Monday 27 June, 2022
The Waingake Waterworks (QEII) Bush is one of Tairawhiti’s best-kept secrets. This amazingly diverse 1100ha lowland podocarp forest has been protected by a QEII covenant since the late 1980s. It is home to several rare and threatened species including long-tailed bats, North Island rifleman, NZ falcon, Hebe Tairāwhiti, and two species of mistletoe (Peraxilla tetrapetala and Tupeia antarctica). Thanks to a partnership with mana whenua Maraetaha Incorporation and ongoing investment from Council and DOC’s Jobs for Nature funding, these taonga species are about to benefit from a massive increase in protection through sustained pest control.
Because the Waterworks Bush is one of Council’s controlled catchment areas, access is restricted to ensure a high-quality water supply. Not many people have had the chance to experience this special place firsthand. Unfortunately, the many pest animals which call New Zealand home don’t observe the same boundaries as us and have been quite content to take up residence within the bush. Camera trapping and wax tag monitoring in recent years has demonstrated that mammalian pest densities are high at Waingake. Immediate and sustained pest control was required to allow the forest ecosystem and biodiversity to recover from decades of browsing and predation, and contribute to the ongoing quality of our drinking water supply.
With a perimeter trapline already in place targeting possums, mustelids and rats, Council and Maraetaha Incorporation were successful in gaining funding through the DOC Jobs for Nature programme for weed and pest animal control for the next three years. This funding has enabled Council to employ a team of ten full-time kaimahi – the Waingake Ngahere Ora team - to focus on establishing sustained pest control throughout the Waterworks Bush.
Over the past few months, the Waingake Ngahere Ora team have been flat out clearing and marking internal traplines, and installing a network of DOC 200 traps (targeting stoats, weasels and rats) and Trapinator possum traps. This spring, the team will add another 60 traps to target feral cats. These traplines provide the foundation for intensive control across 1100 hectares of existing indigenous forest. This network will gradually be expanded to take in the surrounding areas of clearfell pine at Waingake which is being transitioned back to native forest.
Alongside this mahi, there has been a strong focus on goat control in both the Waterworks Bush and surrounding clearfell and pine forests on Council lands at Waingake. Goats were present in such high numbers prior to 2020 that the forest understory was heavily degraded and there was concern that new native plantings would be browsed before they had a chance to establish. Over the past two years, professional goat control contractors have reduced the goat population by over 2600 goats, with numbers now very low throughout the Waterworks Bush and surrounding areas. Council contractors are now working closely with the iwi hunting roopu around control of deer and pigs too.
Through their work, Council contractors and the Waingake Ngahere Ora team are helping to improve habitat quality and reduce pressure on our native species from competition, browsing and predation. Removing pest species is not only going to ensure our taonga species can flourish, it is helping to restore mauri and provide green infrastructure for a resilient high-quality water supply.