to maximise the effectiveness of programme delivery

In a practical sense this means a commitment to shared outcomes by DOC and Horizons and a consequent sharing of technical knowledge, skills and resources. Importantly this is being done across both public and private land as the threats to the catchment and its ecosystems are across land tenures. This means DOC, regional council and landowners operating as 'good neighbours', for example, through combined efforts in controlling possums, goats and fencing waterways.

Critical to the natural values of the catchment are

  • managing areas of forest to reduce forest degradation and erosion through pest control and fencing and

  • combining that with whole farm plans (delivered through regional council) which also look to reduce erosion, manage nutrient inputs and protect forest habitats.

Similarly threatened species programmes rely on managing pests across land tenures.

For example, in forested habitats DOC and Horizons are working on a combined approach that means goats are controlled by DOC on public land and on neighbouring areas of private land through Horizons. This has seen the area of the catchment under goat control increase substantially. This benefits both forest condition and reduces erosion. It also provides value to farmers where they have significant problems with large feral goat populations on their land.

The project has also sought to provide local training and skill development so that local people are contracted to carry out much of the practical work. There are economic gains through tourism based around wildlife, scenery, fishing and on farm experiences.In addition, the project is contributing to the maintenance of the ecosystem services provided by the catchment.

Some key numbers from last years project report:

  1. Area of forest under possum management - 103,538 ha

  2. Area of forest under aerial rat and stoat control - 60,000 ha

  3. Area of river under stoat control for whio - 55 kilometres (additional to 2. above)

  4. Area under goat control - 24,580 ha (increasing to over 30,000 hectares in 10/11

  5. Protection of bush on private land area retired - 334.5 ha with 18.1 km of fencing

  6. Area of wetlands protected 11.5 ha with 5.9 kms of fencing

  7. Riparian fencing to protect waterways - 17 km

  8. Number of pairs of whio under active protection - 55 pairs

  9. Number of pairs of kiwi under protection - 1,500 pairs