A multi-purpose, solar-powered webcam has been installed on the northwestern side of Kāpiti Island by the Guardians of Kāpiti Marine Reserve Trust.

Illegal fishing is an issue at Kāpiti Marine Reserve with the Guardians seeing this as an innovative way to utilise technology for environmental monitoring.

The $15,000 project is the first step in what is hoped to be several cameras making up the Kaitiaki Webcam Network.

It took volunteers two days to install from July 4-5, with the camera going live on July 6.
Guardians chairman Ben Knight, who has been managing the project, said the primary purpose of the webcam is for surveillance purposes.

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The western section of the reserve is hidden from view of the mainland, meaning the camera will provide surveillance and compliance capabilities in a law enforcement role.

It will, however, also be useful for local fishermen and boaties to check conditions, scientists and surveyors for research purposes with the Department of Conservation (DoC), Coastguard and the police also having access.

See the webcam here.

"It's a bit of a multi-tool but the prime purpose of it at this stage is to use the monitoring capabilities for the reserve.

"Despite the reserve being one of New Zealand's oldest marine reserves at 26 years old, illegal fishing is an ongoing issue.

"The webcam is part of our solution to the problem.

"It's no surprise when you've got a lolly jar absolutely chocka-block full of the tastiest treats, and if the headmaster walks off and leaves the jar in the middle of the playground some people might be tempted.

"The cameras on their own won't stop the fishing but hopefully in the long run they will help us to be more aware of the problem and provide more of a deterrent for illegal fishers.

"The quality of the images is fantastic, having the camera will be a game changer for compliance.

"We are expecting DoC will use the live feed to document and gather evidence that can be used in prosecution, although ideally no one will be illegally fishing there."

The project has involved collaboration with the United States Embassy, DoC, Groundtruth and local volunteers.

The webcam has been made possible by $12,500 of funding from the embassy's small grants scheme which saw the Guardian's project as fitting especially well with several of the schemes criteria, notably the US Department of State's goal of 'managing water resources, including managing fisheries and combating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing'.

This is not the first time the embassy have worked on Kāpiti Island after funding through DoC the weka exclusion fence.

"It's been a really good collaboration with the embassy paying for the gear, DoC paying for the helicopter flight, volunteers helping with the installation process and Groundtruth who have been the technology partner."

Ben and the Guardians see the webcam network as having the potential to be used for tourism benefits, to grow the profile of the space and be used by multiple groups and organisations.

"There are lots of opportunities for it, it will be really interesting to see what's going on out there — personally I'm hoping to spot a whale."