A plan to stamp out stoats from D'Urville Island was signed during the Covid-19 lockdown. Photo: Rod Morris/www.rodmorris.co.nz

Sayonara stoats: D’Urville’s $3.1m plan signed

History has been made during lockdown as a multi-million-dollar deal is signed to stamp out stoats.

There was little fanfare to mark the milestone occasion as the culmination of 16 years work was signed in just a few seconds.

A six-year funding commitment will see a combination of old-school techniques and technology help wipe-out stoats from New Zealand’s fifth largest island.

The 16,782-hectare D’Urville Island, in the Marlborough Sounds, is free of ship rats, Norway rats, possums and weasels.

Now, $3.1 million has been committed to stamping out stoats on the island.

D’Urville Island Stoat Eradication Charitable Trust (DISECT), Predator Free 2050 Limited, Rātā Foundation, Marlborough District Council, the NZ Lotteries Grant Board and landowners have all pledged their support.

Oliver Southerland and Angela Fitchett signing the Marlborough District Council agreement at a carefully prepared COVID-19 signing station. Photo: Supplied.

DISECT co-chair Oliver Sutherland says the moments mark the start of an opportunity to “reverse the history of wildlife loss.”

The project will use a variety of traps and lures, including automated luring with an egg mayo mix, as well as smart detection techniques such as cameras and DNA analysis.

Stoats have caused the local extinction of little spotted kiwi, yellow-crowned kākāriki and South Island kākā and threaten an important population of South Island long-tailed bats/ pekapeka.

Predator Free 2050 Limited chief executive Ed Chignell says the project will provide an important boost to the national Predator Free 2050 effort.

“This is a challenging and ambitious project with a lot at stake for wildlife and important opportunities for innovation and learning,” he says.

The government-owned funder is providing $975,000 and facilitating expertise from other projects around the country.

Marlborough District Council Mayor John Leggett says the restoration of wildlife could open new nature-based jobs and opportunities for the island.

D’Urville Island is New Zealand’s fifth largest island. Photo: Tamzin Henderson/ Driftwood Ecotours.

The council is providing $500,000 of support through its biosecurity programme.

Department of Conservation Sounds operations manager Dave Hayes says DOC has been providing technical advice to the project.

“We are pleased to support this community led initiative and will be continuing to provide expert advice and input throughout its duration of the project.”

Special attention will be given to trapping on the mainland within five kilometres of D’Urville and establishing a surveillance network to quickly detect any incursions across the narrow channel from French Pass.

Field work is expected to start towards the end of this year.

Marlborough Tramping Club will be heading to Cape Campbell in the new year. Photo: Matt Brown.

Summer explorers wanted

Department of conservation staff are looking for local explorers with a sense of adventure.

The annual summer explorer programme kicks off early next year and staff hope Marlborough residents will take up the challenge and join in.

Ranger Wendy Sullivan says it gives people the chance to uncover parts of the region they may not know.

“The Summer Explorer Programme is a great way to visit areas you haven’t been and take time to appreciate all that nature offers,” she says.

From an open day on Maud Island, and a boat trip to Pelorus Sound to a free nature treasure hunt at a range of walks, there will be plenty for people of all ages to see and do.

Staff will be on hand to help guide people through some of the best attractions on offer throughout the summer months.

Wendy says the fun starts with four open day on Te Pakeka/Maud Island, as well as a boat trip around Pelorus Sound.

“It’s renowned for its endangered insects and reptiles as well as home to the endangered Maud Island frog, so if you wanted a wildlife experience with a difference, it is well worth booking in,” she says.

Trips will be held on 5, 12, 25 and 26 January, and the boat trip is $135 adults/$65 children

A free nature treasure hunt at Momorangi campground will be held on Thursday 9 January. Rangers will help participants identify their finds with ID apps and books. Suitable for all ages.

Conservation Kids, Kids Conservation Club and East Coast Protection Group are combining forces to offer a three-part holiday series investigating through fun activities the wildlife of Marlborough’s east coast.

A huge range of other activities on offer at Envirohub Marlborough in Picton and Marlborough Tramping Camp will hold two walks, one to the Emerald Pools along the Pelorus River on Wednesday 12 January and Marfells Beach to Cape Campbell lighthouse on Sunday 22 January.

“Heading out with the tramping club on an organised walk is a great way to try out tramping or visit new places in a supportive group, Wendy says.

A full programme and all event details can be found at www.facebook.com/marlboroughconservationevents/events/.

Increased access to some east coast beaches is threatening the burgeon recovery of the quake damaged landscape. Photo: Matt Brown.

Council controversy over plan to ban drivers from beaches

A controversial bylaw which may ban drivers from beaches along a 45-kilometre stretch of coastline has been given the go ahead by council.

Marlborough District Council staff agreed earlier this week to draw up a bylaw banning drivers from the Awatere River mouth to the Ure River mouth.

The move comes after concerned residents implored council to take action to protect threatened indigenous species.

A bylaw restricting access to a 45-kilometre stretch of coastline has been given the go ahead by council. Photo: Matt Brown.
A bylaw restricting access to a 45-kilometre stretch of coastline has been given the go ahead by council. Photo: Matt Brown.

But the plan has “staggered” some of those who routinely use some of the access roads and beaches.

Council strategic planner Sarah Edmonds says increased access was hampering the recovery of the environment.

“There will be long-term damage if vehicle access continues.

In a report presented to council’s planning, finance and communities committee on Thursday, Sarah says the council has a “duty” to control vehicle access.

The report proposed cutting off beach access to vehicles, from Redwood Pass to Ward, and introducing a speed limit at Marfells Beach and Ward Beach, where boats could still be launched.

The bylaw would also restrict vehicles on unformed roads.

Marlborough Angling and Surfcasting Club president David Miller says he was “staggered” the bylaw was approved.

“I can’t believe it. They can’t close beaches off like that.”

David, who fished along the stretch at least 10 times a year, was also part of a group that cycled the coastline.

“Recently we cycled to the lighthouse and had a picnic. We were on the sand, so we were no damage to the environment.”

He had previously attended a meeting in Ward where members had discussed their concerns about quad bikes running over dotterel birds and their nests, before suggesting a vehicle ban.

“I said all beaches are legally public roads and that the council didn’t have the authority to restrict access to a beach like that.”

He would encourage the club’s 70 members to object during the bylaw’s consultation period, which had not yet been given a set date, he says.

A fisherman, who did not want to be named, said someone would end up “drowning or getting hurt” trying to access areas on their boat close to reefs, which were previously accessible on a quad.

“The new bylaw means you can only launch small boats from, say, Marfells Beach, but it’s rough there at the best of times.”

Forest and Bird top of the south regional manager Debs Martin said the news was received with excitment, but resignation.

“We know we’ll have another summer of damage along the shore in the interim, while the bylaw is being drafted.”

Councillor Cynthia Brooks says it was a “significant day” for the council.

“There’s a lot of history around vehicle use on the coastline, but it’s not the coastline it was three years ago, and it’s under threat.

“It’s one of the few wildernesses left in this country.”

LDR - Local Democracy Reporting

EcoWorld technician Margret Hall checking out the family of Little Blue Penguins before release. Photo: Supplied

Rescued penguin family go wild

A family of penguins are safely back in the wild after being released by rescuers.

The trio of Little Blue Penguins are finding their feet at Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary near Picton.

Nicknamed, Harry, Meghan and Archie by staff at EcoWorld Aquarium & Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre staff, the family were found trapped in a drain in September.

But after a month of rehabilitation, the two adult penguins and their baby, have been given the all clear and freed on Thursday.

“It’s a real feel good story with a fantastic result,” says EcoWorld’s director John Reuhman.

“The Little Blues, affectionately named Harry, Meghan and Archie by one of our royalist visitors from the UK, have responded really well to our care.

“It’s been a privilege to watch them regain their health, especially mum and dad feeding their baby regurgitating up the King Salmon rehab. formula we fed them.

“The team has cared for them really well.  Now back in tip top condition and getting feistier every day we decided it was out the door and back into the wild for the trio.”

Volunteers spent four hours picking 6kgs of gorse flowers. Photo: Supplied.

Gin fuels record gorse harvest

A key ingredient in a Marlborough-made gin is helping keep a notorious weed at bay.

Record hauls of gorse flower have been gathered at a community harvest event.

Six kilogrammes of the yellow flower were handpicked over four hours.

Twice a year, the team behind Marlborough’s new Elemental Distillery organise a local foraging event.

In a bid to entice people to pick the problem plant, which causes misery to hay fever sufferers every spring, Elemental Distillers co-owner Ben Leggett puts on a free BBQ.

But Ben himself is a big fan of the plant.

“I simply love it. Not only is it both aromatic, herbaceous and fruity but it’s somewhat of an anti-establishment botanical in a market already full of rogue exotic species.

“The only issue remaining is how to harvest it in peak flowering and in volumes enough to last until the following season,” he says.

The answer came in the form of eight off-road vehicles, one gourmet barbeque put on by Francis Nolan from Boom Chef, a large pine plantation, local volunteers and some very thick gloves.

Introduced around the early 19th century as a hedgerow for livestock by European settlers, gorse flourished in New Zealand’s temperate climate flowering twice a year compared to just once in the Northern Hemisphere.

Gorse also generates exploding seed pods which can travel over 6 metres from the parent plant and can lay dormant in soil for up to 50 years before sprouting.

Ben says thanks to a collaboration with Marlborough 4WD Club, 15 local volunteers headed up into Marlborough’s Kaituna Hills last month aiming for a 300-meter-high plateau located in Stoney Creek forestry.

“Without the support by Marlborough locals, we would never have been able to deliver a fresh botanical gin like that of Roots,” Ben says.

Project coordinator Alec McNeil is overseeing a nationwide initiative which could see people paid to recycle. Photo: Matt Brown.

Cash for trash

Marlborough could help lead the way in a national bid to help boost recycling levels.

The council’s solid waste manager Alec McNeil will oversee a pioneering project which could see people paid to drop off empty drink containers.

And he believes Marlburians will be quick to take up the initiative.

“Marlborough is used to source separation of recycling so the possibility of a future Container Recycle Scheme (CRS) should complement and add to our existing approach,” he says.

Council's solid waste manager Alec McNeil believes Marlburians will be quick to take up the initiative. Photo: Matt Brown.
Council’s solid waste manager Alec McNeil believes Marlburians will be quick to take up the initiative. Photo: Matt Brown.

Under the scheme, which was unveiled last week, plastic, glass and aluminium drink containers will carry a refundable deposit, potentially between 5-20 cents each.

Helping people cash in on their empties could be key to boosting recycling levels.

Alec says he believes any initiative would rely on being readily available.

“A key focus of the design will be ensuring equity of service provision across NZ that affords all communities the opportunity to engage with the system,” he says.

“At a more strategic level a CRS changes the way we think about containers by reintroducing a value back into the material”.

Marlborough and Auckland councils will carry out the project design together following a government funding boost of almost $1 million.

Alec, who is project coordinator and deputy spokesman is a trustee on the Agrecovery Foundation Trust Board.

He says the scheme will help keeps useful resources out of landfills and has the potential to create new jobs.

The two councils will work with the Ministry for the Environment and others including the beverage, packaging and recycling industries, councils, retailers, charitable organisations, Māori and consumer representatives.

The application was initiated from involvement with the National Resource Recovery Group (NRR).

The NRR was convened by the Ministry for the Environment to consider a response to the recycling challenges facing NZ.

“In lieu of the contraction of markets particularly post the ‘National Sword’ policy implemented by China,” Alec says.

China has introduced strict rules around importing solid wastes as raw materials. The policy bans various plastic, paper and solid waste.

Alec says a CRS scheme would impact on material flow.

“Auckland and Marlborough councils offered to submit an application to the waste minimisation fund to facilitate a working group that would design a CRS for NZ.“

A final design is due to be presented to the Government by August 2020 and rolled out in 2022.

ZIP’s Al Bramley and principal engineer John Wilks installing a prototype automated detection device for rats. Photo: Rory Harnden/Ink Digital.

Experts to help train trappers

Reinforcements have been called in to help slash Marlborough’s pest population.

Department of Conservation (DOC) staff have organised experts to hold a Top of the South trapping workshop.

The workshop, held in Picton on 22 September, will highlight a range of topics from new techniques to pest behaviour.

There will also be a chance for people to get some hands-on experience.

DOC ranger Wendy Sullivan says the workshops are geared towards all levels of trappers.

“Whether you are part of a community group, run your own trapline or have a trap in your garden, you will go away with a better understanding of pest behaviour, best practice trapping techniques and monitoring success,” she says.

Alongside Picton Dawn Chorus and Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary, DOC have arranged for special speakers.

Zero Invasion Predators (ZIP) operations director Duncan Kay is involved with research and development into trapping tools and techniques.

“Their approach to research and predator control is challenging our current mindset and helping grow our predator control ‘toolbox’ unlike we have seen before,” says Wendy.

Participants then have the choice of attending one of two sessions.

The back to basics session will cover how to trap to successfully.

This will be followed by a hands-on round-robin session on rat/mustelid identification, calibration and maintenance of traps, and an in-depth look at using ‘DOC series’ and ‘Good Nature’ traps.

The second session is geared towards community groups and larger trapping programmes.

DOC expert Phil Clerke will join Wildlife Management International Ltd’s Nikki McArthur to share tips on how to set up an effective monitoring regime.

“There will be an optional afternoon field trip to Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary for workshop participants.

With over 70 volunteers and 250 members, Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary is a great example of seeing community conservation in action,” Wendy says.

Boat transport is subsidised at $10 per person. Bookings for both the workshop and optional field trip are essential.

Please RSVP to Wendy at [email protected] by 18 September.

Marlborough Mayor John Leggett opened the Seddon water treatment plant in March. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Tap water woes over

After decades of boiling water households in Seddon have been given the go ahead to drink straight from the tap.

Residents have been given the all clear to stop boiling their drinking water, unless they’re making a cuppa.

The milestone move comes after the opening of a multi-million-dollar water treatment plant in April.

Marlborough District Council bosses yesterday revealed they had finally been given the all-clear from the Ministry of Health.

Council Chief Executive Mark Wheeler said this was a monumental milestone.

“Being able to turn on the tap and fill up a glass of water that’s safe to drink is something this community has been waiting a very long time for.

“Today, that day has finally come,” he says.

“I’d like to thank all of those involved in the treatment plant project over the years, particularly the Awatere Seddon Water Group, who worked tirelessly to bring it to fruition.

“Council’s water engineering team – Stephen Rooney, Stuart Donaldson, Mark Power, Erica Hobbs, and Robin Millard, Nelson Marlborough District Health Board staff, along with many others who put in the hard yards to deliver a world-class, modern water treatment facility.

“It’s great to see the community of Seddon benefitting as a result of everyone working together in a spirit of cooperation.”

Efforts to provide safe drinking water from the tap in Seddon have been underway since at least 1975.

From the outset, council and residents had to wrestle with the cost of modern water treatment for a small community.

Awatere Seddon Water Group secretary Liz Cleaver says the move is one more step on the road to recovery for the township.

“… our wee town is well on the way to recovery after the destructive earthquakes of recent years.”

Drinking Water Assessor for Nelson Marlborough Health David Speedy, acknowledged the huge effort put in by water treatment staff and technical advisors to collect and present the compliance information.

“The Council and community can be justifiably proud that this plant is working as designed and meets the Drinking Water Standards for New Zealand,” he says.

More than 7000 trees have been planted in six years as a result of the reserves initiative. Photo: Supplied.

Call for help to boost reserves

Restoring a scenic reserve will pay off for future generations of endangered bats.

Endangered long tail bats are set for a helping hand as conservation teams join forces to bring Ronga Reserve in Pelorus back to its best.

And an appeal has gone out for members of the public to help plant saplings that bats will one day roost in.

Forest & Bird, Nelson Tasman Weedbusters and the Department of Conservation (DOC) hope people will pledge to assist as they get ready to plant rimu, totara and matai.

DOC ranger Wendy Sullivan say they hope the day will make a big difference.

“The 17ha Ronga Scenic Reserve is an important habitat for the endangered long tailed bats.

“The tiny rimu, totara and matai planted by volunteers will eventually become the giant trees required for bats to roost in.

Ronga Scenic Reserve, along with its more famous neighbour the Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve, are not only home to long-tailed bats, but are also ‘acutely threatened’ forests.,” she says.

The annual planting days have been organised by Forest & Bird and DOC for six years.

More than 7000 trees have been planted and, despite flooding and ongoing weed issues, has been lauded as a success.

It’s heartening to see the seedlings start to appear above the rank grass,” Wendy says.

Less than 1 per cent of this type of forest remains in the Pelorus District.

Wendy says the ancient podocarps are crucial to the survival of long-tailed bats.

“They need old hollow trees to roost and breed in.,” she says.

A community planting day will be held on Saturday 31 August.

Meet outside the Brick Oven in Rai Valley by 9:45 am. DOC will be providing a wild meat BBQ for a late lunch but feel free to bring a salad to share.

Bring solid shoes, warm clothes and a well-labelled spade. If the weather is bad, check out facebook/ronga reserve restoration for updates – postponement dates are 1 or 14 September.

Marlborough mayor John Leggett is please Government is taking a closer look at water quality. Photo: Matt Brown.

Water watchdog plan welcomed

Plans for a national water watchdog have been welcomed by the mayor – but with a warning.

Marlborough Mayor John Leggett has embraced government plans to approve a dedicated watchdog and new water regulations.

But he cautioned costs could be an issue for council trying to reach “new benchmarks”.

“The devil could be in the detail … “There is still a long way to go on this issue.

“Council will need to ensure the standards and timeframes are set appropriately so that Marlborough can afford the investment required to meet the new benchmarks,” he says.

Around 34,000 people across the country become ill from their drinking water every year.

Many thousands must boil their water to drink it safely, including Seddon where a boil water notice is still in place.

Marlborough District Council staff are working with officials from the Ministry of Health to ensure water from the new multi-million-dollar water treatment plant meets stringent safety requirements.

Mayor Leggett says the council supports a move from central government to “strengthen its leadership role.”

“It’s great to see that this step change, initially at the regulatory end, is finally occurring,” he says.

Minister of Health David Clark says public safety is a non-negotiable priority.

“Access to safe, clean drinking water is a birth-right for New Zealanders and a key concern for communities up and down the country. Wherever they live, consumers and communities expect to be able to turn on the tap and drink the water without fear of getting ill.”