Fallen falcons spark changes to park’s power poles

  • Published Date 23 Nov 2021
  • Author Emma Harrison

A pair of native kārearea (New Zealand falcons) found dead in Whitireia Park have evoked a significant infrastructure adjustment to the park’s power poles.

One of the coordinators of the Whitireia Park Restoration Group (WPRG) and former Greater Wellington biodiversity advisor Robyn Smith, recounted the events that led to this change, “Wendy Barry, a member of our group, discovered the kārearea under a pole on the hill in the park. An email to Radio New Zealand voicing my concerns made its way to the lines company, Wellington Electricity (WE), who were very concerned to hear that the kārearea had been electrocuted”.

Kārearea electrocution is a common problem throughout Aotearoa as they like to perch on high vantage points to find their prey and defend their territory. The power pole in question is the highest one in the park.

Conducted by Nick Fox and Colin Wynn, a 5-year radio tracking study of kārearea on the Wairau Plain, Marlborough identified the cause of death in 21 birds, with 47% dying by electrocution.

“It may be a common problem but it is avoidable. “We were devastated by these deaths and prevention would allow these beautiful birds and any young falcon, looking for their own territory, to live and breed safely in Whitireia” added Smith.

In the New Year, alongside regular maintenance to the park’s poles, an innovative solution devised by WE will be installed across the park’s poles. When completed, the risk for these precious birds will be greatly reduced allowing them to breed and thrive in the park once again.

“It goes to show the strength in community voice, backed by the ongoing support of Greater Wellington’s biodiversity and parks team. The support they’ve shown our group, it’s as if I never left!” remarked Smith.

Gratitude for the upcoming work by WE was echoed by Kim Broad, Greater Wellington’s Biodiversity Advisor “We are extremely thankful for the action taken by both groups. It’s comforting to know there will soon be mitigations in place”.

WPRG’s work in Whitireia Park predates even any Greater Wellington involvement, with pest control and revegetation starting back in 2006. As Kārearea nest on the ground, the group’s efforts are critical to maintaining the birds’ safety in the park.  

A herculean effort we’re incredibly grateful for acknowledged Broad, “With the group managing pest control and community planting projects, we can put more resource in to large scale weed control in the park. It’s about working together but to each of our strengths.

Kārearea numbers in the park are being further supported with members of WPRG planting tōtara for future roosting places.

Updated November 23, 2021 at 5:54 PM

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