President Ross Cottle welcomed DU members to the 46th Conference and AGM in Gisborne – the first time it has
been held there.
He said the turnout was better than expected after the Covid-19 lockdown. The timing of the conference, on the weekend of July 31 and August 1, turned out to be fortuitous, with the country facing further lockdown restrictions from August 11.
Ross thanked Kees and Kay Weytmans for organising everything at the Gisborne end.
Ross said it had been another relatively quiet year of activity, not helped by Covid-19.
Wairio continued to be a major focus for DU in the Wairarapa. The attempt to get a permanent water supply from Matthews Lagoon had not been very successful, with the wall of the diversion canal blowing out last winter.
It was yet to be reinstated although DU hoped it would be completed next summer.
DU was still seeking opportunities to advocate for wetland construction, and the promotion of environmental issues where needed.
"Our membership is holding, although there is noticeably more grey hair, and in some cases no hair at all, showing up to events each year," he said.
It was reported at last year's AGM that the Board had decided to offer scholarships to university students studying in the
wetland environmental area.
There had been a much slower uptake than expected, but in July, Adrienne Longuet-Bushell, Jim Law and Ross presented
Victoria University student Shannon Bentley with $5000 to continue her studies in carbon sequestration in wetlands.
Ross concluded by thanking the Board members for their work over the past 12 months.
Donations have come from the Wetland Trust, the Pharazyn Trust and Treadwells, and a one-off private donation.
Members' subscriptions and donations, along with last year's raffles and auctions contributed to the rest of the income, Treasurer John Bishop said.
DU accumulated $75,000 for the year and, once expenses were deducted, it was left with a surplus of $30,765, though a big portion of this is earmarked for work at Wairio.
John was this year’s Bill Barrett Trophy recipient.
WATERFOWL AND WETLAND TRUST
David Smith said that at the end of the trust's financial year, which is on December 31, it recorded its highest net assets at $522,000, but then there was Covid-19.
On March 23, the funds had taken a dive of just over $72,000, though this was also partly because of Donald Trump's trade war with China.
The trust sat tight and, as at July 22, the trust's funds were back to $505,000 as sharemarkets recovered much of their losses.
ELECTION OF OFFICERS
Three Board members – Adrienne Longuet-Bushell, Gill Lundie and Emma Williams – had completed their two-year
terms. All were re-elected unopposed for a further two years. Liz Brook has retired from the Board.
DU assisted with two projects this year, both in the Masterton area.
Matt Wyeth, of Spring Valley Enterprises, is creating a wetland and pond of about 2 hectares which will complement the already extensive areas created in the past 20 years.
The cost would be more than $10,000, and DU would contribute $5000 towards it. It was due to be completed but had been delayed by Covid-19.
John Murray, of Kainga Mauru Trust, has also created an approximately 2ha wetland and pond. DU has contributed $5000 towards the $10,000 work required to do the excavations.
Will Abel said that sadly, there was nothing more to add this year, with no swans available.
"The breeding birds we have had over the years have departed the scheme, and we are having no success in replacing
them," he said.
"Even our strongest suppliers, Peacock Springs, are now needing breeding stock. We don’t really have any ideas how to
reverse the trend as importing birds is still not possible."
About 10 pairs had been seen on Henley Lake in Masterton, but there was no easy way to capture them.
Ducks Unlimited is stable with 275 members, of which 80 are non-paying or life members.
Reminders will be sent to those with outstanding subscriptions.
The website is now mobile-friendly and the number of people accessing the site through their phones is nearly as high as those using desktop computers.
More copies of Flight magazines have been added to the website with 100 issues now online.
Jim Law said the Wairio project was moving from a development stage to maturity.
The site was being visited by more people taking advantage of the grassed walkway around the wetland.
"Just watch your boots" because waterfowl are fond of parking up on it, he said.
DU continues to work with iwi who will be more involved with the management of Wairarapa Moana once their Treaty settlement is signed. "Our relationships with them are very good," Jim said. Greater Wellington Regional Council had taken over responsibility for the Matthews Lagoon and Boggy Pond reticulation project, but it had failed.
"We believe it will be fixed this summer." There was also debate within GWRC about the need for a fish passage at the site and this needed to be resolved.
The fantastic partnership with Victoria University was continuing, with students regularly working on Stage 3 at Wairio.
In July, the first Wetland Care scholarship was presented to a Victoria University student. The university also has another student who is likely to apply for a scholarship in the next two to three months.
DU has a five-year Wairio strategy which now needs to be updated. Also, its management contract with DOC expires in December 2021 so next year members will be asked about whether to continue that contract.
"There will be less work – we are just waiting for the trees to grow, some repairs and some planting. Our preference is most likely that we would continue," Jim said.
Ross applauded Jim's negotiation skills in dealing with the different Wairio partners.
Di Pritt asked the meeting to record a huge vote of thanks to Jim, Ross and the Wairio committee for their work. She said when they first visited the wetland 15 years ago, their first reaction was: "What are we doing?"
"It was the bleakest place – Siberia had nothing on it", and now it is a significant wetland, she said.
Fred Bailey asked how to access funds for predator control. It was generally thought regional councils should be the first point of contact.
Guest speaker Sam Gibson suggested contacting DOC's local relationship officer to tap into the DOC Community Fund and Jobs for Nature funding.
John Cheyne said Hawke's Bay Regional Council was the greatest source of resources in his region, as well as the DOC Community Fund.