AGM Chairperson’s Report 2020

For those that missed out on our previous AGM…..

Friends of Okura Bush
AGM 16 August 2020 @4pm
Okura Hall, Okura River Road

Chairperson’s Report

Welcome everyone. It’s great to see you all. Thank you for coming.
Just a briefing of what FOOB has been up to over the last year and we’ll then go on to listen to our wonderful guest speaker, Professor of Ecology at Auckland Uni, Jaqueline Beggs.
It’s been a mixed year because of the lock down period and other things such as the rahui on Okura Bush Scenic Reserve. We were anticipating that our Community Agreement with DOC would have been finalised and we could get back into the Bush but we are still waiting. We had hoped to have had it signed a couple of months ago so would resume trapping before the bird breeding season began. One of the impediments has been gaining iwi approval, a requirement of DOC. However DOC is meeting with Ngati Manuhiri this month and hopefully we will be able to finalise the Agreement soon after.

Meantime, we have been able to continue our trapping programme on the rest of the lines.
Our wonderful Animal Pest Control Co-ordinator, Jo Crawford, has provided the following report.
Well the Covid19 pandemic Level 4 Lockdown meant we were no longer legally allowed to be trapping Okura Bush as of 25th March. Terrible time of year as far as controlling vermin went as it was peak catch season. New volunteer trapper training all got postponed until after lockdown.
Also had to postpone trappers meetings, were unable to share lines, unable to drive to lines etc etc since trapping was considered a high risk activity. Had to place bait stations out on OSS and KB due to the very high vermin numbers in order to help see us through level 4.A lot of hours weed/wildling pine clearing has occurred up the creek west of Okura Bush.
This past month have added 5 more Ka Mate and 3 possum traps up the creek.
Ongoing project due to the intensity of the weeds up that marginal strip.
Lockdown also placed a delay on finishing the off track Karepiro Forest Line Council gave us permission for.
Thanks to the marvellous work of Chris we have funding to finish purchasing the last of the traps to cover this area.
2 possum traps and 2 DOC200s were added to Deborah Reserve Line prior to lockdown, in the process of organising a training session on the new traps for the volunteers that check this line.

Okura Bush/KDB news
I have spent many many hours writing up Kauri Dieback mitigation protocols for DOC to allow trappers access back onto the traplines in the Okura Bush. This culminated in an onsite visit with a DOC ranger in March to start finalising the KDB mitigation steps and new trap location placement (where required) but unfortunately the heavens opened on the morning so the day got aborted, and then Covid happened within the week. Still no pest control has happened in there since rahui and only a poison drop targeting possums occurred last year.

Active Lines: x 7:
x1 DOC land -Okura Sandspit
x6 Council land – Deborah Reserve, Karepiro Beach, Karepiro Forest, Weiti Bay, Stillwater Cheniers, Creek West (marginal strip).
Lines still on hold (rahui): x4 in Okura Bush.
NB: Ridgelines awaiting new fence between Weiti/Bush before redeveloping.
Lines currently under development:
Karepiro Forest off track.
Projects this coming year:
Update the Drive Line, Stillwater Hill (new), Okura Esplanade Reserve (new), and continue to extend CW as wilding pines and weeds get cleared (requires contractor to help with this).
Volunteer Hours last 12 months: 404 hours
All time tally: 2862 hours since 13 Jan 2014 (under representation re Stillwater etc)
Catch Tally 30 Jul 19 to 31 July 20:
125 Ship Rats, 7 Norway Rats, 420 Mice, 3 Hedgehogs, 28 Possums, 12 Weasels, 2 Stoats.
All time (CatchIT total aka from 13 jan 14) 2008 Ship Rats, 40 Norway Rats, 4478 Mice, 23 Hedgehogs, 435 Possums, 102 Weasels, 92 Stoats, 1 Ferret (this year – organising some DOC250s so we can address ferrets better). NB: (under representation re Stillwater etc only on CatchIT database in last 1-2years).

҉Shared role of Animal Pest Control Coordinator Position Available!! ҉

Jo would like someone to share the coordinator role with. If you or anyone else you know are interested in sharing it please advise the Executive Committee. We thank her for her tremendous leadership in this area. She has taken so much responsibility for this role, and believe me it has been a challenging time. She has gone beyond call of duty, liaising with DOC in efforts to get back into the Bush to trap as soon as possible. I’d also like to thank Jonathan Baskett who is retiring his line, for his tremendous support right from when we first started FOOB. He came on to our committee and took on the role of Animal Pest Control Coordinator. He will help on some of the easier lines when possible. Thank you to all the trappers. You are making a big difference.

Okura Village Pest Control Update from Lynne
With families coming and going in Okura over the last year, we are steady with about 75 properties with traps. 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.
Due to the COVID lockdown – The Annual Okura Knockdown went online and was so much fun! Once again it generated good interest and enthusiasm. Some amazing pictures and stories were shared and there was a strong sense of competition with prizes for most entrants.
The Trap line along waterline on the Deborah Reserve has continued to be checked weekly by 5 rostered volunteers. I did all the checks while under lockdown to keep the risks down. We can now load the catches onto the catchIT website.

I have put in the figures for the last 2 years for comparison – there seems to be a surge in the mice population!

Backyard Catches: July 2018 – June 2019
Rats – 61
Mice – 37
Possums – 12
Hedgehogs – 5
Weasels – 1

Backyard Catches: July 2019 – June 2020
Rats – 33
Mice – 87
Possums – 9
Hedgehogs – 1

Catches for Deborah Reserve July 2018 – June 2019
Rats – 30
Mice – 43

Catches for Deborah Reserve July 2019 – June 2020
Rats: 17
Mice: 32
Possum: 1
Thank you Lynne for the all work you do co-ordinating keeping the pests down in Okura.

As Lynne has already said, The Great Rodent Knockdown Comp went online in Lockdown. The Rat Competition was a macabre affair with photos of kills placed on The Great Rodent Knockdown Facebook page. Thanks to all the participants and funny comments.
Stillwater report: We would like to thank Irene Sanders and Eileen Lusty for the wonderful work they have done flying the flag in the Stillwater community. John Marais has joined them in the trapping team and will also be involved in organising community environmental restoration and weeding initiatives. We welcome John’s enthusiasm and passion for our environment and we’re very excited to have him on board.

Property Pest Plans. Funding from council has enabled us to continue with some Property Pest Plans for several properties from Okura around to Stillwater. There are some enthusiastic property owners who have come on board with the plan after having their 10 most invasive plants identified by been able to systematically deal to them. This promotes a sense of responsibility in protecting their own land and in turn the neighbouring reserves.
Weed management – Remnant Restoration has continued with their awesome work dealing to the invasive plants and several of our members have been contracted to them for short periods of time. We are now in our 4th year of the 5 year plan they wrote for us. We are looking at getting this updated soon. We had contractors abseiling off the Karepiro Cliffs this week sorting out the cotoneaster. We have had several weeding days throughout the year, our most well attended was the Wilderness Connection Day. There was a guided walk through various ecological systems with easy to learn techniques for invasive plant removal taught in order to help protect remnant forests. Thank you to all the volunteers who have given their time to rid our environment of invasive plants, it can be such a thankless task but it makes all the difference to our native plants. Hats off to Tony Cunningham the moth plant removal ninja. Keep an eye out for him!

Planting day. We had our planting day in August on one of the cheniers at Stillwater, where we had a great turnout of about 65 volunteers. A huge thank you all. 1100 more plants in the ground this year! Thanks to Peter Buckley who took the plants out to the site in his buggy and for also taking me out there with the morning tea.

Bird Report: Bernard Michaux
It was another disappointing year as far as shorebird breeding is concerned. No dotterel chicks were fledged from either the Okura Spit or Stillwater cheniers. There were at least three nesting attempts at Okura but in all cases the nests were washed away by king tides. Three pairs attempted to nest at Stillwater but no chicks resulted. A cat was reported on the cheniers but attempts to catch it were unsuccessful. Whether the lack of breeding success was due to cat predation or the problem with king tides is not known. The resident NZ Dotterel pair at Karepiro produced two chicks following Pete’s intervention to save the nest during a king tide, one of which fledged.
The Variable Oystercatchers were more successful with the Karepiro pair producing three chicks and two pairs at Stillwater producing two chicks each. The pair at the Okura spit were unsuccessful because their eggs were washed away.
No bird survey in the Okura Bush Reserve was carried out due to its ongoing closure and a seeming lack of interest from the Auckland Office of the Department of Conservation to monitor the effects on bird life of the suspension of trapping.

Martin Sanders’ bird report
Another year on the spit produced three ducklings from the pateke and a possible three dotterels that survived to fledging.

The waratahs and the tape needed some repair and the tape may need renewing at the end of the season.

Some weeding was done and probably we should research sand retaining plants to counteract the erosion occurring due to the easterly winds and high tides. The offshore shell bank is returning to a similar position of the early 2000’s providing later roosting for the waders.

A small flock of approximately fifty godwits over wintered and the usual flocks of Sipo, Stilts were present. Morepork, California quail, Banded rails and maybe a Fern bird have been observed. It is possible a pair of Caspian Tern have nested in the area as have been seen with a chick for a number of years.

It was sad to observe a number of dogs with owners invading the area and after the rules were pointed out was not well received with the owners saying they were entitled and/or abusive.

A cat was reported but the trap was not activated.

The trapping proceeded regularly, see the report by Jo Crawford.

Liaison with Weiti Residents group: We have had meetings with Weiti management regarding wetland restoration where they agreed to leave some patches unmown in the Hay Paddock alongside Karepiro Beach. We are also pleased to have supplied some traps to a couple of residents in the new gated community who are doing a splendid job under Jo’s supervision.

Okura Bush Track
During the year, we had some ongoing liaison with DOC about the upgrade to the Okura Bush Walkway to address kauri dieback issues and realignment of walkway because of slips. We had a site visit with our engineering consultant and DOC with their consultant. We had concerns about the environmental impact of the Geoweb that DOC was using for the track and consulted with internationally renowned experts in this field who substantiated our concerns. However, we were unable to find out from the manufacturer some of the additives used in the product and could not proceed with this further. On our site visit we found that Geoweb was already laid out and had been partially filled. This looked different to their standard protocol of a metal and bark mixture to fill the geoweb. Their engineer told us that the contractor had asked if he could use lime instead of bark because it was a cheaper option. Doc agreed. I came away with clumps glued onto my footwear. We questioned DOC about this but have not had a response. We reached a compromise with DOC in the realignment of the track.
Pukemokemoke During the year we had a pleasurable visit to Pukemokemoke Reserve as part of our boardwalk research to see their boardwalk which volunteers built for the cost of the materials. Bev, Chris and I drove down and met with the lovely gentleman who initiated the restoration project and the engineer. It showed us that we could achieve a lot with a little money and some community involvement.

We continue to be very concerned about Environfill, especially since they have had consent to move from clean fill to managed fill. Other concerns relate to sediment and contaminants leaching into the Marine Reserve, the number of truck movements, noise, and hours of operation. In June, we submitted an Official Information Request for further information, and received only that which we already had. In particular we wished to view the inspection reports and although they had been promised by Council, even with follow up we have not yet received them.
Sediment: We are still alarmed at the large amounts of clean-fill being dumped on private properties permitted since changes to the Unitary Plan came out. We have raised the issue with Council but are concerned that this is not being monitored adequately enough.

Funding applications
We have been busy with funding applications including to Auckland Council, the Hibiscus and Bays Local Board, DOC, Foundation North, COGS, Lotteries, Pub Charities, and cheekily to the Shovel Ready projects. We are waiting for a response from Lotteries, but were very grateful for the funding we received from Auckland Council, the Hibiscus and Bays Local Board, COGS, Foundation North and our local VIP fund through Restore Hibiscus and Bays. Thank you very much to all our funders.
On a sombre note, we were very sad to learn that one of our major funders, Auckland Council, has not been able to open the Regional Environment Fund for applications this year. We believe that other philanthropic agencies may also be feeling the squeeze generated by the lockdown period. A huge thank you to Chris Bettany who has worked really hard applying for funding.

Fieldworker and co-ordinator Thanks to the funding from Council and Foundation North, we were able to take on a part-time field officer and part-time co-ordinator. We now have Tiagu, a university masters student working 20 hours a week. He is very knowledgeable and is working with the Property Pest Plans, weeding etc. We are so grateful and privileged to have Chris Betanny as our coordinator. She has been working very hard applying for funding and doing many other administrative tasks.

Strategic planning – We had 25 people attend a workshop recently to freshen up FOOB’s vision and pave the way for a more detailed strategic plan to be drawn up.
Restore Hibiscus and Bays FOOB is a member of the steering committee for Restore Hibiscus & Bays which is our overarching parent conservation group. Funding was secured for a coordinator and a field worker. They are doing amazing work with all the community start-ups and existing groups. FOOB have just received a grant of $3k from them to extend some of our trap lines.

Okura Forest Festival – ‘The best one day festival ever,’ according to a couple of attendees of the festival. We got wonderful feedback about the festival. It went off very well. We had bands, workshops, Eco stalls, craft stalls, food stalls so smoothly organised by our over 200 volunteers. About 1600 on the day. Our wonderful local board gave us funding of $10k. We had further expenses of about $12k and at the end of the day we fundraised just over $20k.

Thanks to all our supporters, including all our funders, our local MP, Erica Stanford, and especially all our volunteers who do the trapping, weeding, planting programmes and help out at the Festival, and especially our awesome committee .
Without you, we wouldn’t be here. A huge thank you to you all.

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