Archives For Motutapu Island

Volunteers with the Motutapu Island Restoration Project share their experiences volunteering for conservation in the Hauraki Gulf.

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On Friday the Motutapu Restoration Trust celebrated 21 years of volunteer conservation work on Motutapu Island.

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Last Thursday 20 pāteke—New Zealand’s rarest ducks—were released on pest-free Motutapu island in the heart of Auckland.

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Today’s photo shows one of the Coromandel brown kiwi relocated to predator-free Motutapu Island in the Hauraki Gulf last week.

Kiwi being released on Motutapu. Photo by Kiwis for Kiwi.

It was the biggest ever single translocation of Coromandel brown kiwi and was done to create new diversity and future-proof the species.

Did you know?

There are 5 kiwi species:

  • Little spotted kiwi on several offshore islands and at Karori Sanctuary in Wellington
  • Great spotted kiwi/roroa in the northern South Island
  • Brown kiwi in the North Island
  • Rowi at Okarito, on the West Coast of the South Island
  • Tokoeka in the South Island (Fiordland, the Haast Range and on Stewart Island) and on Kapiti Island.

2 of the 5 kiwi species have distinct geographical varieties within them:

  • Brown kiwi have four geographically and genetically distinct forms: Northland, Coromandel, western and eastern.
  • Tokoeka also have four distinct geographical forms: Haast, northern Fiordland, southern Fiordland, and Stewart Island.

By Trish Irvine, Community Relations Ranger, Auckland

It takes a bit of organising to have volunteers follow biosecurity rules and be at various wharves around Auckland to meet the DOC boat for our ‘Overnight Island Volunteer Experience‘ on Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands.

Rangitoto Island from the mainland.

Volunteers contribute and learn about pest free Rangitoto and Motutapu Island projects

The five volunteers on this particular trip—a retired man who regularly volunteers for DOC, a couple from overseas on a working holiday, a teacher and a university student—are all keen, and want to contribute and learn about pest free Rangitoto and Motutapu Island projects. Volunteer numbers are increasing as word gets out about what DOC has to offer.

It’s a Thursday morning and I am running along Quay St to get to Pier 3 before 7.45 am. The DOC boat ‘Taikehu’ and Chris Giblin the skipper are already moored and the volunteers are waiting on the pontoon. I welcome them and check them off my list.

Volunteers digging out a historic structure.

Digging out a historic structure

We do a quick biosecurity check and zoom off to Devonport Yacht Club jetty to meet the rest of the team and load our work gear onto the boat. The ranger, Nigel Harper, joins us—loading our tools and kete of tea, coffee, milk and fresh home baking.

It is a calm clear day as we cruise the Hauraki Gulf to Islington Bay wharf on Rangitoto, where Rodway the Island Ranger meets us and has a DOC ute waiting. We drive to the Blue House, our home for the night, unload our gear and have a cuppa over a health and safety briefing and introduce the programme for the day.

At the summit loop track on Rangitoto we continue the work to maintain the historic structures that were cleared of vegetation on our last overnight trip. This time we dig out soil, spray some environmentally friendly moss and lichen remover, and sweep the boardwalk of leaves. Nigel takes measurements to make a cover for the drainage hole.

At the Fire Command Post on the summit of Rangitoto we climb onto the roof for magnificent views of Auckland and to sweep and scrape it clean of lichen and debris. We feel like we are on top of the world having such a beautiful lunch spot. The Post gets a coat of a tar-like sealant to waterproof it after lunch, and we do the same to the radio room, which is looking great with a new wooden floor.

A ranger and a volunteer hard at work restoring a structure on the island.

Hard at work

Driving back to the house we feel like we have the island to ourselves; it is so peaceful, there is no one else about. Nigel starts the fire that warms the whole house and we settle in for the evening.

The next day we clean the Blue House and pack up our gear so we can spend as much time as possible at the WWII Battery on Motutapu. Here we clear the drains, scrape the steel, work with wire brushes and apply fish oil to stop it corroding further. All before dashing back to the house, washing the tools and utes, and collecting our gear.

Chris and the ‘Taikehu’ are at the wharf to transport us back to Auckland—we’re feeling revitalised, alive and buzzing from such an awesome trip.

Volunteers scraping steelworks on the battery.

Scraping metal on the battery

The ‘Overnight Island’ experience is one of a number of volunteer opportunities on offer in Auckland. Many individuals, corporate groups, university students and overseas travellers have participated so far.

The next Overnight Island restoration trip is proving to be popular—it is already fully booked with a few people on the waiting list.


Volunteer with DOC

Being a volunteer is fun. You also get to work as part of a team, share your skills and learn new ones, and experience conservation in action. Visit the DOC website to volunteer with DOC.

By Trish Irvine, Ranger Community Relations

After humble beginnings in January 2009 with only 22 Auckland youth, this year, MAD (Make A Difference) Marine launched its 5th year with a record 48 secondary school students from 25 schools across Auckland.

Marine debris found by the MAD Marine team.

Marine debris

The three day leadership hui held on pest-free Motutapu Island kicked off city-side, at the Voyager Maritime Museum, with a welcome and blessing from iwi, a presentation by marine guru Roger Grace, and a talk about marine rubbish from Sustainable Coastlines. The students explored nearby city streets to identify and photograph rubbish-filled drains.

MAD Marine students working in the Motutapu Restoration Trust nursery.

MAD Marine students working in the Motutapu Restoration Trust nursery

Once all the gear and food had been inspected for potential stowaways, we set off for Rangitoto Island which is linked by a causeway to the much older, Motutapu Island. On arrival, we walked in the sunshine to Motutapu Restoration Trust’s (MRT) nursery where students carried out various tasks to help the Trust.

Later, at our base (the Motutapu Outdoor Education Camp), there were presentations about marine mammals and ecological restoration on the island, followed by a night walk to see the freshwater ecology.

Day two began with a dawn walk up the hill to the WWII battery, and after breakfast, a beach clean-up led by the Watercare Harbour Clean Up Trust.

The groups really began to bond with each other and the natural environment during the rocky shore id session … “Aaah look at that tiny cushion star … There’s a cat’s eye … Do you see the half crab? … Who wants to hold the kina? … Can you feel its tube feet?”.

Students participate in a beach clean-up.

Beach clean-up

Kayaking proved to be challenging for some students but they determinedly overcame their fears. Snorkeling in the bay’s unofficial marine reserve revealed an underwater world that was less familiar but full of surprises—snapper up close. Auckland Council’s Waicare team introduced some science and the marine planning session encouraged student’s creativity. In the evening, student leaders inspired everyone with the actions they had taken in their schools and communities, outlining the support they experienced, and the barriers they faced and overcame to “make a difference”.

Did we mention the food? Each year, with great leadership from Cate Jessep Auckland Council, we provide food from scratch, with the help of the students. There’s pizza, French bread, pasta, sushi, salad dressings, stewed plums and biscuits!

The students make pizza.

Interactive pizza making

On the summit of Rangitoto, students looked across to the city and contemplated their actions for 2013. Back down the hill, Marian from the Rangitoto Island Historic Conservation Trust shared a glimpse of a simpler time, showing students the (award winning) restored Bach 38 museum; how people connected with the land, re-used and salvaged materials to build these humble baches that are now an icon. After hilarious skits from each group we journeyed home exhausted and inspired.

One student kicked off her actions the following day with this blog – Ignore that jellyfish costume! One student’s article was even published in Element Magazine.

And aside from the formal evaluations filled in by students we’ve had some fantastic unsolicited feedback:

Another student:

“It was such an inspiring atmosphere to be amongst. Being surrounded by such motivated and change-making adults as well as young people made me feel a great sense of hope for years to come.

“In a society that focuses so much on the negative and so-called ‘dead-end’ state of the environment around us, it is refreshing to see people not only with the aspirations to make a change, but the motivation to follow through.

I hope to FINALLY implement a successful and efficient recycling system, beginning with a rubbish audit, upon my return to school. Although something more revolutionary would be more likely to fulfil my desire to make a change, I figure it’s best to start with baby steps.”

A parent’s feedback:

Please accept our thanks for providing such a fun and educational excursion. It sounded like it was full on but my daughter returned home with a fresh and perceptive understanding of why it is so important to look after the waterways.

“She has been treated to a rich experience in marine education and I hope this will manifest itself into becoming a responsible and assertive caretaker for the future.”

MAD Marine snorkelling and kayaking.

MAD Marine snorkelling and kayaking

The challenge for students who attend MAD Marine is to take their learning and inspiration back to their schools and communities and “make a difference”. This is just the start of the journey, which is ongoing—with catch up events planned each school holiday where students share knowledge successes and challenges with each other, and participate in another volunteer event.

MAD Marine is a partnership between DOC and the Auckland Council. We share the enormous amount of planning and resourcing that makes this annual event such a success.

From Fiordland to Motutapu island, in the heart of Auckland, is a long way to travel in a day – particularly if you’re a flightless bird. Nine takahē made the journey on Sunday November 4.

The birds were captured early in the morning at Burwood Bush Takahē Rearing Unit, near Te Anau, by rangers who run Mitre 10 Takahē Rescue. They were placed in transportation boxes and driven to Queenstown Airport to catch an Air New Zealand flight to Auckland.

The birds joined passengers on board a regular Air New Zealand flight to Auckland.

DOC Takahē Recovery Programme Manager Phil Tisch and Mitre 10 Sponsorship and PR Co-ordinator Alison Rowland at Auckland Airport with the takahē.

DOC Takahē Recovery Programme Manager Phil Tisch and Mitre 10 Sponsorship and PR Co-ordinator Alison Rowland at Auckland Airport with the takahē

The takahē proved popular with the Air New Zealand stewards and passengers on the flight. They were thrilled to be able to see the rare birds – there are only 260 in the world – inside their boxes. On arrival at Auckland Airport the takahē were carried from the plane to DOC and Mitre 10 utes and driven to Devonport. There they were transferred to a DOC boat, Taikehu, and ferried to Home Bay on Motutapu.

Ngai Tahu representative, Stewart Bull, made the journey from the deep south with the birds. He linked with Ngai Tai and Ngati Paoa representatives to provide a powhiri for the takahē on Motutapu. The birds were then released into native vegetation planted by volunteers from the Motutapu Restoration Trust.

Mitre 10 staff and family at takahe release on Motutapu.

Mitre 10 staff and family at takahe release on Motutapu

Ella, a takahē released on Motutapu on August 27, 2011, curious about new takahē arriving on November 4, 2012.

Ella, a takahē released on Motutapu on August 27, 2011, curious about new takahē arriving on November 4, 2012

The birds join four other takahē released on Motutapu on August 27 last year. The first release marked the declaration of Motutapu and neighbouring Rangitoto – the islands are joined by a short causeway – as pest free. Ella, one of the takahē released last year, was seen at Home Bay checking out the action surrounding the arrival of the new birds.

A powhiri for takahē on Motutapu.

A powhiri for takahē on Motutapu

The translocation on November 4 was the largest movement of takahē outside Fiordland ever. The aim is to have up to 20 breeding pair on Motutapu. This will make it the largest population of takahē outside Fiordland. This is an important step in securing the survival of takahē as the other pest free islands providing a safe haven for the species – Kapiti, Mana, Maud and Tiritiri Matangi – are now running out of room for the birds. Motutapu provides a large safe site, with a good habitat for takahē, that will enable the overall population to keep growing.

Two takahē are released onto Motutapu Island.

Two takahē are released onto Motutapu Island

A big thank you to Phil Tisch, the Takahe Programme Manager, who travelled with the birds all the way from Burwood to Motutapu Island; Phil Marsh and Helen Dodson who helped trap the birds in Burwood; Claudia Babirat who filmed the whole transfer; Glen Greaves, the Takahē Productivity Manager, who helped out with the release; and Andrew Nelson and Hazel Speed from Auckland who put a huge amount of effort into organising the event on the day.

DOC’s partnership with Mitre 10 is crucial in the work to ensure takahē survive. Takahē were thought to be extinct until rediscovered in 1948 in the Murchison Mountains deep in the Fiordland National Park. DOC has been working with Mitre 10 to save takahē since 2005.