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Thursday, 05 September 2019 09:40

Pests best dead

Trapping is the name of the game.

DU member of Pohangina wetlands Gordon Pilone, sent in these shots of a recent catch.

He uses DOC 250 traps to eliminate stoats, rats and hedge hogs.

The kill traps are elevated on a plank on blocks to delay weed invasion and stoats seem to like “running the plank”.

Gordon said a hen egg as bait can be successful even at several weeks old. Also used successfully for stoat kill, is a Timms tunnel trap baited with a fish head.

Thursday, 05 September 2019 09:09

Pekapeka Swamp – an icon for Hawke’s Bay

Our intrepid group of AGM attendees  visited the Pekapeka Swamp, squeezed in between the railway on the Eastern side, and State Highway 2 on the West. This area is well known to travellers who use SH2 south of Hastings. Older people who passed this way remember the swamp as being totally overgrown by grey willow. Steve Cave, Operations Environmental Manager for the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council (HBRC) explained the 98ha site is being restored to protect the cultural and historical value but also to help people  understand the significance and important part wetlands play.

When Maori arrived in the area about 1530 this peat swamp, part of the limestone area, would have been very different. Its trip down hill started in 1873 with the dumping of rubble, fill and waste. The rail line was built in 1875. Between 1942 and 1970 channels were dug to drain the swamp, and in 1955 SH2 was straightened, cutting through the western side.

In 1970 Pekapeka was made a reserve.  Willow control started in 1984 and finally a management plan to restore the wetland was approved by the HBRC. Helicopter and ground spraying targeted the willows. Community and school groups have put in many volunteer hours at the swamp. A clearing programme  improved the flow of water through the wetland, and controlled animal and plant pests.

A plain to restore the wetland was approved by the HBRC in 1998. Work  included a weir with a fish passage, to  manage wetland flow, and funding allowed the site to be developed as a public reserve. Illegal dumping had continued at Pekapeka for many years and as a reminder of how wetlands had been treated it was decided to leave some rubble and reinforcing rods exposed as a reminder of the past.

Pekapeka opened to the public in 2010. Board walks, observation decks and even hides provide access and viewing points. Information boards give background and there is a picnic area. No toilets though. During duck shooting members of a local club use half the area and it is closed to the public. Club members are also involved in a predator control programme.

Steve said red tape, and resource consents often hold up restoration. So far it has cost them $60,000 for consents, eating into the small amount of funding they do receive. Thank goodness for volunteers.



Tuesday, 27 August 2019 06:17

First Whio duckling in 15 years

Staff at Pukaha Mount Bruce were excited in late October last year with the arrival of the first whio (blue duck) to be hatched there in over 15 years.

The only one of four eggs to hatch, the duckling was raised with three other ‘exotic’ ducklings. The duckling’s mother was then put on another clutch of eggs and with hopes for a better hatch rate from the second clutch.

Staff are still unsure of the sex of this first whio. At approximately six months old a male whio will whistle when picked up and a female whio will grunt.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019 05:51

Banrock Station wetlands get a boost

Nearly 700 hectares of wetlands at Banrock Station are being artificially flooded. This is the first time in five years the area near Kingston-onMurray, has seen flooding.

Banrock Station, in the South Australian Riverland, is on the Ramsar list of internationally significant wetlands.

A new regulator is pumping 2.4 gigalitres of water into the wetlands, a task which will take the next year.

Wetlands manager Christophe Tourenq said the process should mimic the natural wet-dry cycles of the flood plain, boosting the health of native plants and wildlife in the area.

Christophe said they had high water levels all spring and after that water levels would be reduced a little bit during summer.

“After that, again high levels next winter and then we start again to have a dry wetland in two years time.”

He said the process would recreate what happened before the  construction of locks and weirs along the Murray River.

Story courtesy Wetland Care Australia.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019 03:37

From The President

The last few months since my appointment at the AGM in Napier, has gone quickly. Looking back we are making good progress on a number of fronts.

The 1200 metre low bund was constructed at Wairio to capture and hold extra water and it is performing exactly as it was designed. When I was on site there in October it was holding about 25 hectares of water with a maximum depth of 1.2 metres. Local DU members and volunteers had commenced planting along the bunds to provide cover for wildlife and protect the bund from wave lap erosion. Excellent habitat for a wide range of wetland birds including bittern, pied stilts, dabchick and waterfowl. Jim Law, Ross Cottle and team are now looking at replicating this for the block immediately to the south. This “think big” approach is certainly paying off.

I am also the DU nominee on the NZ Game Bird Habitat Trust which  distributes about $100,000 each year to worthwhile wetland projects and $2 from each waterfowl hunter’s licence goes into a national fund for this  purpose.

The Trust members met in November in Blenheim to inspect the Nelson – Malborough Fish and Game Para Wetland project located alongside SH1  between Picton and Blenheim. This large project has the same challenges as many wetlands: declining water levels and invading willows. There is a long term restoration plan in place currently being funded by the Trust at about $18,000 per year. The sight of large dead crack willows as you drive past looks like a grave yard but they are starting to win the battle. Native fish and wetland birds, including waterfowl are the beneficiaries.

On behalf of the Board, I hope you all had a very merry Xmas and will have a prosperous New Year. The AGM will be in the Wairarapa this year and  planning is well underway to make this a success. Look forward to seeing you there.

John Cheyne

Change attitudes and improve the environment

The Mangaone West region is typical of many farming districts where remaining indigenous cover is very limited and the balance is in productive farmland.

Into this area a few years ago stepped Ducks Unlimited member Ossie Latham, and his conscious was pricked by the degradation he saw in the waterways near his home.

Growing up on the banks of the Oroua River downstream from Feilding, part of a third generation on both maternal and paternal sides of his family he remembers: “During that time the Oroua had gone from a pristine small river where kids could swim in deep holes, dive off the road bridge, catch eel, trout and flounder, to a gravel choked conduit for industrial, town and farm waste. A dead waterway, the greatest degradation happened in my time as a kid,” said Ossie.

Then came concern for the Manawatu River and its’ tributaries of which the Oroua is one. The Manawatu River Accord was set up and out of that spun the Oroua Catchment Care Group. Ossie attended their meetings and the Oroua Group decided the best way to tackle the problems was to think catchment wide
but act local to address whatever issues may be in any given area. The Mangaone West stream where Ossie and wife Mary live is a tributary of the Oroua. Ossie volunteered to be champion for that area.

As a local champion his job was to gage the support of residents for a collective effort to address issues of farming and lifestyle practises that degrade the environment.

“Once sufficient interest was identified, we called a community meeting and established the Mangaone West Landcare Group.
Knowing that what we do on our land eventually affects water quality in our area
and downstream, we chose to take a holistic view of our catchment and deal with our habitat as a whole, be it farming practises or lifestyle choices.”
Ossie said it was fortunate that some residents in the lower catchment had come together 15 years ago and as a group had investigated and in many cases implemented, more sustainable farming practises.
This group ran out of puff after four years but two of the group’s successes were a widespread possum control programme that is still going today, and the other was recognising the detrimental effect of pugging by wintering mature cattle on wet soils.

Neil Managh, coordinator of the original group gave his support to Ossie who
then called on the leading farmers in the area, the local school principal, known 
environmentalists, friends and acquaintances and got their commitment to the scheme.

“We organised a community wide pamphlet drop calling a public meeting and away we went,” Ossie said.
Is this something DU members should get involved with? Ossie said: “Given that 
whatever we do to our landscape sooner or later affects our wetlands and waterways, I think it is worth DU members thinking about what happens upstream from their favourite dam, wetland or waterway.
“The primary benefits are thinking of being more sustainable in what we do for the benefit of the habitat as a whole. This includes the best way to keep our soils in situ, the nutrients on the property and a flourishing diversity of which we are part.”
Although initial funding came from the Government through the Ministry for the 
Environment to the Regional Council to the group; they also applied to Trusts with an interest in what they are doing and they asked Landcare to come on board to provide the governance and institutional expertise.

About 60 percent of landowners are part of the group. All major farmers bar two are committed and interest is growing. There is a diversity of views on what best practise is and just what is sustainable but Ossie said they cope with this by agreeing that “Sustainability is the ability of the current generation to meet its needs, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs.”
“I’m not sure where I got the quote from but it gained widespread acceptance to what we are on about.

“We recognise it’s taken over 100 years to get where we are now, so we expect our work to improve our chosen living spaces to be intergenerational. While the stream is our common bond, we love our landscape which the stream and we are part off.” 

“After doing the question and answer bit for you I got to thinking, what is the key for many of the settler families who are part of our group? Many of them are 3rd and 4th generation; they have a strong sense of stewardship, a concept that is evolving as our knowledge of interdependence grows. It’s good to be part of their efforts.”


Sunday, 21 July 2019 23:46

Winter shorebird survey

Winter shorebird survey results at Lake Wairarapa

Steve Playle, Hugh Robertson and Nikki McArthur took advantage of excellent weather conditions on June 20 to carry out a winter shorebird census at Lake Wairarapa. The water level was relatively high (10.3 metres above datum), so most of the mudflats were under water and in turn that influenced some of the 
species counts.
By the end of the day they had counted 22 species of shorebirds and waterfowl, totalling 5647 birds. Highlights of the day included four Australasian bittern, two white herons and a little egret (the latter a relatively rare Australian vagrant). Hugh encountered a flock of 122 red-billed gulls at the Oporua Floodway, which 
is exceedingly unusual for this site. Red-billed gulls are extremely rare visitors to Lake Wairarapa, having been reported only a handful of times previously (11 birds in February 1948, “irregularly” between 1982-1983, 2 birds in April 1992 and 1 bird in February 2012).
A full summary of the species counted during June 20 census follows. For anyone who wishes to test their bird ID skills, or read background about any of the species recorded go to New Zealand (NZ) Birds Online website (
Black Shag
Little Black Shag
Little Shag
White-faced Heron
White Heron
Little Egret
Royal Spoonbill
Black Swan
Canada Goose 
Feral Goose
Paradise Shelduck
Variable Oystercatcher
Pied Stilt
Banded Dotterel
Black-fronted Dotterel
Spur-winged Plover
Black-backed Gull
Red-billed Gull
Black-billed Gull
Caspian Tern

This is the third winter survey since initiating this work in 2011, so it’s now possible tobegin comparing average species counts from June 2011-2014 surveys with those from Hugh Robertson and Barrie Heather’s earlier set of surveys carried out between 1985 and 1994, for the section of shoreline between the Tauherenikau Delta and the Oporua Floodway. These comparisons give an early indication of some of the changes that appear to have occurred to the relative abundance of various bird species at the lake over the past 30
years. A number of species appear to have increased in abundance over the intervening time, among them NZ dabchick, black shag, little black shag, little shag, black-fronted dotterel and black billed gull. A smaller number of species appeared to have declined in abundance over the same period, including SI pied oystercatcher, pied stilt and spur-winged plover.
Black Shag 
Little Black Shag 
Little Shag
Pied Shag
White-faced Heron 
White Heron
Cattle Egret
Glossy Ibis 
Royal Spoonbill 
Black Swan 
Canada Goose
Feral Goose
Paradise Shelduck 
Pied Oystercatcher 
Variable Oystercatcher
Pied Stilt 
Banded Dotterel
Black-fronted Dotterel
Spur-winged Plover
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper
Bar-tailed Godwit
Black-backed Gull
Red-billed gull  
Black-billed Gull
Caspian Tern
Average count 
2 15.0
Average count


Nikki explained the original aims of this survey work were relatively simple (i.e. to give the ability to describe changes that have occurredin the lake’s bird fauna over the past 30 years;

to allow them to detect future changes and to re-examine the relationship between shorebird abundance and water levels). You might be interested to know the data from these surveys have recently been put to a variety of other
uses, including:

• To provide quantitative evidence in support of an application to have the Wairarapa Moana wetlands recognised as a “wetland of international importance” under the Ramsar Convention.

• To provide evidence to support the Wairarapa Moana Wetlands (together with
the Ruamahanga River) being listed as an “Important Bird Area” under Birdlife 
International’s global IBA programme.

• To form part of our flood protection department’s programme for monitoring
the health of riverbed-dependent bird populations on rivers affected by flood 
protection activities (large proportions of the regional populations of several riverbed-dependent bird species overwinter at Lake Wairarapa).

• To provide regional population estimates for a number of shorebird species used for the development of a regional threat classification system for birds of the Wellington Region.

• And lastly, data collected during these surveys are combined with data compiled from other key shorebird sites around NZ to provide estimates of the national population sizes of a number of NZ’s shorebird species. These national 
population estimates are in turn put to a variety of uses, including a regular review of national threat classification rankings and ongoing monitoring of the population health of Arctic-breeding migrants using the East Asian/Australasian Flyway, a major avian migration route stretching from Alaska and Siberia in the north to NZ and Australia in the south.
Thanks go to Ian Gunn, Tony Silbery and Bob Green for assistance preparing for this survey, and to Bob Green, Grant McGhie, Graham Field and Tim Loe for permission to access various points of the shoreline. The next scheduled shorebird survey at Lake Wairarapa is for November 2014.

Nikki McArthur
Environmental Scientist
Greater Wellington Regional Council


Tuesday, 02 April 2019 08:08

Wairio showcase for ecologists

Ecologists from around New Zealand visited the Wairio wetlands on 29 November with DU President Ross Cottle and Stephen Hartley, of Victoria University, as their tour guides.

The trip was part of the New Zealand Ecological Society’s annual conference in Wellington, and also included a visit to Pounui Lagoon and Onoke Spit, where Denise and Dougal Mackenzie were the guides.

Student Patrick Hipgrave and Dr Stephanie Tomscha spoke about their wetlands projects at the conference.

Stephen says Wairio have had good water levels for the past two years and the Raupo beds along the margins of stage 3 and 4 are maturing nicely. 

During the tours, several royal spoonbill were spotted as well as the first signs of natural regeneration of Totara and Kahikatea in the drier sections of Stage 3 under restoration plantings of manuka and kohuhu. These were planted in 2011.

The manuka and kohuhu are now more than 3 metres tall and have shaded out the ground cover of tall fescue grass to provide the microsite conditions necessary for successful establishment of totara and kahikatea seedlings

▪ For more information on Dr Tomscha’s project, visit

A ‘ghost’ whio that hatched on the Whakapapanui Stream in Tongariro National Park two seasons ago appears to have returned to the stream near Whakapapa Village - with a mate this time.

Nicknamed the ghost whio due to its very pale light blue grey colouring the duck was part of a clutch that hatched on the stream close to Whakapapa Village two years ago.
Captured in family photos at that time the unusual coloured duck has not been seen close to the village since.

However, Hastings resident Adam Clarke  was excited to report the sighting and to get photographs of the unique ghost blue duck while in the area during school holidays whio spotting. 

“I was excited when I spotted the duck just below the Whakapapanui Stream bridge. I had already spent a couple of days looking in the Turangi and Tongariro area and after an afternoon scouring streams around Whakapapa Village without any luck I was happy to finally see a pair by the Major Jones Bridge in Turangi,” said Adam.
“But I was just blown away when I took a chance and stopped at the Whakapapanui Bridge just above the village. I looked over the side of bridge  to see this amazing specimen!
“I feel very lucky to have been in the right place at the right time,” said Adam who believes the ghost whio is male as he heard the signature whistle.

Tongariro Senior Ranger Alison Beath said staff were also excited to hear the ghost whio was back in the area.

“This duck hatched below the Whakapapa Intake a couple of seasons ago, and we’ve had sporadic reports of him from the lower Whakapapanui Stream. It’s great he’s shown up again, as we weren’t sure if he had survived  or not,” said Alison.

“His light colouring obviously hasn’t been a disadvantage yet - in fact he seems to be quite well camouflaged when he is in the white water.”
Alison said the distinctive duck had not been tagged as it was preferred to leave them alone as much as possible however it was encouraging to see he was with another duck which could mean he has found a mate and may remain in the area.

It appears the whio season started early with the first ducklings reported hatched in the Tongariro Forest site earlier in October and in  other areas at the start of the month.

Genesis Energy and the Department of Conservation have partnered together in a five year programme to secure the future of this unique vulnerable native bird. Operating under the name of Whio Forever this partnership is fast tracking implementation of the national Whio Recovery Plan to protect whio and increase public awareness.

The support of Genesis Energy is enabling DOC to double the number of fully secure whio breeding sites throughout the country, boost pest control efforts and enhance productivity and survival for these rare native ducks.

Stephen Moorhouse and  
Robyn Orchard


Sunday, 25 February 2018 09:51

The Anti-lead shot mythology

(Also known as pseudo science, mythical science and subversion of science.)

Only over the past few years has it become widely appreciated that the anti-lead shot/antilead projectile brigade’s ‘scientific evidence’ does either not exist or the evidence is a figment of someone’s imagination – MYTHOLGY; i.e. scientific ‘opinion’ not based on any honest scientific research!

Way back in the 1950s research commenced to prove that wild waterfowl die from ingesting lead shot, but when this research failed to determine this hypothesis another pseudo research programme was created - one that saw huge numbers of captive waterfowl dosed with massive quantities of lead shot; this resulted in a number of birds dying! Hardly surprising as the amount of dosage was hundred times greater than any bird would intake in the wild.

Google – search for: Dosing ducks with lead shot.
In the late 1950s the United Nations latched on to the opportunity to establish a world-wide anti-lead programme, solely aimed at curtailing the growth of shooting sports and at the same time take firearms out of private hands!

In 2012 the UK’s high profile Countryside Alliance financed extensive research on lead in the environment; this determined that 30 commonly eaten foods all contained element of lead – none of which had come from lead shot!

Lead in the environment is a naturally occurring element and no-one appears to have died from eating any of the 30 foods listed in the CA research publication.

Australian scientist John Reid said this about ‘modern scientific research:
“There are issues concerning the way science and scientists are perceived by the public and by themselves. “Why is it assumed that science always gets it right, that only industry is capable of wrecking the environment? “
There are issues about the unholy alliance between environmental scientists on the government payroll and environmental activists and lobby groups acting politically.

“There are issues about the way in which scientists continue to produce those environmental “threats” which have proven so useful in maintaining project funding.”

John Reid has also said:
“It works like this: activists, NZ - Forest & Bird, the Green Party, Dept of Conservation, etc., and overseas, the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, US Fish & Game, etc use science to push for international action on a science-related issue in an area such as health or environment. Then, an international agreement is established, and the science on which it is has been based becomes institutionalised and funded by government. Time and again, when this happens, “the science” stops being science.

“This is because the scientists working on the relevant topic start being advocates and stop being researchers. After all, they are now being paid by the bureaucracy to support a particular doctrine, not to discover new stuff.” (The Subversion of Science).

Recently – from the USA’s Hunt for Truth:
The crux of anti-hunting activists’ argument against traditional ammunition rests on the misplaced assertion that the use of lead ammunition for hunting leads to elevated lead exposure and poisoning in scavenging animals, such as the California condor, that allegedly ingest fragments of spent ammunition in gutpiles or carcasses left by hunters. The scientific studies relied on by the anti-lead proponents are in fact not scientifically sound.
The proponents use “faulty science” to support their antilead ammunition agenda. has procured and analysed over one hundred thousand documents from governmental agencies, universities and researchers and have found systemic flaws, which include faulty methodology and sampling protocols and the selective use of data (i.e. “cherry picking” data for publication).

The anti-lead ammunition proponents have employed psuedo science as a tool to support their distorted agenda. Indeed, the scientific studies used to impose lead ammunition bans are flawed. Researchers who have published these papers have used questionable sampling sizes and have ignored data believed to be contrary to their pre-conceived conclusions regarding lead ammunition. They have also routinely ignored evidence of alternative sources of lead in the environment as a potential cause of lead poisoning or mortality in wildlife. Key studies that profess to link lead ammunition to lead poisoning or mortality in wildlife have been criticised by scientists, and have even been embroiled in lawsuits for withholding original data that show results contrary to their published conclusions.

In March 2015 I detailed the background to this anti-lead shot scenario pointing out that this has played the major role in the demise of the mallard – and possibly the demise of duck shooting in this country.

This was distributed widely – here and overseas – and here it has resulted in NZ Fish & Game admitting that there is a major problem with mallard numbers!

Neil Hayes
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