Promising start to ambitious native bird initiative

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(this article originally appeared in Mahurangi Matters - August 7 - 2019)

A plan to encourage indigenous birds and other wildlife to spread out from the sanctuary of Tawharanui through surrounding land to Tamuhunga has 'real potential", according to an environmental planner.

Terra Nova Planning's Dr Mark Bellingham carried out research into key species and what they needed in the local landscape for The Forest Bridge Trust (TBFT), which wants to create a "connected landscape" of forest and indigenous wildlife from the Kaipara Habour to the east coast.

The results were encouraging, Dr Bellingham told a meeting of more than 150 volunteers and landowners at Matakana Primary School on Sunday, July 28, especially for bellbird, kaka. kakariki and tomtit.

"There are no gaps between forest patches in the target area that are too wide for these bird species to cross", he said.  "And most could establish in local habitats with good predator control and enough habitat area."

He said the only species that might need additional forest to gas across any gaps were robin, whitehead and kiwi, but said there was a good amount of covenanted land in the area already.  

"This idea has real potential", he said, "The key will be working together."

That meant enhancing existing forest and filling gaps with native trees and scrub, weed control and, most importantly, getting rid of pests like rats, stoats and weasels. He said it was also important to monitor and record bird and predator species, and to share that information.

"When these key indicator species start turning up, you're starting to see progress," he said.

Upper Whangateau Road resident Ian MacDonald said that after years of fencing and trapping around kauri on his land, bellbirds and saddlebacks were starting to be seen. And a farmer from Glorit added that he was seeing and hearing huge numbers of birds he'd never seen before, thanks to the efforts of TBFT founders Kevin and Gill Adshead around the west coast community.

Environmental strategist Annette Lees carried out research into what local landowners and conservation groups needed to help implement connectivity between Tawharanui and Tamahunga, in what was a diverse and rapidly changing landscape with a wide range of land use and property size.

"One solution won't fit all," she said. "But people feel responsible for the land now, that's the marvelous change - they know DOC and councils can't do it on their own, especially on private land."

She said people needed practical knowledge and support, easy access to traps and bait, and help with "pain points", such as funding applications and dealing with councils, which TFBT could help with by providing a coordinator for the project.

The meeting split into groups to view large scale aerial photos and discuss specific needs, ideas and strategies for each of six sub-regions -- South Tamahunga, Matakana East, Matakana River, Whitmore Road, Takatu and Tawharanui Halo. Information from each of those mini-workshops will be coordinated by TFBT and a plan of action drawn up. Efforts will also be made to contact landowners not currently involved in the project.

Gill Adshead said the trust had already established several native bush hubs elsewhere and spent $400,000 fencing off forest, but Tawharanui to Tamahunga was the first major strategic project in its efforts to "connect the dots" from coast to coast.


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