It’s Conservation Week and the Department of Conservation theme for this year is “Healthy Nature Healthy People”. The week aims to get New Zealanders into the natural environment and to be more aware of the link between a healthy natural environment and their own health and wellbeing.
At the heart of the Coromandel community are individuals and groups of people who seriously care about our environment. So you really don’t have to look too far to find some shining examples of people striving hard to nourish, sustain and protect our natural surrounds.
I spoke with some conservation groups in the Mercury Bay area to find out their thoughts about what this year’s conservation week means to them and about the environmental work they do.
Saving our Iconic Kiwi
Project Kiwi Trust has been saving Coromandel brown kiwi on the Kuaotunu Peninsula for 19 years. During this time the Trust has not only halted the decline in the kiwi population, but has grown it. The peninsula now hosts around 600 kiwi.
Paula and Jon Williams have project managed the Project Kiwi Trust for seven years. During this time they have worked with a huge number of volunteers who share their passion for the holistic health of the environment on the peninsula, one that is rich in biodiversity where kiwi flourish.
Project Kiwi Trust is certainly a team effort. “We sell the long-term goal to keen locals and volunteers and let them find a way they want to help,” says Paula. “All skill sets are relevant to the functioning of a charitable trust. We have accountants, ecologists, trappers, mapmakers, scrub cutters, social media boffins and GPS geeks. All support the Trust’s goal of building kiwi abundance through volunteering their areas of expertise or energy.”
The reality is that in the absence of this team effort the kiwi population on the peninsula would have declined by 50-60%. “The several hundred kiwi that have been saved through active conservation management of this peninsula is the Trust’s greatest measure of success,” comments Paula. “The sustained effort has been intense but has brought reward – not only have we halted the decline, we are slowly growing the kiwi population.”
Project Kiwi Trust was the first community-based kiwi conservation programme in New Zealand. It was a Green Ribbon award finalist in 2014 and is a guiding light for kiwi programmes nationwide. The Trust has a pest and predator programme in place to manage rats, possums, cats, ferrets, stoats and weasels.
The Trust also invests in captive rearing. This involves the incubation, hatching and rearing of kiwi chicks in a predator-free environment until they reach 850 grams in weight - to be released back into the wild at this weight significantly increases their chances of survival through to adulthood. To date, the Trust has raised the funds for 132 kiwi to be released at this weight milestone.
War on Weeds
Department of Conservation Ranger, Natalie Collicott works to support a range of environmental projects, groups and individuals across the Coromandel Peninsula. During Conservation Week Natalie is hosting a volunteer ‘weeding day out’ with Benson Lockhart from the Waikato Regional Council to help to control the invasive weeds near Maramaratotara track.
The Department of Conservation is working with Waikato Regional Council, QEII and Thames Coromandel District Council to tackle an infestation of climbing asparagus on this popular walking track between Ferry Landing and Front Beach. This work is vital to halting the spread of climbing asparagus, which is strangling native trees and forming a dense mat on the forest floor.
Committed landowners have already started control on bordering properties, but reinvasion is an on-going issue. The invasive climber is spreading, with infestations also reported at Purangi road and Cooks Beach, and sightings at Whitianga township. The plant is spread by birds and in dumped vegetation.
However there is some good news at Ferry Landing where climbing asparagus has been controlled, progress is visible, with fewer seedlings appearing each year. “With strong community support, we can halt this weed before it becomes widespread.” says Natalie
If you are interested in forming a Weedbusters group to restore and protect biodiversity at this historic site please contact Natalie.
If you have climbing asparagus on your property, you can talk to Benson Lockhart at Waikato Regional Council about methods of control.
Natural History Documentary in the making
The Coromandel Film Collective is a not for profit group of professionals with a unique set of skills in the art of storytelling using digital media. This year the Film Collective are drawing on these skills to produce a natural history documentary to tell the story of the Kauri.
The aim of the film collective is to educate and foster filmmaking talent in young people within the Coromandel. James Muir, Founder of the Film Collective explains that the production of Kauri – A Natural History Documentary is an opportunity for local filmmakers and conservationists to tell the story of the Kauri tree which is now being threatened by disease, and the story about the conservation guardians and pioneers who are working hard to protect it.
Filming is now underway and is expected to be completed late in 2016.
The Film Collective offers the opportunity for students to be exposed to a filmmaking experience that is close to home – a rare opportunity. The Film Collective worked with students earlier this year to produce a short video poem titled “I Am Kauri” – a poignant piece on Kauri.
Conservation Week 1-8 November
What does the Conservation week theme “Healthy Nature Healthy People” mean to our conservationists?
Conservation week is an excuse to get outdoors and do something positive for the environment. Of course, by being active and taking part, your health also benefits. A dose of nature is undeniably good for us. On the Coromandel we are spoilt for choice, with some of the best beaches and bush New Zealand has to offer. One of my favourite local walks is to catch the ferry from Whitianga, walk the Mararamaratotara track over to Front beach, then amble out to Shakespeare cliffs and Lonely Bay. Such a stunning back-drop right on our doorstep.
Natalie Collicott, Department of Conservation, Conservation Services Ranger
I would like to thank the people of DOC, TCDC, community volunteers, Regional Waikato, businesses and Tangata Whenua, together working to protect the forests parks, ecological zones, islands and marine environments of the Coromandel Peninsula. As Auckland continues to grow more people visit and stay a greater commitment of time and resources will be needed. My dream to ensure healthy nature and healthy people would be to see areas of the Coromandel Peninsula and surrounding Islands together become a World Heritage Park.
Chris Twemlow, Media Producer and Editor, Coromandel Film Collective
We want New Zealanders to get out into our conservation land, whether it’s for exercise, relaxation, getting away from it all or helping out with one of the hundreds of different groups doing great work to protect our natural heritage.
Maggie Barry, Conservation Minister
Watch the video
If you would like to be part of the making of this documentary as a partner, sponsor or be part of the filmmaking crew contact James at the Coromandel Film Collective.