Walking along the bush tracks in Aongatete Forest and Otanewainuku Forest and you will be greeted by friendly robins and acrobatic fantails.

Forests in the Bay are on their way to becoming bird havens again, but it is a constant battle for their survival.

Aongatete Forest Restoration Trust has been fighting pests in native bush for 11 years.

Through kill traps and poison, volunteers have curbed the number of stoats, rats, cats and possums, and the forest health number of birds in the forest is improving.


Chairwoman Barbara McGillivray said when the forest went silent in the early 2000s it was a wake-up call.

The Aongatete Forest Restoration group set up ground-based pest control covering 240ha of forest at the end of Wright Rd.

Five years later Forest and Bird got on board and now the group covers 500ha, with 67km of bait lines cut through the bush with 110 bait stations and a ring of stoat traps.

"But there's no pest control in the wider Kaimai forest so possums constantly reinvade our healthy, lush and green forest," she said.

The crusade on pests had already seen bird life including North Island robins, fantails, riflemen and insects increase.

Ms McGillivray said many uplifting stories had come from volunteers and visitors who walked the silent tracks years ago and who are now today noticing the abundant bird life.

"A volunteer recently parked up in the carpark and said it was the first time he could hear robins singing from there.

"It's so lovely for a member to have a little reward like that," she said.


Kill traps were recently set up in a small area to see if they could make a difference to possum reinvasion.

"Our volunteers are surprised by the large number of possums caught. They want to preserve the native wildlife, but acknowledge that possums must be dealt with in a humane fashion," Ms McGillivray said.

This year the restoration trust was working with local deerstalkers with a grant from the Department of Conservation to put up fences around native king fern to prevent deer from eating the rare plant.

Aongatete Forest Restoration Trust is baiting and checking predator traps to increase bird and plant numbers. Photo/file
Aongatete Forest Restoration Trust is baiting and checking predator traps to increase bird and plant numbers. Photo/file

"We're hoping we will be able to let the king fern grow away again - it's the start of a project that will be hugely advantageous to show the public what can happen if pests are kept out of an area. They will see the bush bounce back and a rare species saved."

Otanewainuku Kiwi Trust has been fighting the battle for the birds since 2002.

Chairman Hans Pendergrast said the trust had to keep putting the pressure on predators.

It uses trapping and bait stations to reduce predators over 935ha of the total 1200ha that makes up Otanewainuku Forest.

There is a whole network of dedicated volunteer teams working to eradicate different predators: cat traps are set up along the outskirts of the forest to catch feral cats and stoat traps are serviced twice a month in the summer and once in the winter by volunteers.

"The stoat trapping team is an amazing commitment, they spend one to three hours twice a month going up one line then down another to check traps and change the bait, salted rabbit."

Rats were targeted with toxin once a year.

"They are our number one issue because they eat eggs and chicks. As a result of the rat programme the robins have responded remarkably.

"Everywhere you go now you will see a robin," Mr Pendergrast said.

Possum numbers were quite low in the forest after being "dealt to" with a once-a-year toxin programme.

The trust was in the planning stages for a dedicated ferret line - the animals needed larger traps and could be caught on the edge of the forest before they got into the bush.

"We are constantly getting better at it as time goes on but it takes a lot of effort and funding."

He said the city had to get behind efforts to protect hill country and the backdrop to Tauranga.

Mr Pendergrast said if people wanted to get behind a predator-free New Zealand they could join a conservation group or make their own backyard predator free by setting traps.

He said not everyone could get into the bush and do hands-on work but the trust appreciated donations, big or small, to help keep them going.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council managed more than 137 pest plants and animals in the region.

The Regional Pest Management Plan was being redeveloped and the public has been invited to have their say.

"We're asking for people's thoughts on which pests should be included in the plan, what pests are more important to people and who should pay for pest management," biosecurity manager Greg Corbett said.

The council had seen some success with pest management, for example, the use of feratox in the Welcome Bay and Kaharoa area had eradicated nearly 70 per cent of the wallaby population.

"We have successfully used trail cameras and the public to report sightings of wallabies.

"We are currently taking crowd sourcing a step further and are trialling a new app where people can report wallaby sightings."

However, new and existing pests continued to rear their heads. Efforts to prevent marine pests like Mediterranean fan worm and clubbed tunicate sea squirt from establishing themselves in Tauranga Harbour were under way.

To learn more people could view the discussion document and have their say online.

Feedback must be submitted by Monday, 1st May 2017.

Stoats prey on native birds and also feed heavily on reptiles and invertebrates
Possums eat native bush foliage and raid kea nests
Rats eat bird chicks and eggs
Wallabies are a threat to farming, forestry and native bush generation