DOC track upgrades in Auckland to prevent kauri dieback spread

Source: Department of Conservation

Introduction

DOC is upgrading four Auckland tracks to prevent the spread of kauri dieback.

Date:  26 March 2019

This is part of DOC’s Kauri Dieback Recreation Project to prevent the spread of kauri dieback on public conservation land. Since 2014, DOC has upgraded 64 tracks and permanently closed 34 to protect kauri from this deadly disease.

“Our work to prevent kauri dieback spreading in Auckland is closely aligned with Auckland Council’s programme in the region to stop the spread of a disease that kills kauri of all ages,” says DOC Tāmaki Makaurau Mainland Operations Manager Kirsty Prior.

These tracks are being upgraded: 

  • Omaha Cove Walk
  • Beverly Price Loop Track
  • Okura Walkway – Haigh Rd to Dacre Cottage
  • Waihunga – Moir Hill track

Omaha Cove Walkway, Beverly Price Loop Track and Waihunga Moir Hill Track will be closed during the upgrade to keep the public, contractors and kauri safe.

The southern section of the Okura Walkway – from Haigh Road to Dacre Cottage – has been closed since May last year, to prevent the spread of kauri dieback. It will remain closed until the upgrade is completed. The northern section – from Stillwater to Dacre Cottage – will remain open.

“This upgrade work is welcomed by the tens of thousands of people who walk these tracks,” says Kirsty Prior. “The upgrades are the safest option for kauri and enable visitors to continue enjoying these special places.”    

“Unfortunately, trespassers have frequently entered the closed section of the Okura Walkway and barriers to keep people off the closed track have been regularly vandalised. This track is very popular and we’re investing in an upgrade so people can continue to enjoy this walk.”

“To keep kauri safe from kauri dieback everyone entering and leaving a track must use the cleaning stations to clean their footwear and stay on the track,” says Kirsty Prior.

The exact closure and opening dates for each track will be posted on the DOC website as each track is upgraded. Dates are dependent on supply of materials, weather and other factors.

“We’re expecting the Omaha Cove Track and Waihunga – Moir Hill Track to be closed for relatively short periods, of up to a week. The Beverly Price Loop Track and the Okura Bush Walkway will be closed for longer periods as they have long sections requiring an upgrade. We aim to welcome visitors back onto these tracks by summer 2020.”

Contractors employed by DOC commenced work on Monday 25 March. The work includes installing bark aggregate mix, gravelling, fencing, boardwalks and stairways.  All contractors must adhere to strict biosecurity protocols.

About kauri dieback

Kauri dieback can kill kauri of all ages. It’s a disease caused by a microscopic fungus-like organism, called phytophthora agathidicida (PA). It lives in the soil and infects kauri roots, damaging the tissues that carry nutrients and water within the tree, effectively starving it to death.

There is no cure for kauri dieback, and the disease kills most if not all the kauri it infects. It can be spread by just a pinhead of soil.

About the kauri dieback recreation project

In 2014, the Government provided DOC with funding to manage the human spread of kauri dieback on public conservation land. The Kauri Dieback Recreation Project was established. 

Currently there’s no proven cure or treatment for kauri dieback. So, we can only save kauri by stopping the disease from spreading. To achieve this, the recreation projection has taken the following approach:

  • Upgrading tracks to protect kauri roots and eliminate wet and muddy sections
  • Developing and installing footwear cleaning stations
  • Introducing initiatives to change people’s behaviour, as the evidence shows that people are the main vector for the disease
  • Permanently closing tracks.

The project surveyed the entire 735 km network of DOC managed tracks in kauri forests   and identified 186 tracks for possible upgrade or closure.

So far, 64 tracks have been upgraded and 34 tracks have been permanently closed.

Contact

MIL OSI

Abel Tasman islands restored to being predator free

Source: Department of Conservation

Introduction

Three Abel Tasman National Park islands are now predator free again after a 2017 operation successfully eradicated mice on the islands, says DOC.

Date:  26 March 2019

Monitoring since the DOC operation has confirmed there are now no longer mice on Adele/Motuareronui, Fisherman/Motuareroiti and Tonga islands which are used as predator-free sanctuaries for native species.

DOC is reminding island visitors their help is crucial to keeping mice, rats and other pests off the islands, so they remain safe for native species living there.

DOC Operations Manager Chris Golding says there a risk of mice and rats re-invading the islands through hitching a ride on visiting vessels.  

“People planning to go to the islands should check before going out on the water that boats, kayaks, all bags, containers, food and gear are clear of mice, rats, ants, spiders or other animals. All clothing, footwear and gear should be free of soil and plant material, including seeds and foliage.

“We want people to enjoy the nature experience on the two islands that can be visited, Adele and Fisherman, but we need all visitors to make sure they don’t have stowaway pests onboard that could escape onto the islands.”

Rats are a threat to South Island robins/toutouwai and saddlebacks/tīeke that have been returned to Adele Island and to robins that have spread to Fisherman Island. Rats and mice threaten insects and lizards and they eat seeds, suppressing re-vegetation. Mice can even eat small birds’ eggs and nestlings.

DOC first carried out an operation to eradicate mice from the islands in 2007. Mice were found back on the islands in 2015 when mice numbers were high in the park due to heavy beech seed fall that provided more food and fuelled their breeding. The 2017 operation was carried out to restore the islands to being predator free.

Rats and stoats can swim the around 800 metres distance from the park mainland to the islands. Mice are not thought to be able to swim more than 500 metres but it’s possible they may have swum from the Abel Tasman mainland to the islands. 

The Abel Tasman islands have biosecurity measures in place to help protect them from invading predators, including traps to catch them and tracking tunnels that record footprints to detect them. DOC staff have reviewed and strengthened these measures to detect predators earlier so they can be quickly eradicated before their numbers build.

DOC, Project Janszoon and the Abel Tasman Birdsong Trust work in partnership to try to keep the islands free of predators and to restore the islands’ ecology.

Public access is not allowed except by permit on Tonga Island to protect the island’s New Zealand fur seal breeding colony from disturbance. The seals can be viewed from vessels on the sea.

Background information

DOC works in partnership with iwi, Project Janszoon and the Abel Tasman Birdsong Trust to restore the ecology of the Abel Tasman National Park, including its islands.

Project Janszoon is a privately funded trust named after Dutch explorer Abel “Janszoon” Tasman. It’s working with DOC, the Abel Tasman Birdsong Trust, the community and iwi, to reduce predator numbers and weeds, restore eco-systems and re-introduce native birds, animals and plants in the Abel Tasman.

The Abel Tasman Birdsong Trust is a partnership between Abel Tasman tourism operators, the community and DOC. It was set up in 2007 with the aim of preserving and enhancing the natural environment in and around Abel Tasman National Park. It raises funds for and undertakes pest control and other conservation programmes.

Contact

MIL OSI

New conservation training opportunity coming to Rotorua

Source: Department of Conservation

Introduction

Conservationists, environmentalists and people wanting to up skill in predator control are being invited to join a 2 day workshop being held in Rotorua, focused on predator trapping methods.

Date:  25 March 2019

The Introduction to Predator Trapping Methods short course is being held in Rotorua on May 21 and 22 and is aimed at anyone setting up new predator control programmes or wishing to review their current programme.

The course is facilitated by Beth Endres who manages conservation programmes delivered in partnership by the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology and DOC.

DOC Supervisor Caraline Abbott says DOC provides a number of free online courses to develop field skills on the DOC website “…but to have a workshop on trapping methods being delivered locally is a great opportunity to gain some practical skills to support ecology.”

At the end of the course participants should be able to use a range of technological systems and techniques to support conservation and contribute to sustainable stewardship of the environment.

“Trapping is an important part of conservation and in the right conditions traps are a great tool in the pest control toolbox.” Abbott says.

The workshop is being held at Hell’s Gate, Tikitere and costs $154.

Registration and further information on the Introduction to Predator Trapping Methods workshop is via the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology website.

Questions about the workshop can be directed to beth.endres@nmit.ac.nz.

Contact

MIL OSI

DOC concerned by evidence of illegal fires near Grassy Flat Hut

Source: Department of Conservation

Introduction

DOC is concerned by evidence of illegal fires near Grassy Flat Hut on the Styx River and thanks members of the public for raising the alarm.

Date:  20 March 2019

The fire was spotted from the ridge tops surrounding the hut by a member of the public who noticed smoke. They rang emergency services, which then alerted DOC.

Immediate discussions established that there were no obvious smoke columns visible in the greater valley and therefore no major wild fire threat to the area.

DOC investigations have subsequently found several areas of burnt tussock on Grassy Flat.

Nicole Kunzmann, Operations Manager Hokitika, says: “Luckily, the tussock that was lit did not provide enough fuel for the fires to spread, otherwise there could have been serious consequences for other trampers, species in the area including the endangered whio/blue duck, the hut and the landscape.

“Thanks to responsible members of the public, DOC was quickly alerted and able to monitor the situation.”

The risk of wildfire in the backcountry at this time of year is high. DOC takes these risks very seriously and will prosecute if sufficient evidence can be obtained.

It is an offence under the Fire and Emergency New Zealand Act 2017 to knowingly or recklessly light a fire in open air without a fire permit, if a restricted or prohibited season has been declared or if a prohibition on the lighting of fires in open air is in place in an area. 

“Often people who light fires deliberately, aren’t thinking about the consequences,” says Fire and Emergency NZ Manager Fire Investigation and Arson Reduction Peter Wilding. “If convicted of an offence, an individual could face up to two years in prison, or a fine not exceeding $300,000, or both.

“We’d like to also remind people that these fires are not victimless. These actions have a huge detrimental effect on people, animals, and the landscape,” says Mr Wilding.

“Beyond the potential damage to backcountry infrastructure such as huts, there’s also a huge impact on the terrain, plants and wildlife. Farming stock can be at risk, depending on the location, and fires in the backcountry will almost certainly destroy the local habitat of wildlife – many of which are endangered, such as whio.”

Please contact your local DOC office if you see any suspicious activity occurring in the backcountry and the Hokitika DOC office if you have any further information on the Grassy Flat fires.

Contact

MIL OSI

Have your say – West Coast Te Tai o Poutini Conservation Management Strategy amendment

Source: Department of Conservation

Introduction

DOC is seeking the views of the public on draft amendments to the West Coast Te Tai o Poutini Conservation Management Strategy (CMS) 2010.

Date:  20 March 2019

DOC is amending the CMS to ensure consistency with the new Paparoa National Park Management Plan 2017 and management of activities on the new Paparoa Great Walk, which is due to open to the public later this year.

The Director Operations for the Western South Island region, Mark Davies says, “The new Great Walk is an exciting and highly anticipated addition to the West Coast region. When it opens, we want to ensure people can make full use of it.”

The need to amend the CMS was signalled during the review of the Paparoa National Park Management Plan. The plan reflects the desire of the families of the 29 men who died in the Pike River Mine disaster to create the Great Walk as a memorial and to provide economic benefit to the West Coast community.

The plan was developed in partnership with Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Waewae, and the West Coast Tai Poutini Conservation Board with input from the community.

The draft CMS amendments will be open for public submissions until 4pm Monday 20 May 2019.

After submissions close, public hearings will be held where people can speak to their submissions. The submissions will then be analysed, which may result in changes to the draft amendments.

The revised draft amendments will then be considered by the West Coast Tai Poutini Conservation Board before going to the New Zealand Conservation Authority for their consideration and approval.

The draft CMS amendments and information about making a submission can be viewed at www.doc.govt.nz/west-coast-cms-amendments.

Copies of the amendments can also be viewed at the DOC offices in Hokitika, Greymouth, Westport and Wellington, and the DOC Punakaiki Visitor Centre.

Submitters can choose to speak in support of their submission at public hearings later this year.

More information

The CMS amendments:

  • allow mountain biking on the Great Walk
  • allow for aircraft landings on the Great Walk to support walkers and mountain bikers
  • allow for sporting and other competitive events on the Great Walk and in other areas of the park
  • prevent e-bikes being used on the Great Walk
  • ensure these activities and camping, are managed consistently on the Great Walk outside the park.

In addition, the:

  • Heaphy Track and Old Ghost Road have been added to Table 5: Roads and tracks available for non-powered vehicle use (page 138 of the CMS), to acknowledge existing mountain bike use on these tracks
  • section of the Croesus Track from Barrytown to the Paparoa Track has been added to Table 5. This will enable DOC to better manage mountain biking across the Moonlight Track, Paparoa Track and Croesus Track.

Contact

MIL OSI

Little penguin loses eye in dog attack

Source: Department of Conservation

Introduction

A little penguin (kororā) attacked by a dog at Himatangi Beach recently will never be able to return to the sea. The penguin, which is now recuperating at Palmerston North’s Central Energy Trust Wildbase Recovery Centre, has permanently lost sight in one eye.

Date:  13 March 2019

During the attack, this adult kororā sustained life-threatening injuries. She was found in a very poor state, with several puncture wounds to the back of her neck and damage to her eyes.

She was taken to Massey University’s Wildbase Hospital, to undergo surgical treatment.

Massey’s wildlife technician Pauline Nijman said that, under anaesthetic, the kororā had feathers removed to provide a clear surgical area, and the wounds debrided and stitched. “Medications, including topical eye ointment, were used to help make her comfortable while these injuries healed.  The permanent damage to the left eye only became apparent after the trauma had subsided.”

Loss of vision means an inability to catch live food, usually resulting in euthanasia.

Thankfully for this little survivor, a captive home has been found for her. Once she is well enough, the kororā will be transferred to the National Aquarium in Napier.

Pauline hopes the traumatic story of this kororā will serve as a lesson of the human impact on our wildlife. 

“She still has a way to go. With the back of her neck now bare of feathers, she is no longer waterproof. She needs time to regain these feathers and recover from surgery,” said Pauline.

“In the past, this would’ve taken place at Wildbase Hospital but now we have been able to transfer the patient to Central Energy Trust Wildbase Recovery Centre – built for just this type of situation. This new centre allows us to still keep an eye on her and free up space for other surgical patients at the hospital.”

While at the centre, the kororā has access to her own pool to build strength and movement.  She is thriving on her diet of anchovies and mineral supplements, and has gained over 5% of her body weight during her rehab. 

Kelly Hancock, Community Ranger at the Department of Conservation’s Manawatu office, said the story serves as another reminder that people need to keep their dogs on a leash or under close control at all times.

“It is heartening to see a positive outcome for this little penguin thanks to the Wildbase team, but sad incidents like this are completely avoidable.

People don’t like to think that their dog would attack wildlife but it is natural behaviour for dogs.”

Little penguins – named because they are the world’s smallest penguin species – are only about 25cm tall and weigh just 1kg. They cannot defend themselves from attack.

“We can all help to take care of our special native species.  Our choices can have a big impact on wildlife,” said Kelly.

“We are really lucky we have so many beautiful natural places to explore. But we share these places with our taonga species; it’s their home and they need space to rest and nest.”

Members of the public are urged to contact the Department of Conservation via the DOC emergency hotline number 0800 DOCHOT (0800 36 24 68) to report injured native wildlife or instances of animal attack.

Video clip of penguin swimming in her recovery pool

Contact

MIL OSI

Bumper hihi breeding season on pest-free Tiritiri Matangi

Source: Department of Conservation

Introduction

A record number of hihi or stitchbird have fledged on pest-free Tiritiri Matangi Island in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park during the latest breeding season.

Date:  11 March 2019 Source:  Hihi Conservation Charitable Trust and DOC

Five 21 day old hihi chicks fledged on pest-free Tiritiri Matangi in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park
Image: Leani Oosthuize

Hihi breeding on Tiritiri Matangi starts in late September and runs until February.

This breeding season 252 new birds were added to the hihi population on Tiritiri Matangi.

That beats the previous record of 241 hihi fledged on the island during the 2010 / 2011 breeding season.

“Conditions have been ideal for hihi on Tiritiri Matangi this summer and breeding pairs on the island have produced a record number of new birds,” says Hihi Conservation Charitable Trust (HCCT) Conservation Officer Mhairi McCready.

“Around 150 fledgling hihi are produced in an average breeding season on Tiritiri Matangi so this is a fantastic result for this nationally vulnerable native bird.”

“It’s also a reward for the volunteers, research students and others involved in supporting the hihi during the breeding season,” says Mhairi McCready.

Hihi were once found throughout the North Island and on a number of islands, but had disappeared from mainland North Island by the mid-1880s due to introduced predators such as rats and cats, diseases spread by introduced birds and habitat loss.

In the 1890s, the last surviving hihi were found on only one island, Te Hauturu ō Toi / Little Barrier Island, in the Hauraki Gulf.

Efforts to bring hihi back from the brink of extinction began in the 1980s. Hihi from Te Hauturu ō Toi / Little Barrier Island were released on other islands, including Tiritiri Matangi in 1995. This translocation was a great success and hihi have thrived on Tiritiri Matangi.

“The success of the hihi breeding programme on Tiritiri Matangi is due to a lot of hard work by DOC, Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi, the HCCT and research institutions,” says HCCT Trustee Dr John Ewen, who is a Senior Research Fellow at the Zoological Society of London.

“We use the best science-based methods and work together to drive recovery of this little known taonga species,” says Dr Ewen.

The hihi population on Tiritiri Matangi is very important to the national recovery programme for the species. Most of the new populations of hihi, established at other pest-free sites, began with translocations of birds from Tiritiri Matangi.

There are now hihi populations at seven pest-free sites: Zealandia sanctuary in Wellington, Kapiti Island Nature Reserve, Bushy Park Sanctuary north of Whanganui, Rotokare Scenic Reserve in Taranaki, Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari in Waikato, Tiritiri Matangi Scientific Island Reserve and Te Hauturu ō Toi /Little Barrier Island Nature Reserve.

“Going from one hihi population to seven proves that with dedicated effort we can recover native species from the brink of extinction,” says HCCT Trustee and DOC Technical Advisor Lynn Adams.  

“Hihi are still a threatened species. We continue to support existing populations and are looking to establish new populations at pest-free sites where hihi are safe to breed.”

“A core value of our recovery efforts is to reconnect New Zealanders with this charismatic and colourful native bird. Having more hihi flying around in more places will help re-establish this ‘ray of sunshine’ as a bird every New Zealander knows,” says Lynn Adams.

More about Hihi Conservation Charitable Trust

HCCT was founded in 2018 with the charitable purpose of:

  • To carry out and support conservation, research and education projects relating to hihi in New Zealand
  • To promote the conservation of hihi across New Zealand
  • To raise public awareness and appreciation of hihi in New Zealand

Contact

MIL OSI

Kaimanawa wild horses available for rehoming

Source: Department of Conservation

Introduction

A minimum of 70 Kaimanawa wild horses need to be removed from the Waiouru Military Training Area, Central North Island in the next couple of months and rehoming groups are now keen to hear from prospective owners.

Date:  08 March 2019

The number of horses to be removed was confirmed last week after DOC undertook its annual aerial survey.

Kaimanawa Heritage Horses (KHH) chairperson Kimber Brown and Kaimanawa Wild Horse Preservation Society (KWHPS) chairperson Sharyn Boness are urging people who are interested in taking a horse or horses from the muster, as well as those interested in sponsoring the placement and upkeep of a wild horse, to get in touch now.

Currently only 13 applications for horses have been received between both groups. With only four weeks left until applications close on 1 April there is not a lot of time left for interested parties to apply. That leaves a lot of horses still in need of caring homes with suitably experienced new owners.

According to KHH Welfare Officer Michele Haultain, the Kaimanawas coming out of the muster are true wild horses which have never been in contact with humans.

“In time they will do anything their owners ask of them, but in the early days they need sympathetic handling to ensure they make a successful transition to domestic life.

“Kaimanawas have an X-Factor; their senses are acute, and they have proven to be very trainable,” she said.

Given the right environment they are very curious, honest and friendly and are suitable for a variety of equine disciplines. Both rehoming groups are more than happy to offer prospective new owners support and advice.

Following last year’s twin musters, a decision was made to hold annual musters which allows DOC to manage the herd at the level recommended by the Kaimanawa Wild Horse Advisory Group (KWHAG). This allows for the horses in the herd to maintain best condition and also protects the fragile ecosystems, unique to the Moawhango Ecological Zone.

The unique tussock grassland where the horses roam contains threatened plants, including at least 16 species in the New Zealand Threat Classification System, some of which are found nowhere else in the world. Many of these plants occur in habitats that can withstand very little disturbance.

Kaimanawa horses are gaining favour among the equestrian community as highly competitive sport horses. Since numbers were reduced to 300 individuals in the wild herd, the condition of the horses and their final mature height, has improved immeasurably. As a result, they are more suited to a wider variety of riders.

“The rehoming of as many horses mustered is an important part of a successful muster” says DOC Operations Manager Dave Lumley.

“Ideally all suitable horses will be rehomed, as was the case for the horses mustered in 2016 and 2018. However, we know it’s a real challenge for the rehoming groups to find so many suitable homes.”

As many horses as possible will be rehomed, but any horses deemed medically unfit by a vet, will be euthanised under vet supervision.

2018 was the biggest muster since 1997 with 299 horses successfully rehomed. Although Kaimanawa Heritage Horses Welfare Society and Kaimanawa Wild Horse Preservation Society are trying desperately to rehome as many as possible, the uptake so far is minimal.

Information and applications on rehoming a Kaimanawa wild horse can be found at:

Kaimanawa Heritage Horses 

Kimber Brown
Phone: +64 27 450 9047
Email: kimber@kaimanawaheritagehorses.org

Michele Haultain
Phone: +64 27 431 8082
Email: michele.haultain@kaimanawaheritagehorses.org

Kaimanawa Wild Horse Preservation Society

Sharyn Boness
Phone: +64 27 457 2040
Email: kaimanawawhps@gmail.com

Katherine Meredith
Phone: +64  27 258 8492
Email: kaimanawawhps@gmail.com

Background Information

The Kaimanawa Horse Management Plan has three core objectives:

  • to ensure the welfare of the horses is dealt with appropriately
  • to promote the sustainability of the natural features and ecosystems of the Moawhango Ecological District, with respect to Kaimanawa wild horse impacts
  • to manage the Kaimanawa wild horse herd at a sustainable level.

The Kaimanawa Wild Horse Advisory Group provides advice to DOC on implementing the management plan.

It consists of representatives from New Zealand Defence Force, DOC, Kaimanawa Heritage Horses, Kaimanawa Wild Horse Preservation Society, NgatiRangi, RNZSPCA, Forest & Bird, NZ Veterinary Association and adjoining landowners.

Kaimanawa Heritage Horses (KHH)

KHH is a charitable society run by a volunteer group of passionate horse people; dedicated to the care and welfare of Kaimanawa horses both domestically and in the wild. KHH are advocates for the horses and work closely with DOC and other interested groups on the welfare and future of the Kaimanawa horses in the wild. 

Prior to each muster the group search for suitable homes and complete home-checks to place as many horses as possible. KHH actively support our members and their domestic Kaimanawa horses through our Welfare team, Area Reps, magazine, education and training, Annual Shows and Ribbon Days. Member generosity through membership and donations, is the group’s primary funding source.

Kaimanawa Wild Horse Preservation Society (KWHPS)

KWHPS was formed in April 1994 to promote the preservation and protection of the Kaimanawa Wild Horses both in the wild and domesticity.  

Our vision is to create public awareness to the plight of the Wild Kaimanawa Horse Herd and to promote the versatility of the horses being brought into captivity. KWHPS actively support all members, Kaimanawa owners and prospective owners through our dedicated committee. 

KWHPS currently sponsor Kaimanawa rings at two National Breed shows, ring sponsorship at six other National A&P shows and Rider sponsorship. KHWPS primary funding source is through membership and donations.

Contact

MIL OSI

Online training programme launched to help public identify myrtle rust

Source: Department of Conservation

Introduction

Biosecurity New Zealand (part of the Ministry for Primary Industries) and DOC have launched an online training programme to help New Zealanders identify suspected myrtle rust infections in their backyards.

Date:  07 March 2019

The plant fungus can be hard to identify without training and can look different during seasonal changes. The new online training modules provide resources to better understand the fungus and its symptoms.

“The courses are available to everyone and cover how it spreads, what to do if you find it and climatic factors that influence myrtle rust,” says Biosecurity New Zealand’s Manager for Recovery and Pest Management, John Sanson.

The courses can be found on the myrtle rust website, a site developed by Biosecurity New Zealand and DOC that provides guidance for people that are interested in learning more about myrtle rust in New Zealand.

“We are trying to understand the spread of the disease so are asking staff and the public to keep an eye out for myrtle rust over the autumn months,” Mr Sanson says.

Ramarama with bright yellow powdery eruptions on the underside.
Image: MPI

New Zealand’s precious native myrtle plants including pōhutukawa, rātā, mānuka, kānuka and ramarama are vulnerable to the disease. The fungus, which is mainly spread by wind, generally infects shoots, buds, and young leaves of myrtle plants. Infected plants show typical symptoms including bright yellow powdery spots on the underside of leaves but can also show other symptoms such as grey powdery spots during the cooler months.

DOC’s Project Manager for Myrtle Rust, Fiona Thomson, says the website is an excellent tool for the public to learn what myrtle plants look like, how to spot myrtle rust and what to do when you find infected plants.

“The more eyes looking out for myrtle rust, the better we can monitor this disease and protect our precious myrtles”, says Dr Thomson.

If you think you see symptoms of myrtle rust, especially in areas where it has not yet been found, remember to not touch the plant or collect samples, but take pictures and report it to Biosecurity New Zealand’s Exotic Pest and Disease Hotline on: 0800 80 99 66 or visit the myrtle rust website for more information.

Background inforamtion

About myrtle rust

The fungal plant disease myrtle rust (Austropuccinia psidii) was discovered on Raoul Island in the Kermadec group of islands in April 2017. It was later confirmed on mainland New Zealand – at a Kerikeri plant nursery on 3 May and at Waitara, Taranaki, on 17 May 2017.

Myrtle rust threatens the Myrtaceae plant family, including some of our most iconic indigenous plants – pōhutukawa, rātā, mānuka, kānuka, and ramarama, as well as exotic myrtles like guava and eucalypts.

A map of areas where myrtle rust has been found in New Zealand and resources on what to look for, what to do if you find myrtle rust and how to manage it are available on the offical myrtle rust website.

Current situation in New Zealand

As at 4 March 2019, myrtle rust has been confirmed on 937 properties across most of the North Island and upper areas of the South Island.

Taranaki, Auckland and Bay of Plenty are the most seriously affected areas. Moderate levels of infection are recorded in Northland, Waikato, Manawatu-Whanganui, and Wellington. Lower levels of infection have been confirmed in Tasman, Nelson, Marlborough and Gisborne.

Most infections so far have been found on garden cultivars of our native ramarama (from the genus Lophomyrtus). Ramarama is often planted in domestic gardens as a hedge.

Photo diagnosis of myrtle rust finds notified through Biosecurity New Zealand’s biosecurity hotline continue to take place so we can continue to monitor spread and impacts across New Zealand and identify new hosts.

Contact

MIL OSI

Action on Himalayan tahr vital to conservation

Source: Department of Conservation

Introduction

DOC’s Himalayan tahr control work, vital to protecting the unique alpine landscapes of the South Island, resumes this week.

Date:  05 March 2019

DOC’s Director Community Engagement, Dr Ben Reddiex, says DOC will continue working with the hunting community to reduce tahr on conservation land.

“There are reports of numerous tahr herds foraging through tall tussock and other native alpine plants.

“Latest population estimates put the tahr population, across approximately 1.7 million ha of land, at nearly 35,000 animals, well above the limit of 10,000 tahr set out in control plans years ago.

“Urgent action is needed. It is important we stop the population migrating further than the current feral range.

“DOC’s Tahr Control Operational Plan sets to remove 10,000 tahr by the end of August 2019 and we are committed to working with the recreational and commercial hunting sector to achieve this.

“Initial control efforts will focus on tahr exclusion zones and in associated buffer areas.”

Opportunities for the hunting community include:

  • DOC will leave bulls in the seven Tahr Management Units for recreational and commercial hunters to hunt
  • organised recreational hunting groups, Wild Animal Recovery Operations (WARO) and Aerially Assisted Trophy Hunting off-sets will be counted
  • information on the location of any bulls will be provided to the hunting sector.

Approximately $1 million has been allocated for Himalyan tahr control and further research into tahr abundance and its impacts on the environment until August this year.

“There is no plan to eradicate tahr however we need to ensure that New Zealand alpine ecosystems are protected from the growing tahr population,” says Dr Reddiex.

Additional information

The Tahr Control Operational Plan identifies locations where DOC and the hunting sector should focus on controlling tahr.

DOC’s control work will initially prioritise the northern and southern ‘exclusion zones’ and adjacent feeder valleys.

DOC will pause its aerial control operations in the seven management units between May to June 2019 and resume control work until 31 August 2019. This allows for the tahr rut season and the fact that aerial tahr control is more efficient during winter.

DOC will target female and juvenile tahr and it is expected the hunting sector will increase its efforts to target all tahr.

Aerially Assisted Trophy Hunting offsets (where commercial trophy hunting businesses shoot an additional number of female and juvenile tahr based on how many male tahr their clients remove) will contribute to the count for control purposes.

Wild Animal Recovery Operation concession holders may also contribute to tahr control by removing tahr.

The Tahr Liaison Group includes representatives from Te Runanga o Ngāi Tahu; and the following stakeholders:

  • Canterbury Aoraki Conservation Board – on behalf of the Canterbury, West Coast and Otago Conservation Boards
  • New Zealand Deerstalkers’ Association
  • Safari Club International (New Zealand chapter)
  • New Zealand Professional Hunting Guides’ Association
  • Wild Animal Recovery Operators
  • Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society
  • Federated Mountain Clubs
  • Federated Farmers – High Country Committee
  • Aerial Assisted Trophy Hunters
  • Tahr farmers
  • Game Animal Council
  • New Zealand Tahr Foundation
  • New Zealand Game Estates

Contact

MIL OSI