Pohutukawa Trust New Zealand is a charitable trust incorporated under the Charitable Trusts Act 1957. The Trust was established by a group of Kawau Island’s private landowners in March 1992 as a community led organisation to restore the island’s native flora and fauna, and achieve sustainable land use on Kawau Island.
Events leading to the Trust’s beginnings go back to 1955 when New Zealand’s looming possum problem was first positively identified on Kawau Island. A now historic letter was written to the Department of Lands and Survey in April 1955.
Thirty years later the New Zealand Forest Service wrote: “it was hopeless to consider doing anything about the destruction of the Island’s flora caused by introduced animals”. Kawau Island was “written off”. “Kawau Island has no particular significance for its botany nor for its native wildlife values” and “Kawau Island is of historical rather than botanical interest” were some of the assessments of the time.
Landowners did not agree with this and stepped in with an initiative to save the native flora and fauna. By 1990 pohutukawa trees had been saved in the first large scale use of Timms Traps in New Zealand. The trees were blooming again for the first time in 20 years. Encouraged by this success, the community established the Pohutukawa Trust New Zealand, to provide long term organisation and governance with the following objectives:
“To promote the conservation of indigenous species in New Zealand”
“To achieve sustainable land use on Kawau Island”
A suite of animal and plant pests were identified on the island, and as awareness of the problems were developed through regular communications, membership and resources grew and work began on planning for removal of wallabies and some of the other introduced animals that had been brought to a place where they do not belong. By then bird life was responding positively to the reduction in possum numbers (10,000 removed) and rare brown teal were seen again in Hokimai Bay in 1992, and then in other places. Efforts were made to get a clear position concerning wallabies on the public Historic Reserve land, which was the main impediment to achieving the Trust’s objectives. Landowners increased their planting of native trees, mostly inside fenced areas at that time, and animal pest control was stepped up. Work with the Auckland Regional Council (ARC), lead firstly to declaring wallabies an animal pest in the Auckland region and then, due to support for the private landowner initiative, upgrading the status in 2002 to eradication. By 2000 much progress had been made, particularly north of Bon Accord Harbour with many native plants surviving and more native birds recorded, including reports of more kiwi calls.
Following a presentation to a pest liaison group at the ARC in 1999 a Scoping Plan and Budget was prepared with encouragement from the ARC. The Scoping Plan and Budget 2000, included an option to co-ordinate animal pest eradication on Kawau with plans being developed by the ARC for predator eradication and restoration at nearby Tawharanui. A target date of 2005 for eradication of wallabies was established and a leaflet drop was made to every dwelling on the Island.
The Scoping Plan and Budget 2000 outlines a staged programme for eradication and control of animal pests, and a budget for optional completion of the wallaby eradication phase in a ground based operation, and a budget for completion of an operation including rat and other animal pest eradication using aerially applied bait, exactly as was later done successfully at Tawharanui. The total budget cost in the Scoping Plan and Budget 2000 for the ground based operation to eradicate wallabies is $212,000 and for a staged aerial operation to include rats and other animal pests is $339,000.00 This budget is in year 2000 dollars.
An inventory of indigenous plants was begun using a paper presented in 1876 by John Buchanan F.L.S entitled ON THE BOTANY OF KAWAU ISLAND as a starting point. The plant inventory has become quite extensive with significant contributions by landowners and the Auckland Botanical Society. The purpose of this inventory is to enable propagation of eco-sourced plants for distribution on the island once the animal pest problem is under control, although the main route to recovery will be natural regeneration from the seed rain resource still provided by remnant flora.
The Trust was awarded a National Green Ribbon Award during 2003 for outstanding leadership and commitment to environmental protection, and was a runner-up in the ARC E-Awards that year.
The landowners played an important part in assisting Waterfall Springs Conservation Association (Australia) to return the endangered Brushtail rock wallaby to Australia. There were only small numbers on Kawau and all animals that could be economically caught were returned and are now in a very successful captive breeding program.
Operations were suspended for a time while 86 Tammar wallabies were captured for repatriation to Australia. Landowners saw much regression during the suspension period with loss of regenerating trees 5 years old, and animals attacking plants that had been flourishing unprotected for years. We now know that wallaby numbers on the island approximately doubled during this suspension period. The substantial losses of regenerating native seedlings vividly illustrated the need to keep going. Such an operation cannot be “switched” on and off, and supporters pressed strongly for a resumption of operations when the live capture operation ended in May 2004.
The landowners have responsibilities under the Auckland Regional Pest Management Strategy (ARPMS) to the ARC for wallaby eradication. Wallabies are a declared animal pest in the Auckland region, and the ARPMS provides for eradication of the four species present.
THE SHORT TERM PLAN
The Pohutukawa Trust New Zealand intends to see the wallaby eradication phase of the restoration project now completed with some urgency. This is the most difficult part of the project we have been working towards and is currently in progress. The Trust determined that this step will immediately enable at least 60% of the potential ecological benefits (using the present ecological state as a reference point).
The initial goal of achieving natural forest recovery enhanced by some eco-sourced plantings of selected species, is then assured, even though other animal and plant pests remain to be controlled or eradicated in a staged sequence over the next few years.
THE LONG TERM PLAN
Significant parts of the prioritised long term plan have been achieved. These include raising awareness of the ecological potential of Kawau Island (especially the damage caused by wallabies), the significance of a suite of animal pests identified, identification of a group of some 30 weed species to be controlled or eradicated, and identification of the remnant flora and fauna resource on the island available for rehabilitation. The Trust has contributed to provisions in Rodney’s district plans to cope with the unique forest situation on Kawau Island to enable effective regeneration and revegetation.
The unplanned suspension of operations while additional Tammar wallabies were captured for repatriation to Australia, intervened and extended the timeframe. The last animals were captured for return to Australia in May 2004, after which the Trust’s operations resumed.
The ultimate objective is to achieve sustainable land use on Kawau Island in an ecological setting of restored native flora and fauna, for the benefit of the community, Rodney District, and the Auckland Region as a whole. The Trust expects progress will lead to future opportunities for re-introduction of rare or endangered indigenous species with the assistance and support of other agencies, and also expects that some species will establish of their own accord once predation is reduced or eliminated. Brown teal, kaka, and bellbirds are already responding in this way, and the North Island saddleback could visit soon. Indigenous species already present will recover and flourish, and kereru for example are doing that now. It will be possible to have a productive garden, orchard, or vineyard, without the need of exclusion fences which presently impede the free movement of native wildlife. The Trust supports appropriate and sustainable land uses as part of the project.
Once the hard work is over the Trust will continue to be a unique part of the Kawau community to care for the restored environment the landowners have created.
How you can help
All Kawau Island Island landowners and residents are invited to participate.
The Trust also welcomes supporters with an interest in New Zealand’s native flora and fauna who are not Kawau Island landowners or occupiers.
With 90% of Kawau Island privately owned the remarkable vision of the landowner founders of the Trust can now be achieved. We can do the job and own the results.
The ARPMS makes the following provision to support the landowner initiative:
“The level of ARC support will reflect the level of landowner/occupier support for the eradication and demonstrable community efforts.”
Funds for the restoration project come from donations and sponsorship. The Trust has currently raised about half the amount needed for the essential wallaby eradication phase now in progress.
There is no minimum donation to join and the Trust is grateful to supporters for any donation of their choice.
All of the Trust’s operational costs are sponsored and every dollar donated by supporters is applied directly to meeting the objectives.
You can support the Trusts efforts by donating to the Trust at www.givealittle.co.nz/org/pohutukawatrustnz
26 Hattaway Avenue, Bucklands Beach, AUCKLAND 2012
© Pohutukawa Trust New Zealand 2016