Progress, scoping the forest, working with DOC, trapping, monthly catch stats, bird count.
Photo: Rob and Amanda McLune, trappers.
DOC has recognised the growing importance of the Okura bush as a major recreational asset to the region and the need, therefore, to prevent, or at least mitigate the spread of kauri dieback disease. Boardwalks, which keep boots and wet mud off the ground, are crucial tools in prevention. DOC announced good news at a FOOB executive meeting on August 24. This was that, thanks to consistent lobbying, the Okura Bush Walkway has made it into the top 30 of 300 tracks nationally for funding for boardwalks over the next three years. Confirmations and dollar amounts are yet to come.
Final approval is also subject to the department’s inspection and subsequent reports by engineers. It also requires endorsement by iwi who have an interest in the Okura area.
Boardwalks don’t come cheap at around $500 a meter. An initial estimate by DOC and FOOB suggests that we need of 1.6km of Boardwalk where kauri are near the track or leading into it. Therefore it is very likely we will need a major fund-raising drive to fill the shortfall of what DOC’s meager finances might provide.
Scoping the forest
A second item of significance, announced by DOC, is that a drone will do aerial scoping of the forest very shortly. This will provide a map with GPS locations of significant trees, especially kauri, and better enable planning and monitoring of forest health. Details of interest on the map will be “ground-truthed” or verified by a DOC expert and volunteers from FOOB.
Working with DOC
Our relationship with DOC was consolidated by tabling the final version of our Memorandum of Understanding, which sets out the details of our collaboration and of how we work together. We are still working on the Management Agreement.
Meanwhile, the number of traps on the Okura Bush, for rats, mice, stoats, weasels and possums has increased to a total of around 450. The aim is not only to trap along the walkway to Stillwater, which we have achieved, but to encircle the perimeter of the Bush (we do about a third at the moment). Despite the mud and winter weather, volunteers continue to send in catch numbers which volunteer coordinator Jonathan Baskett displays on the Haigh Access Rd notice board.
In the winter months a ruru (morepork) has been following Rob and Amanda, who trap early in the morning, waiting for a tender morsel to be thrown its way.
Monthly Catch Stats for 2015
(Total to end August: 1422 mice, 360 rats, 42 stoats or weasels, and 52 possums from about 450 traps in nine trap lines all monitored by volunteers. Expansion planned when more volunteers offer help.
Trapping has spread to the other side of the estuary where 35 houses in Okura village are participating in a separate pest eradication programme. This was launched last month by FOOB with a spectacular competition called the Great Okura Knockdown held on the village green at which prizes were awarded for the largest, fattest, smallest, or longest-tailed rat caught. The event even made news on some radio stations in the UK. A big thank you to our sponsors, Auckland Council and ORRA (Okura Residents and Rate Payers Assoc.) for the traps and tunnels and to our prize sponsors:
• Tides Restauarant, Waiake
• Nutra Organic products from naturalthings.co.nz
• A selection of wonderful books by local author, Liliane Parkinson.
• Bev Short for donating ‘Vanishing Nature” by Marie Brown.
• Wills Fishing and Firearms, Wairau, for the Slingshot.
FOOB has set up a subcommittee to monitor the bird population of the bush. This will start very soon and we hope to report results in the next spring newsletter.
Another program is monitoring the gecko population.
SPRING IS HERE, COME FOR A WALK, COUNT THE BIRDS, CATCH A RAT, A POSSUM, A STOAT…
One of over 45 mustelids (stoats and weasels) caught in the Okura Bush this year.
Thank you to Pat and Jonathan Basket for compiling the newsletter.