Here are the reports from FOOB’s 6th Annual General Meeting held on Sunday 28th July 2019 at 3pm. We are so blessed to have such a wonderful supportive community engaged in restoring the biodiversity in this neck of the woods. We’d love to hear your questions and ideas after you read this.
We are working hard to protect our indigenous flora and fauna. We have several volunteer weeding days a year and this last year we engaged the services of Remnant Restoration again to undertake the 3rd year of their original pest plant/bio-invasive eradication programme. Most of the work has been done around Stillwater, including the cheniers and Stillwater beach but also the areas of the Karepiro Forest, Karepiro beach and Deborah reserve have been tackled. This is ongoing but we are starting to make a difference. This year, on 23rd June, we had 50 people turn up to plant a 1000 plants at Stillwater. This totals about 4000 over the last few years. It is very rewarding to see the previous years’ plantings coming along so nicely. Well done to all of you.
Total weed control budget for 2018-19 was $31,450. $10,000 came directly from funding by FoOB and $21,450 from Auckland Council. Richard Webster from Remnant Restoration estimates that we need $56,000 to do follow up weeding on the Okura Bush Walkway, Deborah Reserve and Okura Esplanade Reserve for 2019-2020. We are applying for funding.
We also got a grant from Auckland Council’s Community Coordination & Facilitation Fund for $35,000 to fund a part time Co-ordinator, thus relieving our Treasurer of much arduous fund application work. Therefore we welcome Frits Beneka onto our team.
FOOB are part of the Hibiscus and Bays Restoration Network steering committee and once we had written up what was needed, funding was applied for and Richard Chambers was employed as the co-ordinator.
Jo Crawford took over the Trapping Coordinator role from Jonathan Baskett when he retired after 5 years. A huge thank you to Jonathan for your dedication in getting our trapping programme off to a great start.
Trapping Coordinators Report: Jo Crawford
Sincere apologies to those of you with lines in the Okura Bush itself that don’t have access. If you are like me, you are probably missing the joy of helping keep the pests down in such a beautiful coastal forest.
It has been hinted to me that progress is happening behind the scenes, unfortunately the walkway itself is in no fit state to even cover the walkway lines at the moment, and of course our beautiful Kauri are dealing with this nasty disease.
I have heard through the grapevine that a poison pulse has occurred recently and that the A12 (“Good Nature”) traps that were put on the walkway by DOC, have had their gas canisters replaced recently. Unfortunately, no estimated time frame has been made available to FOOB of when we can resume assisting with predator control in the actual Okura Bush.
We are also in the process of developing some good conversations with Weiti Development regarding their predator control, and we hope to perhaps gain access to cover a trapline on their boundary with Okura Bush again.
We hope also to work together as they plan out the wetland restoration, and hopefully get the new residents (in the impending development) interested and involved in the backyard predator control initiatives towards a Predator Free NZ 2050 vision!
The long standing Stillwater teams now have their lines and and running on our projects CatchIT database, and we have new Ka Mate traps, DOC200’s and Trapinators in place as part of the Council/Wildlands Ecological Status upgrade.
We have started our updates of other predator control within the Council Land areas that this last year gained a higher ecological status. Good news for Okura.
Any person who may be interested in joining our Trappers Group is most welcome to approach me after the meeting, we need help in the following:
- To cover the new area of the Stillwater end of the Okura Bush Walkway that we will be looking into setting up very soon.
- A potential off-track part of Dacre Historic Forest.
- A Short Bait pulse that is scheduled for August on Kareprio Beach, Dacre Historic and Esplanade Reserve. N.B. FOOB have made an exception here with the Mast Year coming, normally we don’t set bait.
- Helping the Stillwater Cheniers Team with their line.
- Helping on the Drive Line, which we are in the process of changing and extending further into the native bush. THIS IS AN AREA OF STEEP TERRAIN SO WILL REQUIRE A FAIRLY HIGH LEVEL OF FITNESS.
Catch Statistics: This years total catch of all predators: 485.
Broken down into species this is, for the 2019 year to date: 321 Mice, 115 Ship Rats, 7 Norway Rats, 29 Possums (N.B. not all lines have possum traps), 2 Stoats, 8 Weasels and 3 Hedgehogs.
The lines still accessible to FOOB: Deborah Reserve, Drive Line, Creek West, Okura Sandspit, Karepiro Beach, North Walkway (Dacre Historic/Karepiro Forest, Stillwater/Weiti Bay, Stillwater Cheniers
Thank you Jo.
Village trapping Coordinators:
Stillwater: Irene Sanders and Aileen Lusty
STILLWATER FOOB REPORT 2018/2019
Despite the closure of the major part of the Okura Bush Walkway the Stillwater end of the FoOB traplines has maintained its support. David, Jacqueline, Aileen and Irene continued with their traplines covering the Council owned Esplanade Reserve and Cheniers.
Jo Crawford has helped with adjusting the spacing of traps in these areas, upgrading the remaining snapEs to KaMates, and adding some extra DOC200s, thanks to Council grants. Currently we are in the process of changing the Timms possum traps over to Trapinators.
These lines have now all been GPS’d and catch stats are now added to FoOB’s Okura Bush Project on the CatchIT database.
A meeting was held at Stillwater Hall on 8th July. Rae Claassens from Wildland Consultant Ltd spoke about their contract with Council to assist with predator control and the collation of data across all groups within the Auckland Region. The meeting also welcomed Richard Chambers the new Chairman of the Hibiscus Coast Forest and Bird, and HBPF coordinator, who also does bait pulsing in the area.
THE 2019 GREAT KNOCKDOWN RAT CATCHING COMPETITION
For the second year running The Stillwater Community Assn won the Annual Rat catching competition between Okura and Stillwater for most catches.
Ali Turner and family won the prizes for the Longest tail and highest (3) number of rats and mice. All entrants received prizes and enjoyed morning tea and cookies while they discussed they various catching techniques.
Thank you Irene and Aileen
Okura Village Trapping Co-ordinator: Lynne Beneka
With new young families settling in Okura, we have more homes with trapping happening and lots more interest in the local pest control initiatives. We now have about 75 properties with traps – increased by another 15 since June 2018. There are a core group of regular trappers who respond to my monthly emails and keep track of their catches. From talking to some of the people involved, I am sure there are more catches than are reported.
The Okura Knockdown held at the Okura Hall in May, was fun and once again generated good interest and enthusiasm. However, no-one caught anything this year!! This did not stop the fun, hilarity and enthusiasm of those attending. Once again, despite the lack or catches, there were plenty of prizes for everyone. Tea and cake were enjoyed by all. There was animated discussion about how to increase awareness of the pest plants in our gardens. An idea was to put up a large poster of the Pest Plant of the Month on the Okura Hall notice board.
The Trap line along waterline on the Deborah Reserve is checked weekly by 5 rostered volunteers. The traps have been changed from ‘snappies’ and tunnels to Kamate Traps. It took a while for the pests to become familiar with them and for the catching to be more successful. We can now load the catches onto the catchIT website.
Catches: March 2017 – Dec 2017
Rats – 29
Mice – 26
Possums – 3
Catches: Jan 2018 – June 2018
Rats – 22
Mice – 72
Possums – 12
Catches: July 2018 – June 2019
Rats – 61
Mice – 37
Possums – 12
Hedgehogs – 5
Weasels – 1
Catches for Deborah Reserve July 2018 – June 2019
Rats – 30
Mice – 43
Thank you Lynne Beneka.
Further to this we got funding to carry out a second round of Property Pest Plans. These are individual pest plans for property owners to help them identify plants that are threatening Okura Bush and assist them with getting rid of pest animals. These PPP’s help us to create a pest free buffer zone to the Okura Bush. All these participants are helping with the restoration programme. We have 50 participating landowners. We are hoping to carry the PPP’s out in Stillwater if we get the funding we have applied for.
4th Annual Bird Count
Permission was given by Doc and iwi to enter the bush and to do our annual bird count.
Thank you to Gina Wilson for organising the bird counts over the last few years and thank you to Bernard Michaux for stepping in to take over from Gina.
Bird report: Birding News July 2018 – July 2019
The resident Pied Stilt pair at Karepiro raised two chicks this year, and with plans proceeding for the progressive conversion of the Weiti hay paddock to wet lands it is likely that more breeding habitat for this species will become available.
The shorebird breeding season was a disaster again this year, mostly a result of king tides coinciding with north easterly gales destroying nests. On the Okura shellbank the resident pair of New Zealand Dotterels laid two clutches, the first disappeared and the second was washed away. Unfortunately, this was the second year running that this has happened. At Karepiro I think six pairs of NZ Dotterels made nine attempts at nesting resulting in single fledged chick. Many (or all?) of the other nests were washed away. I attended a council-run morning for dotterel minders at Ambury Park and obtained ‘how to move nests’ information, but the main management tool to increase breeding success has been to clear higher parts of the beach of weeds to encourage dotterels to nest there, and roping off additional parts of the dunes that are more elevated. Thanks to Pete Townend’s efforts in roping off the dunes, the native spinifex is returning which will enhance dotterel habitat. And while the breeding success was very poor, the good news was that six pairs used Karepiro beach to nest on. The three pairs of Stillwater dotterel also produced a single chick, with high tides being the dominant factor in the lack of breeding success. The brown teal also bred.
The Variable Oystercatchers failed to breed on the Okura shellbank for the first time in the ten years I’ve monitored this area, two pairs attempted to breed at Karepiro but the eggs disappeared, presumably washed away, and none produced chicks at Stillwater. Again, clearing the higher parts of the beach of weeds will hopefully encourage them to nest on higher ground.
The die-off of shellfish this spring has had an effect on migrant numbers able to be supported at Karepiro. The Barred-tailed Godwit flock reached normal numbers (179) by November but had dropped to 95 in January and 47 in February. The birds leave for the Yellow Sea in March. I put this fall in numbers down to a lack of food, a conclusion supported by the low numbers of South Island Pied Oystercatchers wintering at Karepiro. A maximum of 172 birds were recorded in April compared with well in excess of 300 birds in the previous four years (2015 – 2018).
The winter flock of Variable Oystercatchers has reached a maximum of 37 birds. This flock has grown significantly over the past two years, two or three times their historical average.
Two pairs of Banded Dotterel have made the beach home this winter. While their main breeding grounds are in the South Island a few pairs do breed in Northland so perhaps they will stay – wouldn’t that be nice!
Following the designation of Karepiro Beach as an area of high ecological value there are plans afoot to manage the area to favour the birds (and other animals and plants) by managing visitors and providing information displays.
Bird Count Okura Bush 2018
The FOOB bird count for 2018 was undertaken by 9 volunteers between 8th October – 10th Nov.
Access to the track was via the beach and up the steps past Dacre Cottage. Because access was restricted to this entrance the count took almost 5 hours for most people. This is a huge commitment and all the volunteers received a big thank you for participating.
Red signifies increase in observations from previous year.
White faced Heron
Birds numbering less than 10 were:-
Black backed gull
White faced heron
Of 39 species on the count list, 37 were recorded as being present. 2 species not recorded were:-
Kaka, house sparrow.
This year saw the return of brown quail. There were no observations of fernbirds or caspian terns. BUT, 1 lucky person recorded the tomtit.
New observations of bellbird, shag, red billed gull and morepork were made. Rooster and a chicken were heard.
As you can see from the above table there have been fluctuations in the numbers of birds over the last 3 years. Notably the finches appear to have declined. However, OB1 was not included in this years’ count (due to track closure) and this is an area where they are regularly observed.
Friends of Okura Bush hold the stance that the overall health of the forest, its inhabitants including the trees along the track are more important than the need to open the track for visitors before adequate infrastructure is complete.
The committee recognises the urgency to re-open the forest to control invasive organisms as well as maintain the connection that the wider community has with it. These are two vital aspects needed for protecting this natural treasure.
- November 2011. $300,000 Track upgrade resulted in scores of stressed and dead trees, some up to 400 years old.
- 2014. DOC botanist Steve Benham reports 1.6km boardwalk needed.
- 2016. Nationwide Kauri Dieback track upgrades roll out.
- July 2016. Doc proposed 200m was to be board walked and about 300m of geoweb.
- FoOB opposed geoweb due to no scientific study.
- 300m of boardwalk installed and no plastic geo webbing.
- On site meeting 27 July 2016 with a Botanist, Engineer and DOC officers to discuss the track, slips and need for additional boardwalk. Recommendations were made and ideas were teased out. FoOB strongly opposed the current track rerouting for the reasons that it would (a) Take away the visitor experience of the Puriri ,(b) Marine reserve, and (c) cutting through new forest and disturbing pre european puriri.
- 12 May 2018 Rahui closure by Iwi.
- Kauri Dieback Hygiene Workshop was held and on 7th March 2019 at the Okura Hall. Run by DOC Ranger Kat Lane and attended by 22 FOOB trappers.
THERE WERE 2 MAIN ISSUES REGARDING THE TRACK: GEOWEB and THE SLIP ON THE WATER’S EDGE.
FOOB in partnership with The Department of Conservation, update:
We have tried very hard to work with Doc over the 6 years that we have been volunteering in the Okura Bush. We first pulled Doc up for the mismanagement of their 2011 track upgrade that is still seeing very old trees dying in the forest alongside the track. After an article was published in the North Shore Times in 2012, the relationship with DOC soured. In 2016, a Kauri Dieback sponsored upgrade saw FOOB spend a lot of time persuading DOC to avoid using plastic on the forest floor without scientific proof. This was not forthcoming.
On November 14, 2017, in order to expedite a way forward, FOOB called a meeting with Council, H&B Local Board, DOC and Iwi. FOOB proposed that Council might take over the management of the Okura Scenic Reserve. However the Council “were reluctant to take on more commitment”. Andrew Baucke, Operations Manager for DOC suggested a Fit for Purpose Trust – for FOOB to own and maintain a walkway; a Trust charged with fundraising for this purpose. Reason given: DOC did not have funding to build a best practice boardwalk. A detailed Trust Deed was prepared by FOOB. FOOB asked DOC for a letter of support so that any Trust formed could petition potential funders. FOOB were also waiting on DOC to sign our Community Agreement. Neither eventuated and without these 2 documents, FOOB were frustrated in our efforts to move forward with the Trust for the Boardwalk.
Te Kawerau a Maki, with support from Ngati Rehua & Ngati Manuhiri subsequently placed a Rahui over the Okura Bush on 12 May 2018. Iwi also produced a Warrant to Trap during a Rahui, as this is now considered good management. The Rahui required DOC to sign this off and they wouldn’t.
In October 2018 FOOB met with DOC formally to discuss a way forward together. Told us we “were a bad return on investment.”
Basically, DOC have wasted a lot of volunteers’ time, by being disingenuous and stringing FOOB along.
FOOB continued to cooperate, and 22 trappers attended a Kauri Dieback Hygiene Workshop run by DOC Ranger Kat Lane and Anna Lily from Forest and Bird in the Okura Hall on 7th March 2019.
This was to be followed up with DOC attending the next FOOB Executive Meeting to discuss a return to trapping with Kauri Dieback protocols having been met. However, before our meeting, we were made aware that work had started on the track. We had explicitly asked Doc to for an ecological report before any works were to start and they knew our stance on geoweb.
A last minute “Community Consultation regarding forthcoming Track Work” was arranged by DOC to take place 1 hour before the arranged meeting. This meeting caused a fiery response by the community and consequently DOC snubbed FOOB’s invitation thus frustrating our anticipated return to trapping the track and periphery of the Okura Bush. Doc have not allowed Foob to trap in the Okura Bush for the last 18 months but we are still trapping the surrounding council areas.
Despite assurances being made to the public and our MP, that Track work would be held in abeyance pending further discussions, the helicopters worked for 8 hours the day after the “Consultation Meeting”, dropping gravel, laying out Geoweb and cutting trees and roots to make way for the controversial slip diversion.
Our Executive decided to appeal to the Minister of Conservation, Eugenie Sage. Our efforts were rebuffed by being diverted back to the same people in DOC Operations who had frustrated us.
FOOB then prepared to put an injunction on DOC, to halt the forthcoming track upgrade which involved placing geoweb and diverting the track in a way that was detrimental to the Bush experience for users.
Finally our local MP Erica Stanford managed to get an audience with Minister Sage on FOOB’s behalf. The work on the Track was put on hold, and DOC are suggesting that FOOB refuses to fundraise for a boardwalk. Ms Stanford also managed to obtain documents through the Official Information Act, and also approached the Ombudsman to try to seek the truth behind DOC’s accusations that they felt seriously threatened at the hui.
Doc have not communicated with FOOB since our lawyer invited them to meet with us in April 2019.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was created between the local groups, LBOGPS, ORRA, KOG and Dacre Cottage. A letter of support entrusting FOOB to deal with Doc on behalf of the community groups was recently sent to the Director of Operations in Doc, Andrew Baucke.
WHERE TO FROM HERE?
All it would take would be to work out what could be afforded initially for boardwalk and what the next stages for the track upgrade could be over a workable timeframe. Doc can give no reason why our trappers are still not allowed in to do their work. We are forever hopeful that reason may prevail and that Doc can come to the party with the community who have worked tirelessly in a voluntary capacity.
OUR PROPOSAL is designed to shift the usage emphasis from recreation to wildlife-centred, thereby encouraging public education about the wildlife importance of Karepiro Bay and its conservation value. We envisage recreational activities to be confined to the northern part of the beach around Dacre’s Cottage. The elements of this plan include:
- A hide overlooking the roosting and breeding areas to allow the public to observe the birds at close quarters,
- Roping off the roosting and breeding sites so that public access to these areas is restricted when the tide is in and the birds are roosting. This will be the time when the hide will be of greatest use.
- Roping off the dunes and breeding areas parallel to the beach (as is presently done) to protect breeding birds.
- Board-walking the track from the steps at the southern end of the bay to Dacre’s Cottage in order to provide public access when the tide is in but discourage people from disturbing the birds.
- Placing a natural material screen where the board-walk passes close to nesting/roosting birds.
- Educational signage at Dacre’s Cottage.
- Standardised and unequivocal signage about dogs and public access.
ALREADY ACHIEVED: FOOB presented to the Local Board regarding the Karepiro Wildlife Sanctuary project. There have been several meetings and discussions with council since and it has been well received. The proposal is to run a boardwalk along the fenceline on Karepiro Beach with a maimai (a hide) at the southern end for birdwatching. This would also incorporate the betterment of the track at the lagoon on Stillwater beach. Our dealings with council remain very positive.
FOOB met with Mr Williams and the Local Board to discuss the vision of restoring the hay paddock area behind Karepiro Bay back to an ecologically significant wetland. Given the enormous loss of wetlands in New Zealand, the purpose is to protect the ecology associated with wetlands and protect the shore and wading birds of Karepiro Bay. This was well received.
Thanks to Treff Barnett for her valuable input into what is needed for restoration and thanks to Bernard Michaux and Alan Phelps for attending the meeting and finding a way forward on this great project. This will start with small areas being allowed to naturally revegetate and not be mown.
These are 2 great positive projects to look forward to.
The Okura Forest Festival 2019 was a huge success. 1600 people attended. It was the best festival so far. We thank the bands who donated their time and for a few bands who acted as drawcards and who gave us a really good rate. A huge thank you to so many of you for helping to make it such a big success. We need to recruit more volunteers for next year to make more light work of it all.
Thanks to Hibiscus and Bays Local Board who donated $10,000 to FOOB which we put to good use.
Thanks to all our other sponsors big and small:
Active Audio & Lighting, Ab Goubitz, Ruru Pantry, Fuerto Pizza Ovens, Tony’s Woodfired Pizza Ovens, Fix 4 U, Art Devine, Grant Thorrington, Garden for the People, The Food Bach, Organic Mechanic, Pro Vision, Mrs Higgins Oven Fresh Cookies, POP by Organic Knowledge, and finally Benefitz Future Thinkers.
$21,000 was raised. FOOB reported back to the Local Board, suggesting OFF become a signature event.
Last but not least….a huge thank you to all of you for supporting FOOB in your own way. Enjoy the RMA talk by Liz Singh and the Restoration Doco.