Winning combination for Banks Peninsula’s Wildside

Department of Conservation —  21/06/2017

The Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust won the 2017 Green Ribbon Award for Community Leadership.To celebrate National Volunteer Week coordinator Marie Haley tells us about Wildside, their large-scale conservation collaboration project.

Tell us about the Wildside

Well, there’s so much nature here! The Wildside is a place tucked away beyond Akaroa on Banks Peninsula. It’s 13,500 hectares of bush, farms and coast. It has tall sea cliffs, beaches and coves with many seabirds, fur seals, tītī/ sooty shearwater, little blue penguins and a remnant population of yellow-eyed penguins.

Our wildlife is amazing. The plants, bush and streams are home to tomtit, rifleman, Banks Peninsula wētā, jewelled gecko and freshwater fish such as banded kōkopu.

I have a deep love of the Wildside beauty, the wildlife and the wild spaces. I’m inspired being at the top of cliffs, overlooking the land and sea. It’s here I really feel that connection to nature and its abundance.

What makes the Wildside a community of leaders?

Jewelled gecko at the wildside

Our community are farmers, landowners, the two runanga, Koukourarata and Onuku, there’s schools, visitors and tourists.

The largest group are farmers who have been here for generations. They know what lives on their land, and they know what wildlife they’ve lost. They were astounded by the spread of predators. They’ve been getting rid of possums, feral cats, stoats and ferrets for 20-30 years.

I’ve called us a community of leaders because many protect their land with covenants and trap their bush from predators. My figures are that 93% of the Wildside is in private ownership. There’s 18% in conservation covenants including the inspirational Hinewai Reserve managed by Hugh Wilson and land managed by the Josef Langer Trust.

We’re not just a community on its own, we have huge support from DOC, CCC, ECan, the universities and businesses have contributed heaps. I see their passion for this place.

Volunteers monitoring titi within the predator-proof fence on Wildside

Is there one thing that stands out about your community?

Yellow-eyed penguin. Wildside.

The people stand out because they’ve persevered against the odds. It’s been tough making a living off the land. In the 1980s farmers really struggled to make ends meet. They had to be creative in finding different sources of income. This is when the Banks Peninsula walking track started, farm tours began and people learnt to make the most of the surrounding nature.

What have you learnt recently about conservation?

Where to begin! Recently, Zero Invasive Predators came to our trapping workshop organised for the Wildside community. We learnt new approaches to trapping and how to maintain and monitor. People liked hearing about tackling predator control on big peninsulas. We learnt to have hope about on-going suppression and eventual eradication.

Best of all I don’t feel like I’m chugging away on my own. I feel part of a bigger network around New Zealand where I’m learning and sharing what we know.

Collaborative penguin monitoring, Flea Bay, Wildside.

Do you have any conservation advice for us?

We need to be the change that we want to see in the world.

I want to continue living in a wild place where I’m astounded by nature and the abundance of plants, birds and animals around us. Communities and volunteers are key to this- together we can plant for wildlife and remove predators.

People can create a place for nature in their own backyard. Many people have a garden where they can encourage wildlife. Create habitat by leaving logs. Put rocks out as hiding places for lizards and insects. Plant natives to connect to other gardens or bush nearby. Let your garden go wild!

Marie Haley and Rebecca Parish collecting the 2017 Green Ribbon Award for Community Leadership.

Find out more about the  Wildside Project, Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust and their supporters.