A planting day for Victoria University students and Ducks Unlimited members at Wairio came with a few more mod cons than usual, thanks to DU President Ross Cottle.
He arrived in his motorhome with Big Red, the side-by-side in tow, which meant hot cups of tea and sausages for lunch and the easy delivery via SxS of the plants to the planting site.
There was a good turnout as students from Victoria University’s School of Biological Sciences led by Stephen Hartley, director, Greater Wellington Regional Council and DOC representatives, DU members and others all chipped to help with the day’s work.
About 300 specimen trees – kahikatea, tōtara, swamp maire and cabbage trees – were bought with a $2000 grant from the Department of Conservation.
Many hands make light work, and by the end of the day, the trees were in place as in-fill in Stage 3 of the wetland, the university’s “classroom in a wetland”, among the nursery trees planted five years ago.
This year’s Ducks Unlimited New Zealand’s 45th conference was held at the Collegiate Motor Inn in Whanganui, with just over 50 attendees. The weather was kind and, after a bitterly cold, wet and windy Friday, turned on the sunshine in time for the field trip on Saturday, 3 August.
President Ross Cottle opened proceedings at the AGM by saying it had been a reasonably quiet year, with only three members’ wetlands being developed, however work at Wairio Wetland was going well and good progress had been made.
He paid tribute to long-time DU supporter and Wairarapa Chapter Secretary/Treasurer Joyce Brooks who passed away shortly after the previous AGM.
Treasurer John Bishop, after his traditional warm-up joke, presented his report. He confirmed and reviewed the requirements of being a charitable trust, which include providing a mission statement, entity structure and a yearly report of income, expenditure, activities and volunteer support.
The information for the Charities Register notes DU is reliant on volunteers, with about 8000 volunteer hours a year spent on wetlands assessment and building, swan collection, and advice, education, field days, bittern project, supplying magazine content, Wairio planting and education, supporting schools, fundraising, auctions and dinners.
After running through the financials, which show a slight deficit for the year, John concluded:
“We are remain solvent, through support from membership subscriptions, auctions, grants from the Wetland Care Trust, and donations from Treadwells, Pharazyn Trust, Muter Trust, South Wairarapa Rotary and one-off grants.”
Election of Officers
The DU Board remained unchanged, with the two directors whose two-year terms were up, Jim Law and John Dermer, being re-elected unanimously.
Waterfowl and Wetland Trust
David Smith reported that the trust was in good shape thanks to the sharemarket, and despite paying out $40,000 to DU, was in a similar financial position as it was at the end of 2017.
He said the trust was doing exactly what it was set up to do: provide money to enable DU to carry on its work.
Will Abel said that in line with the previous couple of years, there had been few applications for new projects, with most of the wetland creation activities centred on the Wairio Wetland.
A large wetland in Pahiatua that DU committed $5000 to three years ago had been completed, and in Masterton, DU had helped created another large wetland, to which it contributed $4000.
Will Abel said it had been a disastrous year for the royal swan, with no cygnets available and even the wildlife centre at Peacock Springs, Canterbury, the usual source of swans, was looking for some new breeding stock.
“We have no idea why really, but anecdotally I suspect it is because it coincides with the 50th anniversary of the moon landing,” he said, tongue in cheek.
“If it improves next year, my supposition will be proved correct, and I will present a paper at the next conference on it.”
He said it was fortunate that there had not been many requests for swans.
Peter Russell reported that the breeding programme had had a good season, with 65 whio reared from captive pairs and 15 reared from wild clutches. A total of 72 were released.
In the North Island, 30 were released. Three older birds from last season were released on the Whakapapanui in December, and 12 birds, six males and six females, were released at Blue Duck Station in January.
The third release, on the Manganui a-te-Ao, was in early March, with eight males released at the Ruatiti Domain and four females released down the river where there was a surplus of males. Three male birds were released on Mangawhero stream on 20 March.
Peter said it was always a great thrill to take part in the releases out on the river. He has been doing them since 1997 and it has changed so much. In 2000 they released seven, compared with 72 in the past year.
In the South Island, 20 birds were released on the West Coast in January in the Wainihinihi, Arahura, Styx and Kawhake rivers; 12 birds were released on the Taipo River in March; in Tasman 10 birds were released.
Paul Mason reported that DU currently had 280 members, with 57 of those unpaid as at the AGM.
He said a second subs reminder would be sent out, following email and postal reminders subsequent to the initial subs mailout.
He noted that in the past three years, payment preferences were moving from cheque to internet banking. Credit card payments remained about the same and PayPal transactions were increasing.
More members were responding to the suggestion that DU communicated with them more by email, he said.
Paul said new articles were added as events occur, with the most recent being the planting day at Wairio Wetland. Flight magazines, from No 155 to the current issue, have been loaded on to the site. Issue 29 has also been scanned and added as a PDF file.
Articles from more recent Flight magazines are being transcribed and loaded as searchable items – so far back to issue 159. Old issues are being scanned and loaded as PDFs.
He noted a drop-off in website visitors in the past three months and in response had upgraded the site-mapping software and re-registered the site with search engines.
The main files being downloaded were Flight magazines and people were also accessing the educational resources files (from Quack Club), he said.
Jim Law reported that the wetland was in good heart, benefiting from continued restoration work, albeit at a more modest cost to DU ($4455 versus $9500 in the prior year). Work focused on more bund wall improvements ($1700), tree planting ($2000) and noxious plant control ($755).
At last, significant progress was made by the Greater Wellington Regional Council to reticulate water from Matthews Lagoon and Boggy Pond to Wairio. Earthworks have been completed but after a “weather event”, remedial work is required. This will be done this summer.
“We had provisionally budgeted to fund a portion of this work but GWRC assumed full responsibility,” he said.
Total expenditure by the Wairio Restoration Committee, not counting volunteer time, since inception 14 years ago, now stands at $220,000.
The Victoria University of Wellington School for Biodiversity and Restoration Ecology remain focused on their research at Stage 3.
The Restoration Committee is still holding funds (lodged with DU) from fundraising efforts totalling $10,807. A further $15,000 grant was recently received by local donors. These funds are also being held by DU on behalf of the project committee.
As mentioned last year, Wairarapa Moana, which includes the Wairio Wetland (administered by DOC on behalf of the Crown), has been included in a Treaty of Waitangi settlement with Wairarapa iwi. “Whilst the settlement has been delayed, the local iwi has assured us that they want us to continue our good work restoring the Wairio Wetland.
“We remain of the view, though perhaps slightly biased, that DU members should be proud of this project,” Jim said.
Jim Law reported on DU’s new initiative offering scholarships to students doing research in a relevant area. A trial offering a total of $25,000 over three years in grants of $5000 per student so far had had little response to date.
Four universities had been approached and it was likely the first recipient of one of the $5000 grants would come from Victoria University working on the Wairio site.
“We had a great day – about 1600 plants in the ground!” was the enthusiastic report from Jim Law after a successful planting day at Wairio Wetland in southern Wairarapa.
Mainly flaxes and sedges (about 1200) were planted around the southern and south eastern sides of the new dam wall at Stage 4 and 400 Totora and cabbage trees planted went in at Stage 2.
A good turn-out included Martinborough School students and staff, Taratahi trainees, Rangitane members, Rotary members, Greater Wellington Regional Council (who provided the sausage sizzle), some Rabobank staff, DOC staff and a few locals plus some co-opted farm workers - about 60 folks in all.
More clover seed was sown on the dam wall at Stage 4 by Ross Cottle and Jim Campbell.
A good year so far at the Wairio Wetland – in total just over 4000 shrubs, flaxes and trees in the ground and a great new dam wall trapping about 30 hectares of water in Stage 4. There is more to come with plans advancing for the reticulation of water from Mathews Lagoon and Boggy Pond into the Wairio Wetland.
In late November Steve Playle did a trap run at Boggy Pond and Wairio. The count was 1 ferret, 1 rat and 10 hedgehogs.
“The ferret was a big bugger and was caught along the stop bank between Mathews and Boggy. This took the total predator count to 23 ferrets, 1 stoat, 2 weasels, 4 cats, 5 rats and 14 hedgehogs.” said Steve.
Rampant growth of grass and weeds along with warm weather meant extra time cleaning around trap sites. Steve also put out another seven DoC250 traps on the Wairio Restoration Block along with two more timms traps along a pine belt where cats have been seen.
Stock tends to interfere with the traps in the Wairio Restoration Block. “We have to live with that unfortunately,” said Steve.
Mice also play havoc with baits with most traps stripped of meat if they have not had a kill in them. Steve said he knows it’s mostly mice because the DoC traps have mouse droppings in them. He has seen mice in the timms traps too. “With only one ferret for this check it could mean their numbers and getting down or maybe they are feasting on mice or even frogs as the place is alive with them at the moment,” said Steve.
Steve has seen and heard bitterns and another was heard at Mathews pond.
Trapping is ongoing.
Drone Tour of the Wairio wetlands
Watch the Drone Tour of the wetlands that was created by the Victoria University Research team
DU President - Video Interview
Well-known journalist, Piers Fuller, interviews DUNZ President Ross Cottle about the history of the celebrated Wairio Wetland development
You can view the video interview here
Victoria University’s classroom in a wetland!
Five years ago, Victoria University Wellington students planted a swathe of nursery trees in the Wairio Wetland.
This landmark wetland habitat was created in the late 1980s by Ducks Unlimited in Collaboration with the Department of Conservation (DOC).
Last week the Victoria University biodiversity team were back. Stephen Hartley and his team were armed with over 300 specimen trees (Kahikatea, Totara, Tawaki (or Swamp) Maire & Cabbage)- sourced thanks to a $2000 grant from DOC - to continue their comparative research into cost effective restoration processes by adding these trees as infill planting.
The cold but enthusiastic University team were supported by members of Ducks Unlimited and DOC.
Tree protection trial
The accompanying photos show Cabbage and Totora trees planted in Grotectors (tree protectors) at Stage 2 in the Wairio Wetland.
They were designed by Don Bell, a DU member who has been involved with the Wairio Restoration Project since its inception. These protectors are being monitored as part of the various plant survival studies being conducted by Victoria University students. It is also hoped to get students from a local secondary school involved in the monitoring process.
As the photos indicate, the plants protected seem to be doing well versus their unprotected neighbours that were similarly planted on spot sprayed sites. In addition to enhancing growth rates, the sheer visibility of the Grotector enables easy follow-up release spraying.
Based on the good results from 2013 the restoration committee decided to use these protectors for the larger plant species this year, especially Kahikatea and Totora.
Rotary support at Wairio
The South Wairarapa Rotary Club (SWRC) recently made a $1600 grant towards the restoration of the Wairio Wetland. The SWRC has contributed $14,480 in total since 2007 – they have been great supporters of this project.
It is one of the long-term environmental projects they support in the South Wairarapa.
In addition to the cash contribution that goes towards the cost of plants (sedges, flaxes and specimen trees, the likes of Totora and Kahikatea) being used in the restoration of the Wetland Rotary members assist in the planting days. It is one way Rotary both contributes to, and participates in community activities. DU certainly appreciate the contributions.
Wet day planting at Wairio Wetland
A team of environmental enthusiasts turned up in late April for this year’s first planting at the Wairio Wetland. It was a wet day, great for the plants and not too bad for the enthusiasts but coats were definitely required!
Planters included a great team of young women from Taratahi’s equine school who worked tirelessly in the rain. There were the usual Ducks Unlimited stalwarts and representatives from Greater Wellington Regional Council and Doc. Unfortunately, attendance by teams of students from the local primary schools had to be cancelled because of the wet weather. A GWRC team also put on a BBQ that was most popular once the allotted 650 plants were in the ground.
The planting was in a newly fenced off area of Stage 4 along the south eastern fringe of the wetland improved by the construction of a bund wall during 2013. This area has become very popular with local waterfowl with hundreds of ducks, swans and native waders taking flight when the planters arrived. In the years to come waterfowl will be able to fly into a much enhanced wetland as a result of the good work by the planters.
The next planting was July 4. Hope they had a great day.
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 www.victoria.ac.nz