Sunday, 20 September 2020

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Funding supports widespread action on pest control

The collective efforts of landowners, businesses and community groups are continuing to work towards a goal of, if not eliminating, at least reducing the volume of animal and plant pests on the Coromandel.

The Otama Reserves Group (ORG) recently received funding from both the Department of Conservation and Waikato Regional Council to drive forward its vision of a bush to beach corridor free of weeds and pests. The group received $13,000 in the latest round of DOC’s Community Conservation Fund grants, which ORG acting chair, Paul Kington, says will be used to develop a robust restoration plan for the wetland reserves it is already working in alongside DOC and WRC.

“We identified very early on that in order to achieve our goals and aspirations, we would require a comprehensive restoration plan for the reserves - one recognised by local government agencies, iwi, landowners and the community,” Paul says. “The funding will go toward employing consultants Jim Dahm and Meg Graeme to undertake a wetland restoration plan… giving us a clear direction and document to help with future fundraising efforts.”

The plan will also give the group a guideline on timeframes for a staged restoration approach over the next decade, and how the goals in the plan can be achieved.

The ORG’s focus shifted to wetland reserves because members felt those areas were under greater pressure and had high biodiversity value. That led to extensive physical work being undertaken, including pest and weed control, and more recently revegetation and restoration.

“While carrying out pest control, we found out we have makutu, fern birds, pateke and scaup, along with many other bird species and this is what inspires us to protect and preserve these reserves, along with what inhabits them,” Paul says. “We don’t want to be limited by our imagination, our vision is a predator-free, invasive weed-free, bush to beach corridor linking the DOC reserves at the rear of the wetlands to the Otama sand dunes and lagoon.”

DOC’s Coromandel District Operations Manager, Nick Kelly, says the Otama Peninsula has long been a conservation heartland for the district, with a number of active community groups contributing.

“We’ve built a very good relationship with the Otama Reserves Group,” he says. “The work the group is doing meshes really well with some of DOC’s efforts in this part of our district, in particular long-term sand dune protection initiatives and wetland restoration.”

The ORG received a further $4,922 from WRC in its latest Small Scale Community Initiatives Fund (SSCIF) round. This fund was set up to help local communities and individual landowners undertake ecological enhancement through pest animal and plant control, and this year received 72 applications.

Several other Coromandel-based pest animal and plant control projects were also supported from the SSCIF, among them Pest Free Opito Bay ($4,704), trapping for rats and stoats at Silverstream Falls ($4,059), increased rat/mustelid control and continued possum control at Driving Creek Railway ($4,321.60), and the Papa Aroha Forest Restoration Project ($4,277.00).

Natural Heritage biodiversity officer at WRC, Andrew Thomas, says, “The fund helps volunteer groups and landowners with the costs of materials required to undertake pest management. Being able to support them financially to buy the tools can make a real difference in trying to keep on top of pests. In this funding round we are helping with the purchase of a range of traps for rats, stoats, possums and herbicide for pest plant control.”

Pictured: The Otama Reserves Group has recently received funding from both the Department of Conservation and Waikato Regional Council to assist with its vision for a pest free bush to beach corridor between the DOC reserves at the back of the Otama wetlands and the sand dunes and lagoon at the beach end.

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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.