from Friends of Okura Bush AGM held 15 August 2021 at Okura Hall, Okura River Road.
Welcome everyone. It’s great to see you all. Thank you for coming this afternoon. Tena koutou katoa.
Just a briefing of what FOOB has been up to over the last year and we’ll then go on to listen to our inspiring guest speaker, James Dale, Professor of Zoology at Massey University.
We are proud of what we have accomplished over the year. However, it was a huge disappointment when we had fully prepared for our annual Okura Forest Festival only to have to cancel it at very short notice because of Covid 19 lockdown. As you may realise, it takes several months of planning and co-ordinating the bands, the speakers for workshops, the food, environmental and craft stalls, the paperwork for consents, the on- the-ground organising such as the stage, lighting, fencing, toilets, security, waste management etc and it is our major fundraising effort for the year. Over the past couple of festivals we made about $20,000 each time towards our programmes. We have been targeting this funding towards boardwalk on the Okura Bush Walkway, but this year, we have had to commit this to our weeding and trapping programmes.
At our last AGM, we expressed our frustration that we had not been able to continue our trapping of pest animals in the Okura Bush Scenic Reserve while DOC upgraded the track because of kauri dieback issues, but we did say that we hoped that we would be able to resume this shortly. However, that has not been the case. We were invited to accompany DOC and mana whenua groups in a walk-through the Bush earlier this year, in anticipation that works on the track would soon be completed. However, concerns were raised by mana whenua and further discussion is taking place between them and DOC to resolve some issues. We meantime are waiting for a warrant from mana whenua groups to allow us to resume the trapping even while the Bush may be closed to the general public.
During the year, eleven of our volunteers as well as some from Restore H&B attended a Cultural Induction workshop with Ngati Manuhiri in Warkworth. All said they found it richly meaningful and gave appreciation of Ngati Manuhiri knowledge of the area. Thank you to DOC and Council for covering our costs for this.
Meantime, we have a team of wonderfully committed volunteers which has allowed us to continue, indeed expand, our restoration work of knocking back those pest animals and invasive weeds in the surrounding areas, and planting out over 2000 trees since our last AGM. Jo, our very dedicated Animal Pest Control Co-ordinator, has ensured our trapping programme has run smoothly on the rest of the traplines from Okura to Stillwater. Her report follows.
Predator Control Report: Jo Crawford
Current Active Lines: 11
• 1 DOC land- Okura Sandspit
• 6 Council land
• 2 and a bit on Weiti private land
• 4 lines in Okura Bush currently on hold because of the kauri dieback risk rahui
Achievements in the last year:
• Weiti: residents Danny and Barrie came on board. FoOB has aided the setup of traplines on their Western and Southern border – the Southern Ridge has replaced the Okura Bush Northern Ridgeline which had to be removed with the development. It has also been extended west toward Okura Bush West boundary. Covers a good ¾ of the North Boundary.
• Karepiro Forest: Karepiro Forest Boundary Line – has replaced Northern Walkway Line, being moved mostly off track to the cover the full boundary. Karepiro Forest Line – An additional line has gone in for full forest grid cover.
• Creek West: Has slowly been getting extended north as the weeders/contractors cut through the wildling pine and gorse.
• Karepiro Beach: Line was extended to have first line of attack at boundary with Weiti Haypaddock. western creek and cliff at east end of Okura Bush Reserve. This means beach traps are 2nd defence line if any predators get through the first. We have also added 2 possum traps in the past month which has already caught 3 possums.
Total Additional traps placed out:
• 5 DOC250s went out (Creek West, Weiti Southern Ridge, Karepiro Beach, Karepiro Forest and Stillwater Cheniers) to catch the larger mustelids – a flow over from this has been to catch some very large hedgehogs.
• 144 KaMates
• 42 possum traps
• 13 DOC200s
Total new traps in use since last AGM = 204.
Lines currently under development:
• Continuing with Creek West Extension north as the wilding pines and weeds get cleared.
• Stillwater Hill/Chenier extension
• Continue extended Weiti South Ridge to join to the Okura Bush West boundary (i.e Creek East)
Projects This Coming Year:
Update the Drive Line. Okura Esplanade Reserve (new). Haigh Access Road/Southern Esplanade (new)
Trapping Volunteer Mahi Hours last 12 months:
480 hours + 488 hours (Weiti Team who do a daily run) aka 968 hours total
Predator Pest Catch Tally 30 Jul 20 to 31 July 21:
133 Ship Rats
12 Norway Rats
48 Hedgehogs (over half our all time total)
407 Possums 3
All time CatchIT total (from 13 Jan 2014):
2144 Ship Rats
54 Norway Rats
NB: (under representation as Stillwater etc only on CatchIT database in last 3 years).
Wildlands monitoring on Council reserves
Dacre & Cheniers:
Spring 2018: TTs 15% rats, 5% mice, rest clear. Wax Tags (20) – 60% possums, 5% rats, 35% clear
Spring 2019: Possums 5%, rats 35%, mice 45%
Autumn 2019: TTs 10% possums, rats 15%, mice 35%, rest clear. Wax tags not done
Autumn 2020 not done
Autumn 2021: TT 20% possums, 25% rats, 25% mice, 35% clear. 20 Wax Tags – 70% clear
Spring 2018: TTs 40% mice, 60% clear. 10 wax tags. 30% possums, 70% clear
Spring 2019: 0% possums 32% rats, 32% mice
Autumn 2019: TTs 10% rats, 20% mice, rest clear. Wax tags not done
Autumn 2020: 10% possums, 30% rats, 30% mice
Autumn 2021: TT 30% possums, 10% rats, rest (60%) clear. 9 Wax tags 90% clear (poss/rats 10%).
As you can tell, Jo and the trapping team have been very busy and thank you to you all. Jo has put in many hours co-ordinating our trapping programme, all voluntarily. It is our wish to engage her in a permanent part-time position in future and we have submitted funding applications for this purpose.
As well as the trapping work that Jo oversees, each of Okura and Stillwater villages has a residential rat control programme where residents are supported in pest control in each respective village. Lynne Beneka has run the Okura village initiative for a number of years now, and has provided the following report.
Okura Village Pest Control Update
from Lynne Beneka, Okura Village Rat Trap Co-ordinator
With more families coming and going in Okura over the last year, we are steady with about 70 properties with traps. There are only 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.
One new trapper who had building happening on properties each side of his, caught 20 rats with one snappy trap in one day! He just kept reloading. This was probably due to the rat nests being disturbed by the building!
The Trap line along the waterline on the Deborah Reserve has continued to be checked weekly by 5 rostered volunteers. There are a lot more traps being triggered – not sure if this is due to vermin or if the bait just crumbles and sets them off. All catches are available on CatchIT.
I have put in the figures for the last 2 years for comparison – there seems to be a little surge in the mice population!
Backyard Catches: July 2020 – June 2021
Rats – 55
Mice – 45
Possums – 13
Hedgehogs – 5
Stoats – 2
Backyard Catches: July 2019 – June 2020
Rats – 61
Mice – 37
Possums – 12
Hedgehogs – 5
Weasels – 1
Many thanks go to Lynne for the support she has given so loyally to her rat-trapping community.
Stillwater residents trapping programme
A small team of keen trappers oversee the residential programme at Stillwater, including Irene Sanders, Aileen Lusty, Linda Coster and John Marais. About 30 rat traps have been given out to properties in the Stillwater Village. They have started a trapping line for possums and mustelids in the village, complementing the Okura Walkway traps. Our thanks go to that team and the Stillwater residents.
Richard Webster of Remnant Restoration and Geoff Reid have continued with providing awesome support in our work of helping us to control invasive, noxious plants. Richard’s expertise has enabled us to have detailed 5 year plans for the Okura Walkway and Okura Esplanade and Deborah Reserves and he is always there to advise and physically assist us particularly at special times such as dealing with very specialised weeding, or assisting with our planting day. Geoff is available more on the day to day basis.
We have now completed the first stage of our weed control and planting on the Okura Walkway, and hope to be granted funding to allow us to embark on Stage 2 covering the next 5 years. We are currently working on the Year 2 plan for the Okura Esplanade and Deborah Reserves. We have been so pleased to engage Tiago Mahalingam as a part-time fieldworker. He is in the latter stages of completing his master’s degree in native orchids and we hope to be able to engage him more fully once this is completed. This is funding dependant and we have submitted funding applications for such. Other really good fieldworkers such as Christian Waddingham and Tidhg Connelly have worked for us in a temporary way, but more secure work calls them away. However we were pleased to recently have Charlie Thomson join the team.
We have had several weeding days throughout the year, at Okura and Stillwater. These are good educational opportunities, at times working alongside Richard Webster. Thank you to John Marais for organising the Stillwater weeding group, and Geoff and Tiago for other weeding days at Okura, and for all those who have given their time in getting out there tackling those invasive weeds. A special, thank you, to Tony Cunningham, our specialist Moth Plant buster who is somewhat fanatical about getting rid of this very invasive plant.
Weed management team report
Our fieldworkers report that over the year they have completed full initial control of vines, creepers, Chinese privet, tree privet, moth plant, climbing asparagus , climbing dock, Japanese honeysuckle, jasmine, cathedral bells, pampas in Deborah Reserve. This reserve had been very overgrown with weeds. They will be conducting seedbank control over the next year ready for replanting in one or two years’ time.
They have continued seedbank control and planting site maintenance at Stillwater Reserve. FOOB contracted Te Ngahere to gain initial control of cotoneaster by abseiling on the Karepiro coastal cliffs
Property Pest Plans.
Funding from Council has enabled us to continue to develop Property Pest Plans for several owners of private properties in a 5 km halo of the Okura Bush. The plans identify their 10 most invasive plants and give advice on how to control them. This promotes a sense of responsibility in protecting their own land and in turn the neighbouring reserves. Our fieldworkers also provide advice to the property owner on pest animal control and provide the owner with some traps. We are pleased to have been notified of more secure funding for this programme from the Hibiscus and Bays Local Board so please get in touch with us if you think this service may be of use to you.
We were very sad to hear of the recent passing of Peter Buckley who, since the time we started, has been a great support to us. We have been very grateful to him for helping us transport our plants and our morning teas to the planting sites each year, always so willingly. Our condolences go to his family and we planted a tree at the Stillwater Hall in memoriam at our Planting Day last Sunday. Nick, the campgrounds 2 IC and Peter’s young grandson, Saxon, very eagerly stepped in to assist in his place transporting the plants to one of the cheniers in the Weiti Estuary and bringing out the morning tea. In spite of the cold rainy days we had prior to the planting day we had about 65 people, including children, turn up to where we planted out 1300 native plants/trees on the chenier and 700 behind the Stillwater Hall on land we had prepared for planting by removal of pest plants and seedbanks over the previous three to five years. Thank you to all you brave souls who turned up, including Victoria Short, Hibiscus and Bays Local Board member, and her daughter, Lana.
Bird Report for 20-21 Season from Bernard Michaux
We are so grateful to Martin Sanders who for over 30 years has made sure that the shore birds at Weiti have been afforded protection and to Bernard Michaux who so very regularly visits the areas and monitors the shore bird activity there. Bernard reports that:
Most of the wading birds abandoned Karepiro Beach as a roosting site until this autumn, when they returned. It’s suspected one factor may have been the shellfish die-off at Karepiro in 2019, which reduced the food supply in the tidal flats causing the birds to switch feeding to the Weiti estuary. Historically, birds have switched between roosting sites and this may, therefore, be part of a natural cycle.
Winter flocks of pied oystercatchers (about 300 birds) and tōrea/variable oystercatchers (up to 37 birds) are close to the long-run average. Pied Oystercatchers are starting to feed on the sodden hayfield at the back of the beach over high tide.
The summer kuaka/bar-tailed godwit flock of up to 186 birds was recorded this summer, which is up from the previous summer and again close to the long-run average. A small flock of 30 birds are overwintering this year. While small numbers of over-wintering godwits – usually just a handful – are expected, this is the largest number recorded since records have been kept.
Pāteke/Brown Teal bred on the Weiti lagoon and a male and two females are back again now. The presence of these threatened endemics is a credit to the pest control that’s been carried out here. It was a poor breeding season for the wading birds with a single tōrea/variable oystercatcher chick raised on the Okura chenier and a single tūturiwhatu/NZ dotterel chick on the Weiti cheniers.
Royal spoonbills have become regular winter visitors over the last few winters and are present again, as are a pair of banded dotterel on Karepiro Beach that have visited for the last three winters.
We recently reviewed our strategic direction and management plan. A group of about 20 people gathered for an initial session with Fiona McLaughlin, and from this, the committee developed a more detailed draft plan with the very able assistance of Kym Burke of CoSynergy. We invited a range of community people to a social evening at Mike and Bev Webster’s home to give feedback on the draft and we got unanimous approval. We think this document will be useful when making applications for funding. The Strategic Plan is now on the website, and we have a few copies at the back in case you are interested.
Restore Hibiscus and Bays
We continue to be closely involved with Restore Hibiscus and Bays, with both Chris and I being a member of the committee. Restore H&B was established to co-ordinate the networking of the over thirty restoration groups in the Hibiscus and Bays Local Board district, and provide oversight of what gaps there might be in achieving a Pest Free area by 2050. They have been very creative in offering support in a number of ways and establishing programmes to assist in covering these gaps in a priority way.
We have been attending regular community consultation meetings with Waka Kotahi in regards to the planned construction of Penlink. We have brought up our recommendations and concerns about the impact on sedimentation, lighting, locally sourced seeds, long-term maintenance of planting etc. We have supported Long Bay Okura Great Park Society in getting expert advice on baseline monitoring for sedimentation and changes in current flow. We are aware that the pedestrian/cycling access to Stillwater will inevitably lead to greater numbers using the Okura Walkway, so as part of mitigation or offsetting, we have proposed that Waka Kotahi assist in providing more boardwalk. Construction was to begin this year, but has now been deferred to next year.
Envirofill: Liz Singh
Liz Singh is pleased to announce that since our community pressure during 2018/2019 the Auckland Council advisory reports are showing a positive overall site compliance score. This means any resource consent approvals/changes regarding stage 3 and stage 4 (stage 3 and 4 involved expanding the area of operations by a few hectares) and of the landfill operation as a whole, are (according to Auckland Council) in full compliance with their resource consent conditions.
RMA – Liz Singh
The RMA is under review again. It has previously been criticised for being a mother ship legislation, too broad for its own good because it crossed too many public sectors and struggled to strike a balance between conservation v suburban development. However the government is attempting to rectify the overlap by instigating another overhaul of the act, by splitting the public sectors into three parallel legislations:
Natural Build Environments Act (deals with urban development and intends to combine regional and district plans into one)
Strategic Planning Act (resource planning and local government structures)
Managed Retreat and Climate Change Adaptation Act (deals with climate change response).
It is also proposed existing principles and purposes of the RMA be enhanced by the addition of Te Mana o te Taiao for protection, restoration and sustainable use of biodiversity. This is when we can make a submission to the three Bills. And we will.
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 and funding applications
We have realised this year how vulnerable we are having to rely on contestable funding. We have submitted what seems countless applications to various funding agencies, with only a modicum of success. We were quite distressed not to receive funding from Council for co-ordination and fieldworker expenses. This had previously been one of our more reliable sources of funding. We are therefore appreciative of Foundation North for helping to fill this gap.
We are also very appreciative of funding from the Hibiscus and Bays Local Board covering our Festival expenses, towards traps, and, excitedly, towards the shipping container we were able to purchase for storage or our agrichemicals, traps and other equipment. We are also grateful to Royal Wolf who gave us a very generous discount, and to Preston Graves for transporting it. We received some recycled planks of wood from the uplifting of the Browns Bay boardwalk to put around the container. We are yet to have a roof built, and a water harvesting system installed.
The Local Board has now included us in its work programme, with offering a contract for our PPP- Property Pest Plans programme. This is wonderful as it is beyond being contestable.
We were grateful for receiving $3000 from Restore’s VIP funding programme towards engaging specialist work in our weeding programme and we received $1000 from COGS towards volunteer expenses.
Long Bay Okura Great Park Society
We continue to have a close association with the Long Bay Okura Great Park Society and have supported their submissions into Council acquiring the two houses in the middle of the Heritage Protection Zone in the Regional Park with our own submissions. We were very delighted to hear just this week that Council has indeed purchased these houses. Congratulations to the Long Bay Society and the Local Board for pursuing this aspiration so dedicatedly.
We feel it has been a good year of nurturing our precious environment, a step in leaving a better legacy for the generations to come. For this to have been possible, so many thanks have to go out to all our supporters – our funders as just mentioned, to our Council contacts, particularly Sinead Brimacombe; our DOC community contact, Kate Hamilton; Richard Webster of Remnant Restoration; Frits Beneka for pamphlet design, to Benefitz for their support, to our fieldworkers, but most of all to all the volunteers who have contributed over the last year – the trappers, the weeders, the festival organisers and sponsors, and last, but not very least, to the all the committee – our dedicated secretary, Bev Short and Vanessa Lloyd who have been a loyal supporters since the beginning; Vanessa Lloyd for her years of being our treasurer even when announcing that she wished to step down a few years ago. Last but not least, we are so fortunate to have Chris Bettany as our part time co-ordinator. Thank you, Chris for lightening my load.
Without you all we wouldn’t be here.
A huge thank you to you all.
That’s the end of my report. I move that it is accepted.
Friends of Okura Bush