Caring for whio habitat essential for its survival

By Brian Doughty

It was interesting to read the other day about the Park Family from the upper reaches of the Ongarue River area north of Taumarunui and the work they are doing as a family to protect the nationally endangered blue duck or whio.

Whio need clean, fast-flowing rivers for their survival, as we only have 2000 to 3000 left in the world and they all live in New Zealand - something, on one hand, we should be proud of and, on the other, should hang our heads in shame, as our human habitation, along with a few natural disasters and predators, have had a huge impact on their population.

Whio were once found throughout New Zealand, but now only in the Ureweras, East Cape, central parts of the North Island and the West Coast of the South Island.

Now you may think: what has this got to do with Joe public? But we all have a role to play if not only for ourselves but future generations need to be able to see such a unique New Zealand bird.

As a start, our role as responsible rural landowners must be to ensure the every effort is made now and in the future to ensure the river habitat of these birds remains unpolluted, fast-flowing and predator-free.

Now on to something that will affect us locally. DoC is in the process of restructuring. It's timely to reflect on what has gone before.

We all used well-dressed, uniformed rangers in most locations you would find trampers or tourists, eager to answer your questions or help with advice.

Nowadays they almost seem like the endangered whio.

At the recent Federated Mountain Conference, the Hon Peter Dunne, talked about a need for DoC to partner with the private sector, the non-government organisation and communities to get their job done.

Many clubs over the years have built and maintained huts within National Parks. Our local Wanganui Tramping Club built a hut in the Mangaturuturu Valley and today still maintains this hut.

Partnerships are already a part of the way we enjoy the outdoors.

DoC, historically, has about one-third of the New Zealand land mass to manage as conservation estate - no mean task, given financial restraints, an apparent inability to convince government ministers of the importance of conservation to ensure future funding.

One good outcome from the DoC partnership option would be having agreements that allowed clubs to manage huts and tracks along with possible plans and develop new recreational facilities.

New Zealand's conservation estate is for all to enjoy. Let's not get bogged down in the small print; let's make the effort and make the partnership work for a better and enduring conservation estate.

Brian Doughty is Whanganui Federated Farmers' Provincial President and a member of the Whanganui Tramping Club

- Wanganui Chronicle

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