Radio New Zealand has informed us that the aerial mast in the park has a 140km/h threshold. Any forecasts that show wind speeds getting close to this threshold will force the full closure of the Park without a lot of warning. Updates will be posted here.
Thankfully with that calmer weather, we could complete our planned haymaking in Whitireia Park. The idea behind this was to remove some of the excess dead grass where it was possible, to further reduce the fire risk. Hay making is not usually a spectator sport but that time it drew quite crowd with kids enjoying the chance to play on the hay bales. Our farm licence holder at Battle Hill and Belmont did this work for us, taking payment in hay bales which works very well! He and Principal Ranger Wayne Boness will investigate to check how the hay baling might be extended in the future as once it’s done, the mown areas also improve public access.
Can apps drive kids into our regional parks? They sure can with Habitat the Game, which we hope will send them searching for The Black Oyster Catchers habitat in Whitireia Park and the North Island Brown Kiwi habitat in Wainuiomata Recreation Area.
Habitat the Game is an interactive mobile game that’s designed to teach 7 to 12 year-olds across the world ecologically, sustainable habits and conservation behaviour while encouraging them and their families to go outside and visit nature locations. It’s free, and available for both Apple and Android operating systems.
In the vein of the Tamagotchi play craze of the 90s, Habitat the Game encourages youngsters to undertake actions to keep an endangered animal alive. Players help their cute bear by scoring points in mini-games within the app and by completing real-life ‘missions’ at home or in their community, such as recycling, composting and turning lights off.
Extra points are earned by visiting designated locations (habitat hotspots). When the user’s mobile device is taken to a habitat location in their area the game unlocks an exclusive ‘pin’ to collect or swap with other players around the world. Players can get bonus points by answering a quiz related to the pins they unlock.
So a real benefit of the game is that it drives behaviour. Not only does it foster conservation habits at home, it gets kids out of the house and into the habitat or nature location shown on their devices’ screen.
“We’re really pleased to be involved,” says GWRC Parks Marketing and Design Team Leader Andy Nelson. “The added bonus for us is that the game will encourage people into our regional parks and generate repeat visits as they experience the beauty of the environments they offer and the wide range of things people can do in them.
”We chose The North Island Brown Kiwi because of recent events in Wainuiomata involving Kiwi and the successes the community and volunteer groups are having with establishing a viable, self-sustaining Kiwi population in the area.” The Oyster Catchers were chosen because the likelihood of sighting one at Whitireia Park is reasonably high. Apart from that they are both really cool endangered birds that kids will adore and continue to care for.
The game was brought to New Zealand through an agreement between the Department of Conservation and Elevator Entertainment, and it’s being trialled in the Wellington region, where there are currently 13 Habitat location pins. DOC is hosting five pins, GWRC, Wellington City Council and Zealandia two pins, with, Pukaha and the Zoo providing one pin each. There is interest from Te Papa, Hutt City Council, Upper Hutt City Council. DOC has committed to adding a 6th pin in celebration of Conservation Week. As at August 2014 there were 150 pins to collect, spread across 14 countries around the world.
For more information on the game, go to www.habitatthegame.com or download it from Google Play or the App Store and get out there looking for pins.
Whitireia Park includes some areas with high biodiversity values and these are managed under GWRC’s Key Native Ecosystem programme. This programme recognises the significance of a range of different sites around the region and aims to protect and restore them as functioning ecosystems and important remnants of our natural heritage. A Key Native Ecosystem plan sets out the management activities that will be carried out to address threats to the biodiversity values at a site. It states specific goals to maintain and improve a site’s ecological condition where possible.
The Key Native Ecosystem site at Whitireia Park is called Whitireia Coast and includes the western cliffs and coastal platform, the eastern and southern coastal escarpments, the dune lands, wetlands and estuary, the forest remnant, and Te Onepoto Stream riparian strip. The rarity and threatened nature of the many ecosystem types present are what make this site so special. With ecological weeds, pest animals and the adverse effects of human activities posing a significant and ongoing threat to the area, GWRC and its management partners are undertaking a long-term commitment to ensure that the Key Native Ecosystem site’s values are protected and restored.
The Key Native Ecosystem plan for Whitireia Coast is now available on our website. You can download it here. You can read more here to find out about the Key Native Ecosystem programme. Other biodiversity management activities happening in the Wellington region are described here.
Little Blue Penguins may soon begin breeding in Whitireia Park thanks to the ace carpentry skills of Aotea College students that have created safe havens for the world’s smallest penguin. Which may mean that in the future we’ll see more of them splashing around in the harbour – the penguins, that is!
Wellington Regional Council biodiversity adviser Janey Hilford says the Whiteria Park Restoration Group, with Wellington Regional Council support, has been working with the community for a decade to restore the park's native flora and fauna.
It’s a two-pronged approach. Part of the group's plan is to create safe nesting areas for the little blue penguins, and “the carpentry group of students from Aotea College has been improving the potential nesting habitat by building nesting boxes, while a dedicated bunch of locals has been trapping stoats that can kill penguins and eat their eggs and chicks.”
The boxes were placed in the scrub behind the beach, where the penguins are likely to nest. They provide them with shelter and open at the bottom to allow the penguins to burrow into the ground.
Janey says “the penguins are sometimes seen in the water around Porirua Harbour and Whitireia Park, which are right on the edge of the city and important areas for native biodiversity. They come ashore to breed, where they have no trouble finding the nesting boxes. It’s not clear how they find them, but our experience from a similar approach on the south Wellington coast shows they don’t have any trouble doing so."