Mohua (Yellowhead) Project
Increasing concern over the dwindling mohua population at Makarora led the Central Otago – Lakes Branch of Forest & Bird to establish a predator trapping programme in 1998, in conjunction with DoC. Trap lines were set out along the Bridle Track below Haast Pass, and around the Blue Pools tracks. In the ensuing 20 years, the programme has increased its trapping network and now operates 400 rat, stoat and possum traps on 10 lines, with two 100-m trap grids covering areas with particularly high biodiversity values.
The programme is guided by a Makarora Predator Control Operational Plan, developed by DoC and F&B in 2017.
A major boost to Makarora predator control efforts came from DoC’s Battle for our Birds programme, which undertook aerial 1080 poisoning in 2017, and plans another operation in 2019.
In addition to trying to improve the breeding success, and therefore the numbers, of the iconic Mohua, the trapping programme aims to increase populations of other forest birds such as kakariki, kereru, and kaka (now reduced to very low numbers), and also to protect endangered plants such as mistletoe. It will be working in collaboration with the newly-established Aspiring Biodiversity Trust, which has a focus on the braided river environments of the Makarora and Wilkin valleys, and alpine species such as kea, whio and rock wren.
Funding for the programme has come from the Mohua Charitable Trust, DoC, Otago Regional Council, Forest & Bird, and individual supporters and donors. The traps are run by a group of 25 volunteers, on a monthly roster of trap clearing and maintenance; each year the volunteers invest over 3000 hours of their time, and also cover the costs of transport between Makarora and Wanaka/Hawea. Trap catch data are updated monthly:
The success of the trapping programme is measured to some extent by annual mohua population surveys sponsored by DoC: in 2017 “....there was a significant increase in observations in both the Makarora Valley ...and the Blue..... with 29 and 15 records respectively and overall a ten percent increase in birds seen or heard across all lines.”
Rodent populations are monitored by tracking tunnels on a 3-monthly cycles; the Branch contributes to this with tunnels in the two densely trapped grids. To date (from 2006) trapping by the Branch has removed 470 stoats, 539 rats, 18 possums, 160 mice and 127 hedgehogs from the Makarora valley.
The trapping group welcomes any individuals or organisations who wish to become involved with the Makararoa programme. Please contact the branch if interested.
Lindis Pass Project
The Lindis Pass Group was formed in 2004 in response to a suggestion by the Department of Conservation’s Community Relations officer based in Twizel. The group was begun to help with practical work in the reserve at the summit of the Lindis Pass; the reserve is expanding as the tenure review process returns more land to the Crown along the crest of the range between the Lindis Pass and the Ahuriri Valley, and in future there should be walking access along the range northwards.
Most of the group’s working time has been spent on weed control, particularly of Sweet Briar, which is cut and poisoned with Vigilant; and the difference is becoming obvious as briar steadily disappears from the reserve, compared with the bordering areas. This work will need to continue indefinitely, as Sweet Briar persists in the surrounding country, and is readily spread by birds. In 2005 the group collected seed from the indigenous Chionocloa rigida (Snow tussock), which is being propagated at the Department of Conservation’s Motukarara nursery, and it is hoped that the resulting plants will be planted in the reserve during the spring of 2006.
The plan is to restore the degraded area along a stretch of the old coaching road at the top of the Pass, which was accessible to off-road vehicles until Transit New Zealand recently altered the roadside and moved the deer release memorial from the top of the State Highway to the parking area on the eastern side of the road.
Another plan for the reserve is to form short a walkway (allowing a 30 to 40-minute walk) from the parking area near the summit of the Pass. The walkway will cross the ridge to the west and complete a circuit over to the eastern side and back to the summit. This will be planned by the Department of Conservation, and should include information boards and seating at the best viewpoints.
The group is in the process of forming an Incorporated Society so that funding can be applied for and received for the work; and a Memorandum of Understanding has been drafted, which will be signed by the Department of Conservation and the group.
New members are always welcome to join the group, and to support its work. There are 5 or 6 work-days planned for each summer, and these are often combined with walks to explore various sections of the reserve.
Millennium Track Project
A proposal by Central Otago-Lakes Branch of the Forest & Bird Society to initiate a long term replanting project of the Waterfall Creek – Millennium Track, with native trees and shrubs of the Wanaka region.
The Millennium Track has been a highly successful upgrade by the Otago Regional Council of an existing walking track leading west from Waterfall Creek, along the shore and cliff top of Lake Wanaka. The track is now very popular with visitors, tourists and locals alike. Any given weekend will see many local identities out enjoying the lakeside splendor.
Approximately 1.5 kilometres of the track is now protected from all stock by an extensive deer fence, presenting a wonderful opportunity to enhance the area by judicious replanting with some of the original lakeside forest and scrub species.
The existing vegetation along the foreshore, slopes and cliffs of the Millennium Track is a mosaic of savanah-like rank grass with patches of briar rose, alternating with tongues of regenerating kanuka and occassional native shrubs kohuhu Pittosporum tenuifolium, Coprosma propinqua and some other divaricating species.
There also occur very ocassional forest species largely restricted to the steepest cliffs and close to the lake edge( a very small number of totara, lemonwood Pittosporum eugenioides and kowhai. These species give us some idea of what vegetation was here before the arrival of milling, fires and stock grazing.
Probably consisted of:
•Lake side littoral, hebe spp, kowhai, divaricating Coprosma species.
•Forest – totara, broadleaf (Griselinia littoralis)
•Possibly Olearia hectori and Olearia odorata
Potential for Future Revegetation
Natural regeneration of this area will be extremely slow due to the domination by rank grass and the lack of seed sources for most native species. Regeneration of the area can be exponentially hastened by a careful revegetation programme, consisting of phases spread over a number of years and largely using community volunteer effort, similar to the excellent progress in revegetating Ruby Island.
•Formulation of a revegetation plan
•Initial planting this season (Spring 2004) of kohuhu and kanuka on the initial plateau approximately 400 metres after the start of the track
•Some low Hebe shrubs close to the track, around the rocky knowl and near seats
•Eradication of approximately 3 wilding pines established on the lakeside cliff.
•Briar rose left largely as is but prevented from spreading.
•Extend plantings of kohuhu and kanuka but also Coprosma propinqua.
•Plantings of totara in selected areas to create small groves
•Plantings of Hebe, Cassinia and other fragrant and appealing shrub species around cliff edges, track bank- faces, beside seats and near vantage points.
•Continue plantings as in 2 & 3 in further areas
•Also create groves of endangered and threatened local species such as Olearia hectori.
•Initail plantings this spring 2004
•Cuttings taken this summer for further propgation
Initial organisation will be conducted by the Central Otago-Lakes Branch of the Forest and Bird Society. All interested parties are welcome to participate. Sponsorship will be encouraged. Some budget allocation for the purchase of trees will be sought from QLDC.