By Lou Sanson, DOC Director-General
I’d like to acknowledge the sad loss of Peter Daniel, who passed away last month. Peter was the longest serving Kapiti Island ranger, stationed there from 1976 to 1998. He championed pest eradication efforts and the creation of the Kapiti Marine Reserve in 1992, one of the first to be established in New Zealand. Peter was a big believer in sustainability and had a strong passion for his conservation work. He will be sadly missed.
Wednesday’s release of 15 takahē into Fiordland National Park marks an important milestone for the Takahē Recovery Programme. We now have 60 breeding pairs in safe pest-free locations and with 15 more birds to be released in the coming months, this is a great achievement for species recovery. Huge thanks to our team in the Takahē Recovery Programme and our partners Mitre 10 and Ngāi Tahu.
Working with Ngāti Whare
In October I visited Ngāti Whare with our DOC staff at Murapara. The Ngāti Whare rohe includes Whirinaki Forest, one of the most spectacular giant podocarp forests in the world. It also includes a significant kiwi recovery programme behind Minginui.
Ngāti Whare negotiated a conservation accord with their Treaty Settlement which includes regular consultation, a joint Conservation Management Plan and working together on business planning within their rohe. It also includes a special Minginui Agreement to restore assets in the Minginui area.
Our discussions focused on our agreement to work closely on the Conservation Management Plan, as well as how we can work with Ngāi Tūhoe to promote both the Te Urewera and Whirinaki Forest as a potential tourism and nature resource.
Ngai Tahu Tourism: Kiwi Encounter at Rainbow Springs
While in Rotorua, we visited the Ngāi Tahu Rainbow Springs tourist attraction in Rotorua to thank them for the huge amount of work they’ve done towards our kiwi recovery programme. The kiwi incubation facility started in 1995 when Cam Speedy brought in a kiwi egg from the wild and asked them to try to hatch it. By 1999 they had hatched 15 chicks and now are servicing DOC and 16 separate kiwi community groups with over 1500 kiwi chicks now released back into the wild. With a 70% survival rate, this is a huge contribution to kiwi recovery.
Over the last 20 years Ngāi Tahu Tourism has put $5 million directly into the kiwi programme. They are now rebranding Rainbow Springs as Rainbow Springs Nature Park. Their vision is to create the world’s best nature park showcasing New Zealand wildlife and flora. With 200,000 visitors currently visiting Rainbow Springs each year, they’re confident the rebranding will boost this and encourage even more international tourists to discover ‘Our Nature’ through interactive experiences.
Rotorua Canopy Tours – towards predator free NZ
While in Rotorua I was pleased to be hosted by James and his team at Rotorua Canopy Tours in the Dansey Road Scenic Reserve, which is now ranked as the number one outdoor activity in the North Island on TripAdvisor.
They started the experience three years ago with significant help from our Rotorua team, in particular Ron Keyzer and Rhys Burns. They have grown this product from 9,000 visitors to 20,000 in three years and now employ 20 staff.
The three hour tour takes you through the canopy of a virgin podocarp forest while the tour guide tells you their story and vision for predator-free landscapes. It’s more than a zipline experience – the highlight is a robin that comes out and eats mealworms from your hand.
Visitors pay $139 each and are asked to donate to the vision for a predator-free sanctuary. The team now have 100 hectares of predator control and will increase this to 500 hectares using GoodNature traps. They’ve also set a target of selling 1000 GoodNature traps to visitors to manage pests in their own backyards, with the proceeds going back into their Canopy Conservation Trust.
This is such an inspiring story of how storytelling around the vision of predator-free New Zealand can be a market leader in the New Zealand tourism industry.
Goodnature expand their operations
Last month I visited the new Wellington premises of Goodnature. They have built new development and manufacturing facilities and are able to build over 600 units a week of their A24 automatic multi-kill traps (with capacity to extend to 1100 a week). Goodnature are expanding their operations including a planned launch into the UK market where the A24 has been passed into legislation after meeting the UK’s strict humane laws. (Squirrels are the equivalent of possums there!)
We’re using their technology in a number of successful operations like the recent knockdown and constant control of the rat population at Harts Hill near Te Anau and converting to their traps at Boundary Stream Mainland Island. Significantly, they’re now looking at a long-life lure system using hydrogen cell technology that might only need checking every six months. They’re also developing a possum trap which can be converted to kill feral cats; and traps for introduced mink, mongoose and grey squirrels overseas.
DOC invested $500,000 into Goodnature in a public/private partnership six years ago.
Fonterra/DOC Living Waters Partnership
DOC and Fonterra are working together to improve the natural habitats of waterways in significant dairying regions around New Zealand.. Over the last few months we have:
• Put over 25,000 plants in the ground
• Increased our research focus on freshwater restoration
• Hosted two community and farmer engagement days on freshwater restoration
• Progressed an MOU with the QEII Trust
• Increased our predator trapping efforts across three sites
At Te Waihora we have developed a dramatic wetland restoration in the shape of a tuna/eel with the co-director of Lincoln University’s Landscope Designlab, Mick Abbott, which will be clearly visible for all aircraft landing at Christchurch Airport.