A renaissance in the Waikato

HECUA student and ECO intern Emily Donaldson continues her series looking at ecological restoration projects in New Zealand.   Her research is based upon the survey work undertaken by ECO earlier this year.

 

There’s more happening in the Waikato than just dairy farming. Two hectares of the upper Mangaiti Gully in Hamilton is undergoing a native flora renaissance in hopes of reestablishing native fauna, in turn. Through comprehensive and prudent planning, with support from the Department of Conservation, New Zealand Landcare Trust, and the University of Waikato, the Mangaiti Gully Restoration Trust wants to incite community interaction, create an education resource, form a local urban resource for recreation, and epitomize good governance.

The Mangaiti Gully Restoration Trust’s purpose, according to ECO’s 2014 survey of conservation work by environmental groups, reiterated the goals of restoration (to pre-European status), reestablishing native fauna, and sustainably collaborating with other people and organizations that share similar objectives. Weed clearing, planting, track construction, shade house extension, pest control, native species introduction, and general maintenance all contribute to this vision. Beginning in 2010, the Trust honed in on dominant canopy trees, such as the Kahikatea, Pukatea, Swamp Maire, and Pokaka found in this very wet, steep ecosystem.

Seeing as the gully is Hamilton City Council land, the council helps the resource gully restoration groups by supplying trees to plant and to fund other needs. The Trust’s expenses in 2014 were $4191, relying on 1,134 volunteer hours to achieve a commendable amount of restoration work, often during weekly “3-hour working bees.” Their blog is just as impressive as the community project, updating and detailing many of the different initiatives and species introductions, removals, and monitoring.

Check out the blog and their great photos at:

http://gullyrestoration.blogspot.co.nz/

NZ Landcare Trust also featured Mangaiti Gully Restoration Trust’s work in December, 2011:

http://www.landcare.org.nz/News-Features/Features/Mangaiti-Gully-Restoration-Group

 

 

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A positive bias for Bushy Park!

ECO’s intern and HECUA student Emily Donaldson continues her series looking at ecological restoration projects happening around New Zealand, based upon the survey work ECO undertook last winter.

In this article Emily reviews the sterling work being done by Bushy Park at Whanganui.


Bushy Park: Part Bush, Part Park, Part Homestead

I will admit upfront my (positive) bias towards Bushy Park Sanctuary in Whanganui. I will also add that a panel from Ecological Management & Restoration (a journal of the Ecological Society of Australia) and the Society for Ecological Restoration International deemed Bushy Park as one of the top twenty-five ecological restoration projects in Australia and New Zealand in 2009.

Our HECUA study abroad programme visited the one hundred predator-free fenced hectares this September, tramping its trails, counting kereru, checking traps, and exploring the fence line. In addition to Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari and Zealandia, this ecological sanctuary has left an indelible mark on me.

Bestowed to Forest & Bird in 1962, Bushy Park is cared for by Bushy Park Trust, enhancing native avian and endangered species populations and providing environmental education opportunities, trails for recreation, and a Homestead for entertainment and accommodations. The Edwardian-era homestead, a Category One Heritage Building registered with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, harbors twenty-two rooms and a treasure trove of Maori and other historical and cultural artifacts.

Reflecting its cultural richness and diversity, Bushy Park’s species richness and biodiversity includes bellbirds, kereru, north island robin, saddlebacks, hihi, moreporks, fantail, grey warbler, pukeko, silvereye, kingfishers, white-faced heron, and some kiwi. Giraffe weevils, glowworms, and huhu beetles also inhabit Bushy Park, residing in the diverse native bush and wetland. Stoats, ferrets, weasels, possums, feral cats, hedgehogs and rats once threatened many of these endemic species, but recently mice and rats are the main mammalian species left.

Although we only checked a few tracks, 12,000 volunteer-hours were contributed to Bushy Park in 2014, according to ECO’s environmental group survey. Running on a pricey budget of $60,000, Bushy Park appreciates all visitors, volunteers or otherwise.

Bushy Park

Habitat and bird protection, monitoring for predators, upgrading of tracks & signage, and maintenance accounts for much of the workload within the fence. With ongoing work and a long-term vision, I would love to return to Busy Park to offer a helping hand and see its progress. Its value, cultural, historical, and ecological, is irreplaceable.

 

Please, spend some time exploring Bushy Park online:

 

http://www.bushyparksanctuary.org.nz/

Support the Waitara Three

The actions by Taranaki Regional Council in holding three individuals responsible for costs incurred in a hearing, rather than the group for whom they signed on behalf, sets a dangerous precedent for the rest of country. The Council has determinedly pursued this through court action, almost certainly incurring more in legal fees than the debt they claim but they won’t release this information under the OIA unless the applicants pay $461.00 up front – applicants plural because at least eight different people have requested this information. They also refused to release the information to Radio New Zealand unless they paid for it though the sum to be charged was $81 per hour, for an unspecified number of hours.

The group involved is Friends of Waitara River – and the Waitara certainly needs friends. For a long time it was the waste disposal unit for the town’s freezing works which pumped waste down the old blood chute straight into the river (great herring fishing ground, according to older locals). While that has stopped, the river is often the receptacle for overflows from the town’s storm water and even sewage systems. Water quality in the area is so bad that there are signs warning about contaminated shellfish on the local reefs.

The group made a submission on three resource consents related to extending the time permitted for emergency discharge to the water way (emergencies are more frequent than occasional) and requested an independent commissioner to hear the consent applications lodged by New Plymouth District Council to Taranaki Regional Council (TRC). The latter council said they would charge for the independent commissioner but never gave a definite figure.

Friends of Waitara River lacked legal status at the time so their submission was signed by three members. By the time the hearing was held, the group was an incorporated society.

TRC could have decided to carry the cost of the independent commissioner, but they didn’t. They could have decided to bill the group involved, but they didn’t. Instead they deliberately and zealously set out to bill the three individuals who signed the submission. They won in court and on appeal because of the legal technicality of the few weeks between signing and when the group became an incorporated society. They were also awarded costs on the first court hearing but not the appeal.

The court did not take into account multiple failures in procedure by TRC.

  • They added a fourth consent which was much larger and more complex to the hearing on the three consents and billed FOWR for costs related to independent commissioners for that fourth consent, even though the group had not requested this.
  • They failed to provide details of costs in advance of the hearing.
  • FOWR requested AN independent commissioner. TRC had already decided to employ TWO independent commissioners and added a THIRD commissioner – billing FOWR for the additional commissioner.
  • TRC admitted in court that the costs incurred as a result of the FOWR request for an independent commissioner were around $5000, but they continue to charge them the original $12000 (plus unspecified additional costs of recovery).
  • TRC have refused to negotiate an out of court settlement. They have refused to even meet with FOWR or to permit a delegation to speak to councillors.
  • TRC even refused to receive a delegation of local kaumatua who wanted to speak to them about the actions.
  • TRC refuses to recognise that FOWR tracks its origins back to 1980 and the hearings into the establishment of the Motunui plant (now methanol but back then a Think Big flagship project turning gas into petrol) with their long sea outfall to sea. Then there was the Waitangi Tribunal hearing into discharging waste to water around Waitara in 1982. The Friends have continued in various forms, advocating for the water and the river and beach environments ever since, as well as being active in environmental projects. The issues have continued for 35 years now and so have some of the group members.

Sadly New Plymouth District Council, whose consents are at the heart of the issue, have wrung their hands in faux sympathy, nodded sagely and walked away.

All this means that three individuals are facing a bill – the exact amount of which remains unknown at this stage but is likely to be closer to $30, 000 than $20, 000.

The real danger of what the Taranaki Regional Council has done is to ensure that nobody will ever make submissions to consents again where costs are threatened. Nor is the public able to use the OIA to try and find out information. Democracy, Taranaki-style, anybody?

The clearest message to them would be country-wide outrage at what they have done and widespread support for the Give A Little page. https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/supportthewaitara3/

Please help and do not let this council bankrupt these three individuals.

 

Golden Bay: Beautification and Preservation of the Local Waterways

ECO intern Emily Donaldson continues her series reviewing the results of a survey ECO undertook this year into the voluntary work being performed by groups to care for our environment in Aotearoa.

In this post Emily looks at the work of a small and energetic environmental group, Keep Golden Bay Beautiful.

Freshwater quality is currently at the forefront of New Zealand environmental management and policies. ECO’s annual conference this year in August addressed dialogues on freshwater, in attempts to “navigate impasses and new approaches” on a variety of interdisciplinary topics related to freshwater. Keep Golden Bay Beautiful, based in Takaka, is one environmental group working at the ground level to improve the freshwater quality in their locale.

A litter cleanup each year garners the most volunteers and publicity for this small environmental group, a recent respondent to ECO’s survey of the work being done by environmental groups around the country in 2014. Current project sites include the Onekaka River and the Takaka River Oxbow at the southern end of Paynes Ford Scenic Reserve (public land of Tasman District Council, DOC or Land Information New Zealand), which are dependent on a network of groups and individuals and community donations and volunteers. The TDC serves as a member of the group’s parent body- Keep New Zealand Beautiful.

Keep Golden Bay Beautiful predominantly aims to restore riparian vegetation and make sure the lowland river (which has a large number of invertebrate species and fish) is protected from agricultural pollution. Restoring these targeted five hectares to their indigenous state depends on riparian planting (especially of rare species), fence mending, releasing of plants, poisoning out crack willows, spraying weeds, and preparing new planting sites.

In 2014, volunteers contributed 160 hours of their time to these projects, adding to the 20 person-days of managing and working. This conservation work and health of the local waterways are wedded to the cultural identity of the community, which celebrates new citizens by presenting a local kowhai to every child born in the Bay the previous year.

Respondents to the survey recognized their progress over the past years. The lower part of wetland area is returning to its natural gravelly bed habitat as the willows die and release all the damned-up silt. This ecological restoration, in addition to intensifying forest cover along the river, nurtures a great habitat for freshwater fish and invertebrates. The public can already see the forest margin along this waterway and the notable improvement to freshwater quality.

While citizens, environmental groups and organizations, researchers, policymakers, farmers, and other stakeholders should endeavour to improve freshwater quality at every scale of influence in New Zealand, this grass-roots work is a commendable model for others like it.

ECO will continue to cover the intricacies of freshwater quality management and policy-making and highlight conservation efforts, like those of Keep Golden Bay Beautiful.

If you want to learn more about their work, please visit:

http://www.doc.govt.nz/get-involved/volunteer/groups/nelson-tasman/keep-golden-bay-beautiful/

 

Ecological transition in Hawke’s Bay

In this third article in a series reviewing the responses to a survey ECO undertook on ecological restoration and conservation work being performed by the voluntary sector in New Zealand, ECO HECUA intern Emily Donaldson looks at the work being done by the Ahuriri Estuary Restoration Group:

Transitioning from fresh water to open coast, estuaries support a diverse range of habitats and human activities, serving as an integral part of  our New Zealand cultural identity. The complexity of these ecological systems proffer many ecosystem services including food production, recreational opportunities, trade hubs, and processing contaminants from the land.

The intricacy of the ecological interrelationships and ecosystem processes demand comprehensive research and precautionary management. Current New Zealand estuarine ecosystems still harbour high biodiversity, despite many stressors, such as the location of most major cities near estuarine ecosystems.

Thankfully, environmental groups and organizations like the Ahuriri Estuary Restoration Group, Forest and Bird, and the Department of Conservation are looking after these critical and fragile ecosystems. Ahuriri Estuary Restoration Group aims to sustain the health of this estuary primarily through weed control and plantings, typically over about 40 hectares of the lower estuary. This volunteer group formed in 2003 after fire destroyed an area of 10 year old plantings in the lower Ahuriri estuary, working to plant native species (manuka, flax, kowhai, and more), clean-up rubbish, maintain signage and tracks, and remove many weeds, such as wattle and boneseed.

The Restoration Group keep track of some of its exceptional work; in taking ECO’s Environmental Group Survey, they contributed even more information on their commendable efforts. 300 to 600 plants are put in each year, typically in the winter. Although the group honed in on 40 hectares initially, they indicated that the estuary requires 200 hectares of attention. Devoting 150 person-days of work as well as 1,200 volunteer hours, the group is also taking on an advocacy role for conservation and restoration. The stewardship of this estuary and its tangible results were acknowledged in the survey: “The site has been transformed from a weedy area with few native plants to a well vegetated asset to the local area. Wildlife habitat enhanced and weeds reduced.”

To find out more about the Ahuriri Estuary Restoration Group, click on the following links:

http://www.naturespace.org.nz/groups/ahuriri-estuary-restoration-group

http://www.doc.govt.nz/get-involved/volunteer/groups/hawkes-bay/ahuriri-estuary-volunteer-group/

Read up on the specifics of New Zealand estuarine ecosystem services at:

http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/77044/1_16_Thrush.pdf

 

Rangi and Papa’s Vestibules

ECO intern, Emily Donaldson from the U.S HECUA programme, continues her review of conservation work being undertaken by the voluntary sector in New Zealand as surveyed by ECO in August this year.

In this post, Emily looks at the work of the Manawatu group Green Corridors:

Palmerston North is not only home to Massey University. Green Corridors, a voluntary group working in conjunction with Palmerston North City Council, plans and oversees the predominantly riparian planting of reserve areas to encourage native biodiversity. This peri-urban group primarily comprises working professionals with personal and work-related ties to the creation of these ecological corridors.  Ecological corridors of native vegetation offer safe passage and healthy habitats for terrestrial and avian fauna- in this context, along streams from the Tararua Ranges to the Manawatū River, (beginning with reserves in Turitea Valley and Kahuterawa Stream valleys and tributaries).

The projects are long-term, seeking to link urban, suburban, and rural areas for the benefit of indigenous flora and fauna. Successional planting and maintenance usually occurs between May and September, which will hopefully form a broad green buffer zone around urban areas. Pest control and educating the local communities on New Zealand’s biodiversity are also focal points for this environmental group.

Green Corridors calculates the costs of revegetating land on a per hectare basis. The goal is to plant 500 plants per hectare in which the cost per plant covers the pioneer plants, planting, spray releasing and maintenance in the first year and replacement plants from mortality.

$5 donations will contribute to the planting of an eco-consciously sourced native tree. As planting continues to increase on a yearly basis for a fraction of the cost it would take for Council (or any other agency) to complete, each hectare of native plants is offsetting 3,825 tons of carbon dioxide for the next fifty years.

Green Corridors was one of the eighty-one organizations which completed ECO’s Environmental Group Survey on conservation work in New Zealand. In 2014, volunteers and working professionals completed 500 work hours, amounting to approximately 62.5 person-days of work. Although 2014 expenditures amounted to $37,000, the benefits to PNCC and the local communities cover much of the cost in the long run. In the last 9 years, Green Corridors has planted over 85,000 eco-sourced native plants in fifteen hectares of gullies in the Summerhill area and 9.5 hectares of riparian margin along the Turitea Stream.

If you want to learn more about ecological corridors and its ecosystem services (pages 60-67), check out DOC’s work within the Kaimai-Tauranga Catchments:

 

http://www.landcare.org.nz/files/file/292/doc-ecosystem-services.pdf

 

To stay up-to-date with Green Corridors, follow them on Facebook:

 

https://www.facebook.com/Green-Corridors-Palmerston-North-86985539829/

 

Or check out their website:

 

www.pncc.govt.nz/…/council-initiatives/green-corridors

 

 

Holding environmental degradation at bay

ECO intern and HECUA student Emily Donaldson takes a close look at the work being done by the Bay of Islands Maritime Park group.

The Bay of Islands Maritime Park, an ECO member group in Northland, was one of the respondents to a recent survey undertaken by ECO of the conservation and restoration work being undertaken by the volunteer sector in New Zealand. Bay of Islands Maritime Park is at the forefront of conservation efforts for marine environments.

The Bay of Islands Maritime Park group was established in May, 2006. Its incorporation in 2007 allowed for active working groups to apply for project funding, while bringing together small community groups in the region to develop an integrated approach to target the pressing issues facing the Bay of Islands ecosystems. Their collective mission seeks social, ecological, and economic sustainability founded on devoted community members tackling water pollution, excessive sedimentation and silt, the decline of fish populations, and other anthropogenic problems. The tangata whenua, commercial users, recreational users, tourism sector, ratepayer groups, and environmental and government sector organizations and associations collaborate to run projects and initiatives including Fish Forever, Living Waters: Bay of Islands – Wai Ora, Ocean Survey 20/20, the Seagrass Restoration Project, and marine biodiversity education for schools.

The survey response indicated that work is conducted by two different groups specifically for the islands: (1) Establishing a network of marine reserves in the Bay of Islands and (2) riparian planting and restoration at two different sites. General conservation work in 2014 included planting, weeding, marine reserve campaigning, and pest control at an expense of approximately $77,000. Some 4,000 volunteer and work hours were contributed to accomplishing these tasks in 2014. Tangibly beneficial projects comprised: restoring a wetland in Tangatapu, reducing sedimentation via riparian planting of the Kerikeri River, and working towards the establishment of a marine reserve.

Ecosystem services, highlighted by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, contribute to the wellbeing of humans in many ways. Broken up into four categories, the ecosystem services of New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone provides at least 12 regulatory services, 5 provisioning services, and 9 non-consumptive services, indicative of the significance of restoring and preserving the marine environment in the Bay of Islands. Based on global estimates, marine ecosystems may provide about two-thirds of the total value of services provided by New Zealand ecosystems annually. With coastal and terrestrial ecosystems closely linked, conservation on all fronts is imperative. Thankfully, the diligent community work fostered by this ECO member group is boosting services like the denitrification of water, food support and provisioning, and preservation of Maori traditions.

To learn more about New Zealand’s marine ecosystem services, click below:

http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/77045/1_17_MacDiarmid.pdf

If you want to find out more about The Bay of Islands Maritime Park, visit these websites:

http://doc.govt.nz/get-involved/volunteer/groups/northland/bay-of-islands-maritime-park-inc/

http://fishforever.org.nz/who-are-we/boi-maritime-park-inc.html