Warding off the weeds on Mākaro island

Department of Conservation —  08/07/2018

Very few people have had the privilege of camping overnight on Wellington’s second largest harbour island – Mākaro/Ward island. In fact, it is usually prohibited to camp on this Scientific Reserve but recently two of our contractors spent time on the isolated rock in a bid to rid it of invasive weeds. Kapiti Wellington Biodiversity Ranger Emma Rowell shares their story.

Makaro Beach is located on Wellington’s second largest harbour island. 📷: Peter Russell

Peter Russell and Caz Bartholomew arrived by barge to Mākaro Island along with all their water food and supplies for five days camping. Living conditions were a challenge. The terrain offers few suitable camp sites so the team snuggled under a tunnel of ngaio with a bucket at each end for essential ablutions!

Peter Russell working the cliffs to rid them from weeds. 📷: Peter Russell

Like much of the Wellington coastline, Mākaro is a series of steep cliffs where hardy weed species like boxthorn and boneseed have begun to take hold. Karo and the lesser known Sexton’s bride (rhaphiolepis embellata, below) were also on the hit list.

The team worked off ropes, with loppers, pruning saws and herbicide paste to kill as many mature plants as possible. This was the initial hit on the cliffs and steep slopes. By working their way up, down and along over two five-day stints, the weed crew managed to cover over half of the island’s cliffs.

Five days of camping supplies was brought in by barge. 📷: Peter Russell

Similar work is likely to occur every one to two years until the weeds are eradicated or sufficiently under control. Reinvasion by some weeds seems likely so ongoing weed control will be required, but less hours will be needed in future.

Boneseed was one species particularly in the weeders’ sights. It does what it says on the tin – its seed is rock hard and remains viable in the soil for many years. One plant is capable of producing 50,000 seeds in a year. Both boxthorn and boneseed can quickly form dense stands, crowding out natives and surviving even on Mākaro’s most exposed rock faces.

An objective of the trip was to remove all plants old enough to set seed. At the moment weed seeds are brought to the island by birds. If such weeds were to begin producing seed on Mākaro it would become much more difficult to control them.

Some say the best beach in Wellington is on Mākaro!

There were plenty of visitors while the team were in residence – some generous souls even gave up their remaining chocolate macaroons! On behalf of Caz and Peter – thank you whoever you are!

If you visit – which is allowed by private boat during the hours of daylight – you must check your clothing, gear and boat for animal pests and weed seeds. Mākaro Island is pest free.

You can help restore the island’s delicate coastal plant communities by avoiding trampling and damaging native plants when visiting. Eastbourne residents can help by removing environmental weeds from their gardens that might otherwise continue spreading to the island thanks to bird dispersal.

Check out this great resource for tips on weed control in Wellington

For more info on Mākaro and the other Wellington harbour islands visit our website.

2 responses to Warding off the weeds on Mākaro island

    Daniel Mohr 10/07/2018 at 8:01 am

    Well done Pete, nice to see your face in the news!

    Gerry Brackenbury. 09/07/2018 at 2:13 pm

    Good work on your weed busting! Are there any lizards on Makaro island? If so what? if not, why not?
    keep rockin’.
    Gerry Brackenbury
    Lower Hutt F&B.