Tas­man River pro­tec­tion project wins ma­jor en­vi­ron­men­tal award

The Timaru Herald - - Front Page - Matthew Littlewood

The large-scale, multi-agency pro­tec­tion of the Tas­man River has won a ma­jor en­vi­ron­men­tal award.

Project River Re­cov­ery, which has the as­pi­ra­tion of turn­ing the riverbed into a preda­tor-free zone, won the award for best river story at the Cawthron In­sti­tute’s New Zealand River Awards.

The an­nual awards were es­tab­lished to draw at­ten­tion to the state of the coun­try’s rivers, and the ef­forts to im­prove them. The other fi­nal­ists were Man­gakahia River in Whanga¯rei and Wharekopae

River in Gis­borne.

Gerard Hutch­ing, a Stuff jour­nal­ist who judged the award, said the Tas­man River was se­lected be­cause ‘‘it has been a longterm oper­a­tion un­der­pinned by sci­ence and which has made sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments to the habi­tat of the world’s most en­dan­gered wad­ing bird the black stilt, while at the same time help­ing to lift population­s of other vul­ner­a­ble species’’.

The project, which part­ners the De­part­ment of Con­ser­va­tion with landown­ers, lo­cal iwi and power com­pa­nies Merid­ian and Gen­e­sis En­ergy, has been in ex­is­tence for more than 15 years. It has led to the resur­gence in na­tive bird species such as the ka¯ ki/black stilt.

DOC se­nior bio­di­ver­sity ranger Dean Nel­son said the fo­cus on preda­tor con­trol near the Tas­man River had been a col­lec­tive ef­fort.

‘‘The con­cept of pro­tect­ing a large-scale riverbed was very ex­per­i­men­tal at the time, but we’re now start­ing to see re­sults,’’ Nel­son said.

‘‘In the be­gin­ning, we strug­gled to find 30 breed­ing pairs of black-fronted terns to mon­i­tor; in this breed­ing sea­son, we’ve found 380 pairs. There’s also been an in­crease in the ka¯ki/black stilt pop­u­la­tion.’’

Nel­son said the award was recog­ni­tion of the large num­ber of DOC work­ers, vol­un­teers, landown­ers and other or­gan­i­sa­tions in­volved in the project.

‘‘There’s been a lot of peo­ple in­volved in this work. The big thing about a river is you’ve got to keep it clear of clear of weeds and other plant pests be­cause they en­croach on the area of clean gravel that birds need to nest in,’’ he said.

Nel­son also said that, over time, there had been thou­sands of preda­tor traps de­ployed to catch pests such as hedge­hogs, feral cats and stoats, while the emer­gence of the Te Manahuna Ao­raki Project, a multi-agency project with the as­pi­ra­tion of turn­ing the Macken­zie Basin into a preda­tor-free zone, had also led to in­creased re­sources.

A Merid­ian En­ergy spokeswoma­n said ‘‘It takes a vil­lage to make projects like this a suc­cess’’.

‘‘Merid­ian is proud to have part­nered with DOC on what has been a truly suc­cess­ful project. The past 15 years has seen end­less hard work and com­mit­ment to pro­tect and en­hance what is a unique and trea­sured part of New Zealand,’’ she said.

Con­ser­va­tion Minister Eu­ge­nie Sage said it was great to see the work of DOC and lo­cal part­ners to pro­tect and re­store the Tas­man River’s nat­u­ral ecosys­tem recog­nised.

‘‘Can­ter­bury’s braided rivers are in­ter­na­tion­ally im­por­tant as nat­u­ral sys­tems, for the plants and wildlife they sup­port, es­pe­cially braided river birds, like the world’s rarest wad­ing bird – the crit­i­cally en­dan­gered ka¯ ki/black stilt.

‘‘The Tas­man riverbed is also a spec­tac­u­lar nat­u­ral land­scape and a dra­matic en­trance to Ao­raki/Mt Cook Na­tional Park,’’ Sage said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.