Windy Hill Rosalie Bay Sanctuary

The Windy Hill Rosalie Bay Catchment Trust actively promotes biodiversity, conservation, the conservation experience, conservation based employment, conservation partnerships, and quality conservation management.

 

Key Facts about the Windy Hill Rosalie Bay Catchment Trust

Who are we?

The Windy Hill Rosalie Bay Catchment Trust was formed in 2001 and is a registered Charitable Trust. The Trustees are : Judy Gilbert, Founder, Voluntary Trust Manager, landowner Little Windy Hill;  Rose Harland, landowner Rosalie Bay; John Ogden, Professor of Ecology, landowner Awana. The Trust was created to formalise the management of ecological restoration and to expand existing pest management projects initiated in 1999 by south-eastern Great Barrier Island landowners.

 

What is the objective?

The Trust’s overall objective is to sustain and enhance the biodiversity of the area by removing invasive plants and animals creating a Sanctuary within which  native species can flourish, threatened species can be protected, and species  that have been lost to the Island reintroduced.  The Trust engages the community in the benefits of conservation and is committed to assisting the fragile economy of the Island by creating conservation based employment.

 

What's been happening?

For the past 13 years the Trust has been raising funds and employing field workers to systematically remove invasive plants and animals. The area currently under intensive management for rats, mice, pigs, rabbits, and feral cats totals 620 hectares. The Trust currently has three full and three part time field workers and a part time contractor all of whom were previously un-employed.   The first translocation of North Island Robins - a regionally extinct species - was carried out in 2004 with a booster translocation of 25 robins in March 2009 and another in 2012.  Over 110 young have fledged since 2004.  Two rare chevron skinks were released at Windy Hill by DoC in 2004 and three pateke released in 2011. In January 2011 a Duvaucels skink was trapped – the second only sighting in 40 years.

 

Why are we controlling pests?

This area of the Island has long been considered ecologically significant. It is remote, has very little development, and has large areas of undisturbed coastal-broadleaf- podocarp mature forest. The sanctuary is home to brown teal duck, black petrels, Duvaucels gecko, chevron and stripes skinks, kaka, and kereru. The Category C rare plant pimelea tomentosa is found on the coast. The area is recognised under Category 4 of the National Priorities for Biodiversity on Private land. Two areas totalling 130 hectares are covenanted with QE11 National Trust. The landowners have responded to the call for all NZrs to halt the waning of the country’s biodiversity.

 

How if it happening?

Eighty km of tracks with 5000 bait stations and 70 cat traps have been established in 4 pest project areas to remove rats, mice, and feral cats. From 1999 trapping was the sole method used to reduce pest densities, however, monitoring indicated this was not sufficient and a twice yearly pulse of toxin was introduced from August 2005. Since 2004 40,000 rats, 260 cats, 300 goats, and 51 pigs have been removed. From 2008 toxins were introduced to the management regime and currently the programme uses low potency bait backed up with traps. Research into the best way of maintaining rats at low densities using socially acceptable practices while being cost effective continues. Field workers keep a detailed record of all catches and bait take.

 

Who pays?

The private landowners involved make an annual donation to the project costs and the Trust Manager is voluntary – a minimum of 20 hours per week. Since 2000 funds have been raised from the Auckland Regional Council Environmental Initiatives Fund, World Wild Life Habitat Protection Fund, Pacific Conservation and Development Fund, QEII National Trust, Auckland City Heritage Fund, Scottwood Group, Lotteries Environment, Transpower Landcare, and the Biodiversity Condition Fund.

 

How do we know we are achieving our objectives?

A monitoring programme has been in operation since 2000. Bird Monitoring is undertaken twice yearly and supervised by ecologist John Ogden. Monitoring is undertaken for weta, lizards, and seedlings every six months.  Freshwater stream monitoring was introduced in 2004. Monitoring tunnels are set for rats five times a year. Rat tracking tunnels  generally average 8 -10%. Comparatively, a Control project established on an unmanaged site in 2006 has an average of 85%.  Regular reports are published of monitoring results which show clear conservation gains in species presence and abundance.

 

How do we involve our community?

Open Days on the project sites were held in 2000, 2001, 2003 and three ‘Rat Attack’ community workshops held in 2007 and 2008. Articles about our activities are published in the GBI Trust Enviro News which goes to 1200 residents and ratepayers. A twice yearly newsletter is sent to around 150 organisations and individuals. A telephone survey was conducted in 2002 to gauge the community’s response to the idea of a feral cat and rat eradication for the entire Island. 85% of respondents acknowledged there would be benefits. The Trust has two field volunteers and provides for Community Service to be carried out in the field. The Trustees and Field Workers are a resource for information and equipment on request. The local school visits twice a year and other visitors on request. The local Youth group is also involved when large deployment of equipment is needed.

The GBI Trust State of the Environment Report published in 2010 contained photographs and data taken from the project.

 

What are the benefits?

The benefits to the biodiversity of the area are apparent. Birds numbers per hectare have doubled, lizard sightings are now common, and weta are abundant. The sanctuary area is used to rehabilitate captured native species and for research, the results of which are of international significance.  The community benefits economically and socially through the provision of employment opportunities—nineteen to date. These jobs assist with reducing the number of unemployed on Island and up-skill workers to become conservation professionals. The project is a working role model of ecological restoration for DoC, other private landowners and organisations. The Trust is a member of the Sanctuaries of NZ group and shares widely the knowledge gained here.

 

What are our achievements?

In 2003 the Trust received a Ministry for the Environment Green Ribbon Award for Caring for Biodiversity, and an Auckland Regional Council E-Award for Caring for Land and Biodiversity. The E-Award judges comments summed up… “This project impresses through its professionalism and comprehensiveness. It not only benefits the local environment on Great Barrier but provides an  excellent example for the rest of the country as to what can be achieved by committed and cooperative individuals in the field of conservation. The scientific rigour and strategic planning employed throughout this project are exemplary and innovative initiatives such as a community survey contribute greatly to its overall success. This project carries out tasks of complexity and comprehensiveness that many institutions would envy. One of its most impressive features, however, is the vision behind the project, and the enthusiasm with which the vision is communicated and put into practice. This is truly an inspirational project that deserves to be recognised and publicised throughout NZ”.

In 2004 the Department of Conservation awarded the Trust the Stella Francis Award for Conservation Excellence.

 

What is next?

Planning is underway for a kakariki breed and release programme with the goal of returning these birds to the southern end of the island and to boost the tiny population left in the north of the Island.

A permit application for a relocation of Hochstetters frog and Towns skink into the Sanctuary area from northern Great Barrier is underway. Lotteries funding for the planning and translocation has been approved.

Surveys for seabirds will continue with the addition of a number of acoustic listening devices that have been funded from the Auckland Council EIF.

We are committed to sustaining employment for people who have previously been unemployed for long periods of time. The development of self-esteem and work ethic is highly rewarding.

The number of landowners working cooperatively together continues to grow as does the sanctuary area being created.

We will continue to advocate for the conservation of Great Barrier and promote the vision of a pest free Great Barrier Island.