Farmer on mis­sion to bring back weka

Wairarapa News - - FRONT PAGE - PIERS FULLER

A South Wairarapa farmer has an am­bi­tious plan to bring back weka to the south­ern part of the North Is­land.

Farmer and con­ser­va­tion­ist Paul Cut­field of the Ao­rangi Restora­tion Trust is sub­mit­ting a pro­posal to the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion to get a new pop­u­la­tion of weka translo­cated to the Ao­rangi For­est Park in the south eastern corner of Wairarapa.

Con­ser­va­tion groups and Govern­ment and in­dus­try-funded agen­cies are al­ready car­ry­ing out ex­ten­sive preda­tor con­trol op­er­a­tions on pri­vate and pub­lic land in and around Ao­rangi For­est Park.

Cut­field said the op­por­tu­nity was largely a re­sult of the ‘‘ex­cel­lent preda­tor con­trol’’ achieved by TBfree New Zealand’s aerial 1080 pro­gramme in the area.

The 10-year Project Ao­rangi ven­ture was de­liv­er­ing a triple hit on pests by re­duc­ing the num­ber of pos­sums, stoats and rats over around 30,000 hectares of the Ao­rangi For­est Park and sur­round­ing pri­vate farm­land, he said.

In his younger years Cut­field made a liv­ing hunt­ing on Rak­iura (Ste­wart Is­land) and Fiord­land where he grew fond of the gre­gar­i­ous weka.

‘‘I’ve al­ways found them the most en­dear­ing bird. They leave ki­wis for dead. If weka were more wide­spread they would be our na­tional bird. They’re cheeky they’re hard cases and they are very vis­i­ble, be­ing quite fear­less around hu­mans.’’

The area where his farm is si­t­u­ated, on the south east coast neigh­bour­ing the for­est park, had ev­ery­thing weka needed in­clud- ing food, habi­tat and preda­tor con­trol, Cut­field said.

‘‘The kanuka forests, and the bush edges and the river ter­races are ideal for weka. The hinau tree which is a huge com­po­nent of the au­tumn food through to the win­ter is pro­lific down here.’’

The Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion’s east coast op­er­a­tions man­ager, John Lu­cas, said pro­tect­ing species where they al­ready ex­isted was their high­est pri­or­ity though they would translo­cate an­i­mals for spe­cific con­ser­va­tion goals.

Preda­tor con­trol in Ao­rangi For­est Park and sur­round­ing pri­vate land had in­creased the safe ar­eas for ‘‘taonga species’’ to

WEKA IN THE NORTH

North Is­land weka are one of four sub species ofweka and aren’t found any­where else in the coun­try. While weka as a whole are con­sid­ered Not Threat­ened, the North Is­land weka sub­species are clas­si­fied as At Risk – Re­cov­er­ing. This is a key fac­tor when con­sid­er­ing translo­ca­tions.

The last orig­i­nal North Is­land weka main­land pop­u­la­tion is in the Motu/ Opotiki area and it’s es­ti­mated there are about 13,000 birds. It is an ex­pand­ing pop­u­la­tion but con­fined to a small area. Weka are be­ing sought for Ao­rangi to in­crease the ecosys­tem in­tegrity of the site, as weka used to be present in the area be­fore be­com­ing lo­cally ex­tinct in the early 1900’s.

DOC con­sults with iwi on all translo­ca­tion ap­pli­ca­tions and both par­ties take their duty of care se­ri­ously to en­sure na­tive species are re­leased into ar­eas suited for their sur­vival. ex­pand or be moved into, but de­ter­min­ing the safety level of pro­posed ar­eas was part of the translo­ca­tion process.

‘‘A lot of ef­fort is ex­pended on de­cid­ing on ar­eas which have a good chance of suc­cess, and then pre­par­ing, ex­e­cut­ing and mon­i­tor­ing the translo­ca­tions. We’re hope­ful for the suc­cess of each one,’’ Lu­cas said.

DAVID HALLETT

The North Is­land weka is only nat­u­rally found in an en­clave near Opotiki.

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