Rats, ruru and the ripple effect

Department of Conservation —  15/09/2022 — 1 Comment

This is the third blog in the Hole-in-One for Conservation series.

The Predator Free 2050 (PF2050) goal is working towards an Aotearoa where our native species are safe from extinction and thrive alongside us. This ambitious goal aims to eradicate our three most harmful predators – stoats, rats, and possums – from all of New Zealand. Everyone has a role to play.

Auckland Council’s Pest Free Auckland initiative supports, inspires and motivates local communities to protect and restore nature in Tāmaki Makaurau. DOC, Pest Free Auckland, and our region’s golf courses are working together to champion predator control, habitat restoration, and sustainability on golf courses. With 500,000 regular players and clubs across the country, the golfing community is in a unique position to lead local action for our precious native species. Below, we highlight Remuera Golf Course as a club achieving big wins for nature, communities, AND recreation.

Morepork/ruru 
Image: Sabine Bernert

Predator control, habitat restoration and community engagement are the trifecta for successful urban conservation. Remuera Golf Course has harnessed this unbeatable trilogy in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland to prove that nature and people can thrive together.

The Club sits next to New Zealand’s largest urban wetland restoration project, Waiatarua Reserve. It is also surrounded by thousands of neighbours that call the area home. Established in 1934, the Club has a long history of connecting with local communities and working hand-in-hand with conservation efforts.

Rats, ruru and rare birds

Having evolved separately from the rest of the world for millions of years, our native animals did not learn to defend themselves against introduced predators. The Club, like most urban green-spaces has their share of harmful predators and jumped at the opportunity to take action to return birdsong  to the area.

The Club identified mice, rats, mustelids, possums, hedgehogs, rabbits, magpies and wasps as key threats. They sounded the alarm for help, engaging volunteer members to support them to monitor, clear, and reset traps. These volunteers took their guardian role seriously, even checking traps during Covid-19 lock-downs.

During lockdowns, the Club opened the course to the surrounding neighbourhood for relaxing walks.  During this quiet time, the birds spoke up. Neighbours started to hear the resonant call of ruru/morepork. They worked together to build wooden ruru boxes and place them in sheltered bush throughout the course. The call of the ruru is now a nightly delight..

A korimako/bellbird  was caught  a garden trail camera, set up by a PhD student studying urban green spaces.  =Before this sighting, the community hadn’t seen korimako in the area for over 100 years. Locals were shocked, as was the student who had not seen one in urban Auckland before and had to ask what it was!

Bellbird/korimako 
Image: Shellie Evans 

Lockdowns also provided a quiet time for the club greenkeepers to ramp up their habitat restoration programme. They converted 60,000 m² of the course to ‘no mow’ zones and planted more than 700 native plants and trees. Course staff planted pūriri, kahikatea, nikau, and other native plants sourced from local Ngāti Whātua Ōrakei Nursery.

In addition to habitat restoration, the club also committed to switching to organic fertilisers and 100% renewable and carbon zero certified electricity.

The ripple effect

The club’s conservation leadership has inspired neighbours to pitch in. More than 60 neighbours living along the course have begun trapping rats and possums in their backyards. They share successes and challenges with Club staff. Staff provide trapping tips and advice, host neighbour forums for knowledge sharing, and share successes in their monthly newsletter.

On course for kererū and kākā

When the Club began their environmental enhancement programme journey, Course Superintendent (Head Greenkeeper) Spencer Cooper had one wish. He wanted kākā to nest on the course. Since their journey began, he’s seen a big increase in native birds at the club. From the rare korimako sighting to the calls of ruru, to the recent sighting of rare pāteke / brown teal, he is encouraged by their progress.  

Brown teal 
Image: Sabine Bernert 

Last month, Spencer finally caught sight of the first kākā on the course. This sighting gave him renewed resolve to continue their successful trapping and restoration programme  to encourage kākā to take up residence. He sees each returning native bird as bringing us one step closer to a predator free New Zealand.  

North Island kākā 
Image: Sabine Bernert 

Get involved in Predator Free 2050

Curious how you or your business can join courses like Remuera Golf Course in getting involved in Predator Free 2050? Learn more about finding your local group, trapping in your community, and getting the whole whānau involved.

Pupuke Golf Course

Akarana Golf Course

Maungakiekie Golf Course

Titirangi Golf Course

Waitemata Golf Course

All under predator control and habitat restoration programmes, forming a biodiversity halo around the inner city.


Volunteering is the centre piece to this story, without people taking the action to volunteer and inspiring others to join in none of the wins for nature mentioned would’ve been achieved.

There are a wide range of volunteering opportunities with us around the country. These vary depending on the time of year, but they include things like:

  • planting trees
  • being a campsite host or hut warden for a few weeks during summer
  • maintaining tracks
  • repairing/maintaining historic sites
  • teaching visitors about local wildlife
  • responding to call-outs from the public about distressed seals

Browse our volunteer opportunities

One response to Rats, ruru and the ripple effect

  1. 

    How wonderful. Foresight, dedication and hard work brings great rewards. On a trip home I will pass by.

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