OPINION: Predator control project big boost for fauna

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How are we doing? A reflection on my conservation commentaries during 2018, by Ines Stager.

Back in March 2018, I wrote about Dr Ray Pierce, who researched his doctorate in the late 1970s on kaki (black stilt).

Then, just 23 of these very rare birds were heading towards extinction.

With more than 100 birds in the wild now, mainly in the Mackenzie Country, it is pleasing to read that this year’s breeding season seems to be developing well.

A major boost for kaki and other indigenous fauna is the recently launched Te Manahuna Aoraki, a large-scale predator control project in the Mackenzie district being administered by the Department of Conservation.

In April I commented on waste minimisation, then in August the Government announced the phasing out of “single-use plastic bags” within a year.

On average 154 plastic shopping bags are used per person per year in New Zealand. Apparently, it is the biggest single subject school children write to the Prime Minister about.

Kaki (black stilt) in the Ahuriri River PHOTO: INES STAGER

When we first came to New Zealand in 1981, we were impressed to find groceries being packed into brown paper bags. At the same time it was a challenge to get products packed into our own bags, explaining that we did not need the extra packaging.

In September I drew attention to the fact that our native fish are not only in serious decline, but they lack any form of protection.

Doc was calling for submissions and is now working on an indigenous freshwater fish amendment Bill to halt the decline of our indigenous freshwater fish species. The intention is that no fish species becomes extinct and water bodies that have lost fish species will be recolonised.

Tahr

The controversy over the culling of the introduced Himalayan goat or tahr was the subject in October. Views have been polarised, despite the fact that tahr do significant damage to alpine environments.

It appeared from some media coverage that introduced species such as tahr are often favoured over native fauna and flora.

But it should be understood that most overseas visitors come to look at indigenous biodiversity and landscapes that are intact, not to hunt introduced animals.

My sympathy goes to the families who lost loved ones in the tragic helicopter accident on their way to doing the much-needed conservation work.

The summer season has arrived and the korora (little blue penguin) at Caroline Bay seem to have had a good breeding season. In the evenings you will find many locals and visitors along Marine Pde watching korora coming ashore.

Earlier in the year the Timaru District Council made a wise decision to not extend the times when dogs are allowed on Caroline Bay. Unfortunately the main cause of korora fatalities are dogs, and a close second are road kills.

The recent episode at Marine Pde was rather sickening. It must have been a very angry or disturbed person to run down a korora, an at-risk declining species.

Some progress has been made, but more is needed to improve habitats for the special treasures that we enjoy, both locally and globally.

Ines Stager is a landscape architect based in Geraldine, a board member of the Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society and a committee member of the local branch.