Thursday, 03 December 2020

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Conservation projects supported with $1m in funding

Efforts to protect and grow the population of kiwi, and other native birds and wildlife on the Coromandel have been boosted with the allocation of more than $1 million to three local community groups.

The money will come from Waikato Regional Council’s Natural Heritage Fund and was approved by the newly formed Community Restoration Committee.

Moehau Environment Group will receive $400,000 over four years for field operations, the Whenuakiwi Trust’s Whenuakite Kiwi Care Project will get $248,707 over the same period while Te Ara Hou Kennedy Bay Limited’s Pukewharariki Ngahere and Wai Landscape Restoration Project has secured $390,038.

The projects, in combination with two others - one in Raglan and one south of Tokoroa - will provide pest control for 25,000ha, which equates to one per cent of the Waikato’s total land area, including some of the region’s most ecologically significant locations.

“All the projects are collaborations between many parties, including landowners, Māori, the Department of Conservation, communities, local councils and local businesses, and all include volunteer labour ranging from 300 to 6,000 hours per year,” WRC said. “This funding will create at least six full-time jobs a year for four years to help support economic recovery in the Waikato.”

The Natural Heritage Fund was set up to help with the council’s commitment to preserving the natural heritage of the Waikato region, including native plants and animals, threatened ecosystems, outstanding landscapes and the natural character of waterways and the coast. The fund is built up by a targeted rate of $5.80 per property in the region, with unallocated funding carried over to the following financial year. The balance for the year ending 30 June 2020 was $1,029,000.

Committee chair, Fred Lichtwark, said the grants would allow of a lot of mahi to be done into the future by the recipient groups. “I can see the heart and soul that all these groups put into their projects, and you just can’t put a financial value on the time and effort that goes into what they do. Someone has to do this work and a lot of it is done by volunteers because there is just not the funds available or it’s not deemed as paid work, but the biodiversity gains we all get out of this is just outstanding.”

Moehau Environment Group (MEG) has been undertaking community-driven, large-scale pest control and biodiversity management projects in the northern Coromandel for over 15 years on about 15,000ha of private landowner and public conservation land. Around 50 active volunteers are involved and the funding allocation will help pay for staff on the ground, 3,200 hectares of possum control, 11,950 hectares of mustelid control, the Port Charles Rat Attack programme, and rodent and cat control at the Waikawau Wetland. “This funding will enable us to sustain our long-term environmental gains and operations protecting more biodiversity for longer,” said chair, Lettecia Williams.

Whenuakiwi Trust fundraiser and trapper, Janice Hinds, said, “This is our forever project. We love what we are doing. This money will sustain us for four years and keep our kiwi safe.” The group has been protecting Coromandel brown kiwi across 3,554 hectares since 2000. The area is a stronghold for kiwi with about 133 pairs and also has large populations of kereru, kākā, bittern and pateke. The project has about 30 active volunteers and the funding has been allocated to help cover the operation manager’s wages and material costs, such as replacement traps and bait.

Te Ara Hou Kennedy Bay Limited is the environmental arm of Te Ahi Kaa (Ngāti Porou’s Hauraki training and social service unit) and was established in 2019. Its new mountain to the sea project is on 1,179 hectares of Māori, private and public conservation land. The funding will pay for two manager positions, administration, staff training, traps, bait stations, bait and contractor time, and willow control.

Te Ara Hou Kennedy Bay Limited manager, Nicholas Hamon, said the funding would support the Kennedy Bay community to step up and look after their own environment and restore their cultural identity. “We have some of the best history around, and by training and upskilling our people we can turn our scenery into mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) and create tourism opportunities. It’s a true kaitiaki vision.”

Pictured: New volunteer, Evan Davies (left), getting trained in setting predator traps by Moehau Environment Group’s operations manager, Paul Johnson.

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