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Park News

Updated 30 July 2015 9:53am

Wainuiomata School kids explore 

Wainuiomata Primary School visited Wainuiomata Recreation Area recently to learn more about the treasures in their own back yard.

The joint initiative with Zealandia and the Department of Conservation, teachs youngsters how to preserve the local treasures they have and how they can improve them. GWRC Park Ranger Dion Ngatoro thought it would be great to get local children interested in the amazing bush vitality on their doorstep and invited the Wainuiomata Primary School to the park to introduce and inspire them to get involved with conservation. Over 150 students spent a full day in the park learning about water quality, birds and plants, monitoring pest animals and learning how all of these interact. Most importantly they learned how they can help generate positive outcomes for a better future.

They took home valuable skills they can use in their own back yards such as trapping and monitoring pests. This first-hand knowledge of the significance of removing pests and the effects on nature helped get the students inspired about conservation.

The Wainuiomata Catchment Area is home to a mainland island that local conservation group MIRO work hard on maintaining. It’s great to see the next generation being involved in projects in the same park and finding out ways that they can help protect and conserve in the future. Darren Van Hoof from Zealandia is the project champion and is working with Dept of Conservation to help bring this message to as many young people as possible.

 

Robins in the hood

The recent successful transfer of North Island robins from Kapiti Island to Wainuiomata Mainland Island suggests that predator control in mainland sites can lead to nesting success results as effective as those seen on predator- free offshore islands. That is, as long as the new chicks don’t follow their urge to fly away from their parents.

The founder population of North Island robins was translocated from Kapiti Island to Wainuiomata Mainland Island in two phases during 20132/20143 with the help of tangata whenua and a large number of volunteers.

Kaumatua from Ngati Toa and Te Atiawa ki Whakarongotai gifted the birds to Taranaki Whanui, and Ngati Toa rangatira were among the over 50 volunteers involved in capturing and caring for the birds on Kapiti Island and releasing them into their new home in Wainuiomata.

The robins had an extremely successful breeding  season during the 2014 summer, with 67% of nests (or 8 of 12 nests monitored) successfully fledging one or more chicks and each breeding pair raising on average 1.5 chicks.  These results compare with those seen on predator-free offshore islands or mainland islands, suggesting that predator control in the Wainuiomata Mainland Island has greatly reduced the impact of rats and other predators on nesting native birds.

Intensive monitoring of the released birds was undertaken to assess their breeding success. Most of the nests studied were within easy reach of the ground, enabling a fieldworker to band all but one before they’d left the nest, and track the fate of almost every individual egg. Once robin chicks fledge from the nest they spend another four weeks being fed by their parents before becoming “independent” and leaving their birth territory.

The challenge ahead for this small population is whether many of the new generation of robins will settle in the mainland island and recruit back into the local population. Unfortunately, this is at risk because juveniles have an irresistible urge to get away from their parents.    

North Island robins were once widespread in the forested areas of the Wellington region, but by the 1890s they had become rare or extinct throughout the Rimutaka and Orongorongo ranges due to the combined effects of habitat loss and predation by mammals such as rats, mustelids, possums and cats.  They were last seen in the upper Wainuiomata Catchment, now part of the Wainuiomata Mainland Island.

This catchment is part of one of the largest and least modified tracts of mixed podocarp-broadleaf forest remaining in the lower North Island. Never logged, it includes significant stands of old growth rimu, matai and kahikatea trees, an intact forest habitat with abundant supplies of invertebrates, ideal for North Island robins.

The re-introduction is part of a project by Greater Wellington Regional Council to maintain and restore the Wainuiomata Mainland Island ecosystem by intensively controlling pest animal and plant species.  Since 2005, an intensive rat control operation in the Wainuiomata Mainland Island has consistently managed to reduce rat numbers to very low levels.  Mustelids (stoats, ferrets and weasels), possums and cats are also being controlled through a network of traps.

Volunteers play an important role in pest control, and we thank them for their efforts. Members of two Hutt valley tramping clubs help to set traps and fill bait stations every two months and monitor pest numbers four times a year.

Given predators are controlled to very low levels within the mainland island we are confident that we have significantly reduced the potential risk predators would pose to a re-introduced robin population.

 

Wainuiomata Mainland Island bird protection 2014 factsheet