In the “Pāteke survival guide”
The Tutukaka Landcare Coalition (TLC) comprises a group of landowners spanning a growing area (currently c.3000 ha) of eastern Northland forest, wetlands and farmland. Originally established to manage the local kiwi population, the TLC engaged hunters to decrease pig numbers and set up sustainable control of mustelids, cats, dogs, possums and a core area of rat control, and enhanced wetland habitat.
They networked well with agencies, including the NZ Landcare Trust, WWF, DOC, the pāteke captive breeding programme and Northland Regional Council, all of which assisted with advice and resources. Funding has also been secured from businesses such as Transpower and Banrock Station Wines, while local restaurant Schnappa Rock hosted a fundraising dinner which raised $7,000 for the project.
As well as detecting a positive response from kiwi, the TLC began to notice other birds arriving, including kākāriki, kākā, bellbird and pāteke. They approached the Pāteke Recovery Group for advice and the PRG recommended and facilitated the release of captive-reared birds in the heart of the TLC in May 2007, 2008 and 2011.
Tasks completed for pāteke
Specific tasks that TLC completed for pāteke were:
- Establishment of a large pond and planning is underway for additional ponds
- More intense and diverse predator control, including switching to alternative bait types for mustelids, pulsing of fresh rabbit bait etc.
- Raising the awareness of locals on the impacts of dogs and cats
- Erecting signs and writing fliers to raise local awareness about pāteke
- Securing of funds to carry out radio telemetry monitoring of released birds.
Significance of pāteke to TLC initiative
The return of the pāteke is significant due to:
- The local suite of wetland bird species is in recovery mode with bittern, grey duck, fernbird, banded rail and spotless crake also present.
- Pāteke represent a returning element of the lowland forest ecosystem.
Increasing numbers of pāteke are being seen in areas both within and adjacent to the TLC area of predator control. Sixty-four birds were released in May 2011 to boost the population.
Colin Caldwell owns c.700 ha of coastal property at Port Charles, Coromandel Peninsula. Approximately half of this area is grazed, mostly with dry stock and sheep and the rest of the property is mainly bush. To the north is the extensive Moehau complex where kiwi and other fauna are increasing in response to predator control.
The Caldwells developed a close interest in pāteke, particularly as captive-released birds and their progeny spread along the streams and wetlands of their property.
The property is already ideal for pāteke because it comprises a mosaic of short pasture, streams, wetland, shrubland and other rough cover, and there is an estuary nearby. Colin wanted to further improve the habitat and security of the pāteke and implemented several management tasks following advice from the Pāteke Recovery Group and funding from the Regional Council, Banrock Station, the pāteke captive breeding programme and the Environment Fund.
Tasks that the Caldwell’s completed for pāteke
- Predator control—targeting mustelids and cats
- Dog control—was already in place
- Erection of road signs and roadside fencing, and enlarging culverts to help minimise road deaths
- Excavation of scoop ponds
- Landscaping drains to provide better access for ducks
- Continuation of grazing of pasture and experimenting with grain crops
- Currently assessing sites where better riparian protection can be implemented along the streams.
Implications for farm management
Impacts on the farm have been (or are anticipated to be) mainly positive and include the following:
- Improved water quality (and therefore livestock health) from fenced streams.
- Pāteke prompted a new look at pasture management for focus, further research on pasture bugs
- Presence of an endangered species increasing the profile of the property.
The pāteke population is growing; the estimated current population is approximately 450 birds.
Wayne Mitchell is a property developer working for Maxus Group Ltd. The company wished to subdivide an area of coastal hills and a small coastal valley at Rockell’s Bay within the Northland stronghold of pāteke . Small numbers of birds had been observed on the development site. The proposal attracted significant local interest and was heard at an Environment Court hearing.
Tasks completed for pāteke
Wayne sought expert advice from the PRG and other wetland advisors and implemented the following management:
- Excavation of brood ponds
- Planting of nesting cover
- Provided logs as resting areas in ponds
- Grazing of pasture
- Targeted weed control
- Pet exclusion
- Predator control
- Code of conduct for residents.
Outcome for development
Wayne achieved the following subdivision outcomes:
- Successful Environment Court outcome with all subdivision lots applied for being approved
- Presence of endangered species increased the profile of the property, renamed Rockell Shores Wildlife Sanctuary
- Environmental profile of Company was enhanced through its approach towards sustainable management of an endangered species.
Pāteke numbers have increased. (A record 23 were present in February 2011).