Project is way of future

By Laurel Stowell

A conservation project in the Ruapehu district has been hailed as the shape of things to come.

Auditor-General Lyn Provost's December 3 report on Government input into conservation said the Conservation Department (DoC) was losing the battle to maintain biodiversity.

At best it was slowing the decline in native New Zealand species - certainly not halting it. Its $202 million spend in the 2012-13 year would only cover about one eighth of the conservation estate, and 200 of 2800 threatened species.

DoC needed help, she said, and that could be provided through making partnerships.

The report included three case studies about other ways of doing things. One of them was on the Kia Wharite partnership project west of Ohakune. It takes in private land around the Retaruke and Manganui-o-te-Ao rivers, and most of Whanganui National Park - a total of 180,000ha.

It started at the end of 2008, and seeks to control pests and predators like goats, rats, possums and stoats on private and public land, as well as fencing streams and protecting bush remnants on private land.

The work is done by contractors and Horizons Regional Council has been putting $200,000 to $165,000 a year toward it for the last four years, environmental management manager Craig Mitchell said.

Other funding comes from DoC. Landowners provide expertise and raw materials, and some are motivated to do work themselves.

The main aim is to protect North Island brown kiwi and blue duck (whio). Organisers want kiwi numbers to increase by 10 per cent every three years.

The main way to achieve this is by drops of 1080-laced baits across two 30,000ha forest areas every three years - to kill possums, rats and stoats.

Orautoha and Kaitieke schools have been involved at the grassroots level. And Te Amo Taio, a Maori work collective, has grown up along with the project, expanding from a one or two people to about 15 in a self-sustaining contracting group doing pest and weed control, fencing and track maintenance.

Kiwi numbers are judged through automated recorders and people listening, and they have increased steadily.

A population of 50 pairs of blue duck has been maintained.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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