Farmer on mission to bring back weka
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.
The North Island weka is only naturally found in an enclave near Opotiki.