Introduction

Around 100 people celebrated the opening of an eco-centre to support Project Island Song, and the results of the operation to remove pests from the eastern Bay of Islands islands.

Date:  15 September 2009

The rats are gone, dotterel are getting ready for nesting and plants are fruiting in the eastern Bay of Islands, community groups involved in Project Island Song were told last week.

The area manager for the Department of Conservation's Bay of Islands office, Ms Rolien Elliot, told the gathering at Otehei Bay on Urupukapuka Island (Friday 11 September) that the department was very pleased with results from the June operation to remove pests from the eastern bay.

Around 100 people were taken to the island to celebrate the opening of an eco-centre made available to the project by the new lease-holders for the Zane Grey Resort, Explore NZ.

Eco-centre opening.
Eco-centre opening

(The photo on the right shows Shirley Meloni (left) treasurer of Guardians of the Bay and Marara Hook, from Ngati Kuta at Te Rawhiti prepare to release the flax ribbon at the opening of the Project Island Centre at Zane Grey Resort, while Fleur Corbett, chair of the Guardians, thanked all those involved in the project to return birdlife to the eastern Bay of Islands)

Project Island Song is a community-led initiative to restore native bird and plant life to the eastern Bay. DOC managed a rodent eradication programme in June in preparation for planting, and the community is contributing to mainland pest control to ensure the islands remain pest-free.

"Out of the 100 tracking tunnels placed around the island there has been no sign of any rats," Ms Elliot said. "The 100 traps set for stoats on all the islands have produced no catches so far; and a recent dotterel survey showed at least eight birds on the islands with pairs forming ready for nesting.

"Added to that, some plants are already fruiting and without rats to eat the fruit and seeds, we can expect a bumper season of new seedlings that will assist with the regeneration of forest cover."

Ms Elliot said the invaluable help of tangata whenua Ngati Kuta and Patukeha, Guardians of the Bay, island and mainland owners, the New Zealand Kiwi Foundation and the Eastern Bay of Islands Preservation Society, would continue to be needed to keep the islands pest-free.

"We need you to help spread the word that the islands are pest-free, and that people can help keep the islands healthy by checking their gear for rodents, ants and other bugs and weed seeds before visiting the islands.

"We need you to act as role models by checking your gear, and if you are visiting the islands with friends and family, get them to do the same.
Lastly, if you see any pests on board a vessel, or on the islands, tell us at DOC asap!"

Ms Elliot said the day was a celebration of what happened when community groups committed to 'getting involved," this year's Conservation Week theme.

Planting at the eco-centre.
Planting at the eco-centre

There was an excellent working relationship with the partners in Project Island Song, and Explore NZ had embraced the vision of island restoration.

"Without the support and commitment from all of us here we would not have come this far."

Ms Elliot also thanked the Northland Regional Council and her staff for their contributions to the overall project.

Persistence, good relationships and generosity had made a 'pie in the sky' dream of a Bay of Islands eco-centre come true, the chair of the Guardians of the Bay, Fleur Corbett, said.

"There has often been wishful talk of an eco-centre. Now, thanks to the generosity of Explore NZ, we have a Project Island Song eco-centre to focus and promote the regeneration of the bay, taking us into a new phase."

On behalf of Explore NZ, William Goodfellow said his company was thrilled to be part of Project Island Song. "It took no consideration to decide how to commit," he said "and we are committed to the long haul.

We are looking forward to a bright future, both from an economic perspective for the area, and from the conservation point of view."

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