Long seen as a logical extension of Forest & Bird’s Matuku Reserve, the property adjacent to Habitat Te Henga became available after many years.
Although a large donation was received nine years ago, from a generous benefactor, with the rising cost of Auckland property more fundraising was needed, and three of us from the Native Restoration Trust and the Waitakere branch of Forest & Bird started on a roller coaster ride to reach the $2 million target.
The 37ha property has a maturing mixed podocarp Kauri forest and a wetland edge on the Waitakere River. This wetland aspect has even more importance, with the development of the Habitat Te Henga project and its effective predator control, leading to pateke releases over the last two years.
The forested portion was seen as the last link in the ecological chain of the corridor from the predator controlled Ark in the Park and its buffer zone to Makutu Reserve.
Tomtit, not seen for over 30 years since the purchase of the reserve, have become established. Robins, whiteheads, and even a kokako, from those translocated to the Arc have made their way through. But it isn’t just one way traffic – pateke have dispersed upriver and when the importance of the river’s edge as a foraging and commuting corridor for long-tailed bats is added, the value of the property to conservation is irrefutable.
With the wetland, the biggest in the Auckland region with no public access, creating easy access to a river edge and wetland could give further value, and a house has scope to accommodate the many overseas and local students studying at Makutu or Arc in the Park. A small barn has potential as a wetland education and display centre.
We obviously just had to succeed!
Many trials and tribulations later, and many disappointments, when organisations we felt would be supportive were not, we came to the stage where we had sufficient support to make an offer that has been conditionally accepted. That support included some loans, which we are confident of repaying over several months. Purchasing the property is just the first step as the house will undoubtedly need some changes to make is suitable as a field base and student accommodation. The barn, likewise, will morph more slowly as a wetland display centre, and the 2 – 3 ha of buttercup filled
paddocks will require planning and plating to return them to alluvial sedge land and forest.
Fundraising will be ongoing and our Givealittle Appeal ran to October 27, but more support will be welcomed at any time. (See www.Givealittle.co.nz/project/makutulink)
An important part of our presentation to raise funds has been an excellent video shot from a drone operated by local drone company, X-craft. Experimenting with drones to receive the multiple signals from our transmittercarrying pateke has been one part of X-craft’s assistance,
but this easier task of videoing shows aspects of our wetland and forest that make this area a special one for conservation and education. The video can be seen on www.matukulink.kiwi.
For the first time since the final bund wall was installed the wetland is full of water. Water runs the full length from the Oporua stop bank in the north to the stage one bund wall in the south, and in parts from the Parera Rd to the edge of Lake Wairarapa.
The water ranges in depth from a meter to shallow margins with small islands scattered throughout.
A wide variety of birds were there including Black Swan, Canada Geese, Dabchicks and lots of Ducks.
Also thousands of Frogs making a huge noise. I am confident that with this amount of water there at the start of spring that we will still have water there at the end of summer, unlike last year when the wetland dried out completely.
The Wairio Wetlands were on the list for the 200 members of the New Zealand Farm Forestry Association being hosted by the Wairarapa branch for their 55th annual conference.
Our own DU member and director, John Dermer is currently their national president. Wairarapa Farm Forestry president Stu Orme, and secretary Shane Atkinson, were thoughtful enough to write to Jim Law and thank him for hosting their field trip to Wairio:
“We would like to thank you for the effort you put in to host our field trip to the Wairio wetlands. Your restoration project directly addresses all three themes of our conference and is an outstanding example of a local initiative on a grand scale. Lake Wairarapa dominates the whole of the lower valley and the re-creation of wetlands along the degraded eastern boundary is a task with very long-term benefits. All our visitors enjoyed their trip. Thank you again.”
John Dermer said that all 200 of the NZFF conference attendees visited Wairio.
“We visited Castle Point Station in the north and down to the southern end to Prinoa Station and Waiorongomai on our last day with a look at Wairio and a talk from Jim Law.”
John said that once again he was struck by the sheer size of the Wairio Wetland although it was living up to its name, 'dry water' at the time. “Jim told us about the weed issues, mainly tall fescue, which makes getting trees established more difficult and the answers we are trying to find. One thing I noticed was how well plants are managing on the piles of soil excavated, so my main question is Why not do more? “There must be a shallow water table underneath so why aren’t we digging deeper? “What is the point of digging holes so shallow they don’t hold water?” John said there is no way he would site his maimai on this bit of dry wetland. He said he is sure the Farm Foresters were impressed, and they certainly asked lots of questions.
A cheque for $6500 from the Nikau Foundation was handed over to Ducks Unlimited (DUNZ) President Ross Cottle and Patron Jim Campbell by Gus van de Roer of the Nikau Foundation to go towards the restoration of the Wairio Wetland.
Nikau Foundation Chairman Kevin O’Connor said he was delighted the Foundation was able to support Ducks Unlimited with its restoration work at the Wairio Wetland on the eastern shore of Lake Wairarapa.
While most grants had previously gone to Wellington based organisations he added that the Wairarapa is part of the wider community supported by the Foundation.
Ross Cottle said the grant would go towards site preparation and tree planting at the joint venture project with DOC.
“We are starting to see the results of four years of effort and this injection of funds will help maintain the momentum of the project,” said Ross.
Tree planting is planned for May/June and volunteers are welcome. In past years children from Pirinoa Primary School, students from the Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre, Rotarians and DU and F&B members have assisted with the planting.
Nikau Foundation is the community foundation for the Wellington region, part of a worldwide family that provides a simple, effective and long-lasting way for people to leave a gift for causes close to their heart and close to home. Because the capital is invested and only the income is given out, the gift
keeps on giving forever.
The grant for the Wairio Wetland restoration project has been arranged by Nikau on behalf of the Richard and Doreen Evans Trust.
The Wario Wetland has come in for some close scrutiny by Victoria University Student Bridget Johnson who is this year studying towards an MSc in Ecological Restoration. The overall title of her thesis is “Ecological restoration of the Wairio Wetlands, Lake Wairarapa: vegetation dynamics and succession”.
A Summer Scholarship meant she was able to do 10 weeks of research in her chosen field at Wario with the title for that part of her research being “Temporal & Spatial Patterns of Wetland Vegetation during the Summer Desiccation Period at Wairio Wetlands, Wairarapa”. In addition to the summer scholarship, Bridget has started preparing a second site at Wairio for a large scale experimental project where around 2400 trees have been planted.
The summer study programme provided an introduction to the Wairio Wetland for Bridget where she continues the research for her thesis on factors contributing to wetland restoration. Flight, with help from Jim Law, has been able to follow Bridget’s research so far.
A poster she produced she said was just a snap shot of some of that research. “Due to the limiting size of the poster, I only talked about rare species vulnerability.” All the summer scholars got to show their posters at a poster evening. Her poster included the following information plus a number of illustrations.
Small in size, New Zealand’s native wetlands plant species are repeatedly outcompeted by more aggressive weeds. The surrounding vegetation invades when wetland plants are most vulnerable, during the desiccation (dry) period. A number of threatened low-lying plants (Pratia and Glosso) inhabit the Wairio Wetlands. To conserve these native plants a greater understanding is required of their optimal conditions and their spatial and temporal dynamics. “My aim was to investigate the temporal scale of the native species, and which abiotic factors affect their spatial distribution.”
Vegetation composition was sampled in 20 quadrants over a 10 week summer period. The quadrants were set five metres apart along two 50 metre perpendicular transects. The first transect followed a moisture gradient, whilst the other ran parallel. Additional abiotic variables were measured, such as soil moisture, soil pH, percentage open ground, sunshine hours and rainfall. Water Plantain was chosen as a comparative species as it is a common invader and an indicator of high soil moisture.
The rare species are restricted to a small band of high moisture sites. A smaller number of invasive species can grow in these moist soils, so there are fewer competitors for the natives. In drier soils, the invasive species can spread easily, giving the vulnerable natives little chance of survival. This means the natives have truly specialised ecological requirements, as their time frame of existence and habitat preference is small. This is a contributing factor to what makes them vulnerable. Further research can be expanded from this study, for example: Should water plantain (and other invasive high moisture soil species) be managed to decrease the competition on the native species? Illustrations on the poster included Glasso, Pratia and Water plantain. Glosso and Pratia grow in soil with high moisture content and Water plantain grows more abundantly in high moisture soil but is adaptable to a greater variance of soil moisture. Bridget said the native species emerge later in the summer season, whereas water plantain is a consistent species. When the natives start emerging they have a higher percentage cover than the invasive water plantain.
“I would like to thank Dr Stephen Hartley, Tony Silbery (Department of Conservation Wairarapa), Jim Law (Ducks Unlimited) and Don Bell (Greater Wellington Regional Council) for their technical support,” said Bridget.
References: New Zealand Plant Conservation. 2010.
During the last weeks of June, a band of enthusiastic Wairio Wetland members and other helpers were involved in more planting at the wetland.
The Wairio Wetland Restoration Committee met back in May and agreed the last two weeks of June would be planting time and Don Bell (GWRC) would be requested to check on Warren Field's (DOC schools Co-ordinator), availability was well as the GWRC BBQ team. Attendees were expected to be two local primary schools (Pirinoa & Kahutara), plus South Featherston and Martinborough, students from Taratahi Agricultural Training College, Rotarians, DU members & others (eg F & B members).
Jim submitted a claim for an agreed payment by Rotary for the costs of the signage at stage 1 ($450). Additionally he made a further application to rotary for the cost of weed mats ($2200). both were approved by Rotary.
Bridget Johnson, the Masters student from the School of Biological Science at Victoria University was onsite supervising the digger scraping of planting test plots.
The purchasing of trees and other materials has progressed with assistance from Don bell, Trevor Thompson (EQII) and Tony Silbery (DOC). Specialist and consistent tree planting skills are required to ensure the integrity of the research programme.
The budget for this years programme agreed at the previous meeting and additional costing data that became available as agreed is as follows:
In Previous meetings it was agreed that a budget of $2500 should be ear-marked, subject to further fund-raising and commitment by DU for resources for additional plantings in two small fenced off areas north of stage 3. An audit of their suitability for additional planting by Don, Trevor and Tony would also be required and it was hoped this could be scheduled over the next few months.
Think Big Discussion
Based on feedback from recent visitors to the wetland (Farm Forestry and DU groups), as well as growing confidence within the Committee that significant progress is being made, the possibility ofa major planting to complete stages 1, 2 and 3 in the next few years was discussed.
There was agreement in principle to this approach and as a first step an estimate should be madeof the planting required in eash stage. It is also agreed that at the same time estimates be made of what areas not suitable for planting could be bulldozed to create significant lagoons. Financial costings would be then prepared as well as estimated manpower requirements to complete the work.
Recently over 25 supporters of the Wairio Wetland Restoration Project came together to plant over 2,000 sedges,flaxes, nurse trees and specimen trees.
After being welcomed to the site and reminded by Jim Law of Ducks Unlimited of the Vision to restore the pristine wetland that had previously occupied the site, and after being briefed on the preferred planting technique by Don Bell of the Greater Wellington Regional Council the planting teams then
heard from Bridget Johnson, a Masters student from Victoria University’s Centre for Biodiversity & Restoration Ecology. Bridget’s thesis is focused on restoration work at Wairio and will compare tree survival rates and costs related to different site preparation methods and subsequent maintenance treatments. “That’s why we need the consistent planting technique, otherwise we introduce another rather random variable” said Bridget.
“The whole idea of the research programme is to introduce some scientific rigour to our restoration work” said Jim Law. “We all have our favourite ways of planting and caring for native trees but there is little, if any, science to back up what we do. Dr Hartley, Bridget’s supervisor added “We expect the results of Bridget’s research and the results from future students working at Wairio will be applicable elsewhere around the Lake and at least in the wider Wairarapa”.
So, well briefed on the Vision, planting techniques and the importance of the research programme the planting teams comprising students from the Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre, Ducks Unlimited, Forest & Bird and Rotary members, local iwi and both Department of Conservation and Greater Wellington staff headed off to plant various combinations of nurse and specimen trees in the test beds.
Then the “A” teams arrived, the environmentalists of the future from the Pirinoa, Kahutara and Martinborough Primary Schools. After being similarly greeted and briefed on planting techniques the children all headed off with their minders to plant sedges and flaxes in some soft ground near the water’s edge. “They love it and are proud of what they are doing. They also want to see further development of the wetland” said Steve Davis from Pirinoa.
Then, when the children had finished their planting, it was back to the BBQ provided by Greater Wellington Regional Council for a well learnt sausage! “Tired but happy with what they have achieved” was the consensus. The older planters also had a break at the BBQ but then had to head back to the test beds for more planting but, by the end of the day over 2,000 plants were carefully planted.
“A great effort by all!” said a thankful Bridget.
Habitat te Henga; and the Forest & Bird reserve, Matuku so we called our newly purchased property, Matuku Link. Some of you may have helped our GiveaLittle appeal to purchase it and we took possession on November 1st late last year.
There are 37 hectares with three or four of those being alluvial flats including several scattered dock and buttercup ridden paddocks, irregularly divided by old riverbed meanders. In the meanders is a mix of tree lined open water with emergent baumea, extended raupo and swamp millet beds and carex, cyperus and juncus sedge patches. Peppered on the flats are remnant pukatea, kahikatea, kaikomako and totara.
Wasting no time, we held several working bees. Several truckloads of junk were taken away, scrap iron to the metal merchant, and the house made liveable for our new resident caretaker. A boundary line of poplar was felled and about a hectare of blackberry sprayed.
All internal fences were removed with the help of an obliging neighbour and the posts set aside for some future use – which manifested a mere month later. A group of 30 students from the Culver Academy, Indiana, touring through New Zealand wanted to be part of a conservation project. With a labour force that big, and four magnificent local carpenters, we constructed in two days 40 metres of boardwalk over a stream outlet on the Matuku Reserve.
Carrying tools, timber and a large generator almost a kilometre along the riverbank to the site, these energetic teens and their tutors helped finish a project that had been on the to-do list for four years. Some of them also helped plant kahikatea, the first of many trees, shrubs and sedges that will convert the paddocks to an alluvial forest resembling that which once existed. Other intrepid travellers had arrived the week before and, unfortunately, their arrival coincided with Auckland’s mid March weather bomb. With the river some 3-4m higher than usual, turbulent and silt laden, the never-saydie elvers (young eels) all the way from Tonga were seen flick flacking over the flooded bridge.
The desire to enable this property, which has easy access, to become a site for a wetland education centre has also rocketed ahead. The Trusts Community Fund Million Dollar Mission was opened on March 1 with several selected community groups competing to get votes from supporters for their projects. By the time the million ran out, Matuku Link had gained over 17,000 votes with each vote worth $5. The money will go toward material needed for the conversion of the barn while design and build will be a real=life project for Unitec students from the schools of survey, architecture landscape, and construction.
Matuku Link trustee
The Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust, established in 1977 continues the land rehabilitation and conservation work of Sir Neil and Lady Diana Isaac.
The Trust is self-funding and does not solicit for monies. It is the assets, bequeathed to the Trust from Sir Neil and Lady Isaac that provide the income to continue their philanthropic contribution to conservation.
The main focuses are the conservation of endangered native flora and fauna, the conservation of heritage buildings and the study of conservation through education and research. This study of conservation and the environment is embodied by funding two post graduate scholarships annually, at both Canterbury and Lincoln Universities.
Specialised captive breeding of New Zealand native birds, reptiles and fish, with the aim of reintroduction into the wild, is carried out to stabilise and reverse declines in at-risk species. The Trust currently holds New Zealand shore plover, orange-fronted parakeet, red-crowned parakeet, black stilt,
blue duck, brown teal, Cook Strait tuatara, grand skink, Otago skink and Canterbury mudfish.
The Trust also breeds Cape Barren geese and mute swan, which are donated to Ducks Unlimited New Zealand.
The Trust has decades of animal husbandry and captive breeding experience, specialising in New Zealand species on the brink of a high threat status. This area of the Isaac Conservation Park is off limits to the public due to the fragility of its inhabitants.
Lady Isaac was not just a wildlife conservationist, but also a conservationist of historic buildings. The development of the Isaac Heritage Village is comprised of 14 relocated historic Canterbury buildings.
Many of these unique and irreplaceable buildings (c.1860 to 1940), were threatened with demolition. The Heritage Village will eventually be open to the public. Revegetation of plants on the Isaac Conservation Park land includes a focus on the restoration of the Otukaikino River, feeding into the Waimakariri River. To date the Trust has fenced off waterways from stock, extensively cleared weeds, and planted over 45,000 eco-sourced natives. Along the corridor of native plants that now line the river, land has been set aside to provide a public walkway.
The Trust has been set up to exist in perpetuity to provide a benchmark in conservation, continuing the legacy of Sir Neil and Lady Isaac.