A partnership for nature announced this week provides welcome news … and enormous challenges. A diverse coalition of funders is contributing $2m to rescue 14 critically endangered patches of native bush across Hawke’s Bay.  

There’s much to like in this initiative. Half the funding comes from the Department of Conservation, reflecting the Government’s commitment to securing important ecological sites, as well as supporting regional employment. Another $600k from the Regional Council acknowledges the Council’s growing environmental responsibilities.  

The QEII National Trust is contributing $225k. The 14 sites are among their 4700+ lands covenanted to protect habitat, home for indigenous species and ecological communities. Landowners, who are providing a further $120k, often receive only modest financial support for the long-term maintenance of these sites which have been removed from production. Both QEII and landowners will welcome the tangible recognition of their efforts to conserve our natural heritage – taonga for the nation.  

Downsides? I consulted retired Patoka farmer and farm forester Mike Halliday, who first described the funding as “an awesome and timely boost” for private conservation efforts. He added that the deer fencing to be provided at each site “should [also] keep pigs and goats at bay”.  

Mike identified two significant problems: rabbits and ongoing maintenance. Rabbits are the bane of revegetation, killing seedlings and preventing regrowth. In Mike’s view, “It is well past time that central and regional governments recognise that rabbits can no longer be seen as a ‘landowner’ problem!”  

Farming and conservation communities agree. Often, 50% or more of new plantings are taken by rabbits alone, with further damage by deer, goats, and other introduced mammals.

I worry about ongoing maintenance of all conservation sites as much as Mike does. Ecological communities can recover surprisingly quickly, but until new growth is well established and protected from threats such as deer, these sites are fragile.  

As Government attention predictably moves on to the next urgent need, year after year, ongoing maintenance will fall to landowners. Their ability to sustain maintenance depends on the vagaries of agricultural markets supporting the viability of farms, as well as inevitable new challenges – diseases, insects, weeds, natural disasters – floods, for example. Who pays for repairs on damaged fences or removal of deer, pigs and goats that breach damaged fences? Or when the climate changes?

For context: HBRC have prioritised for protection more than 700 high biodiversity value sites. These likely represent only about 30% of remaining high value sites in the region. Each is a fragment of far larger ecological communities that once covered our region. The 14 sites to benefit from the present initiative encompass 423 hectares, a bare 0.03% of the total area of Hawke’s Bay.  

So, much work remains. Restoration of hundreds of these sites is critical to recovering healthy environments that benefit us all.  

As we celebrate this significant commitment to ecological restoration, let’s remember this $2m is just the beginning of a generational project. The very best news may be the partnership that’s come together.  Restoring nature to good health will take the efforts of all of us – governments at all levels, businesses, landowners, all New Zealanders.  


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  1. Totally agree with Mike Halliday, fencing, rabbit, hare, goat, pig and deer control an absolute priority, without it almost a waste of time.
    30yrs ago Boundary Stream was a waste land the complete understory ravaged by the above.
    A keen young team of DOC staff lived up there in poor conditions and gradually got on top of the problem.
    Today walking their tracks through the lush undergrowth is a credit to those young people.
    Seeking advice from the HBRC a waste of time, at the best a patronising letter received, reminding one that it is our responsibility to control pests.
    Living beside the TukiTuki there is a constant flow of Hares, Rabbits, Stoats, Polecats onto our and neighbouring properties .
    We shoot, poison and trap.
    Get rid or at least lower the levels, then bird dropped seeds will germinate and flourish.

  2. Whangaehu ( Southern Hawkes bay)
    Historical notes of many and varied recordings, observations of weather ,pests, bush regeneration,bird life.
    **Opossums arrive in 1945..
    Rabbiter Scotty Mills ..gives my father a fox terrier says ” this will keep them out of the orchard ”
    It kept him up shooting for the next 40years.and we 6 lads,
    1960s” we were the cooks tooth possum gang with 3 foxies (.mclean bros and 2 stoddart mates)possums reeking havoc in the catchment board poplar plantings .
    1990 Oppossums were annihilated an area stretching from here to Wainui ( herbertville/ Wimbledon.)
    1990/ 93..weather patterns:
    60 acre reserve gifted To Lands and survey in 1973 ,fenced in 1975.
    1990/ 1993…3 great wet summers minus the opossum enabled the Korimako (bell bird to reappear) ,kereru begun to nest successfully in the domestic cat free garden
    Fruit returned to the remnant bush areas..
    20 years after the remnant became a reserve ( the old name has resurfaced ,TeAna .)
    Bird life:
    I saw tui in totara eating berries for the first time in my generation( wondering what they were doing their )
    Seeds for the first time began to be distributed..even around the garden, pines too.
    In summary :
    /Possum Pest control
    /3 Good summer rains
    /Bird life returns to distribute Seeds
    / 1990 oppossum annihilation
    Was for TB,but we gained far more .
    Was this a fluke ? This wasn’t a conservation plan we had no idea at the time we’d benefit so amazingly.
    1995 to 2021
    “Ferral cats “breed exponentially
    50 to 60…per year trapped ,tracked by the foxies .
    Bird life :
    Tui numbers grew ..kereru..korimako…

    Rat baiting of the reserve :
    DOC,had a bit of influence roughly mid 1990s with helping with Bait stations ,regional council too.
    BUT,it was the conservation company of Tamamu,Kay an Graig,that gained CHB forest and Bird sponsorship of the last 8 to 10 yrs with 70 stations that boosted the birds.

    If your still reading this ,there are so many actions that go into…retaining our “biodiversity “.
    2000/ 2021
    I was away for a decade and when I returned ,cats deer ,rats had had a free rain .
    With a ferral cat eradication passion ,the rat baiting with CHB forest an Bird ,kay an Craig ..getting onto the deer with Craig our deer culler ..once again ,the bird life have a good chance.

    Bird tagging with mist netting to track them
    onto it younger generation…with technological skills ..
    To have mainland island reserves scattered about Hawkes bay Wairarapa..
    Working in with the forestry companies ,for pest control of all pests..
    Localized run bodies ..like the old pest boards..or catchment groups
    To take over from DOC..,Regional Council .
    Coastal Regional park areas to bring back the blue penguin ,titi,cormorants ,seagull breeding .Robert Mclean ,cooks tooth road

    Young up and coming hunters

  3. I live in the Tuki Valley and stsrted revegetation 32 years ago. Still going. Get no funding, no carbon credits. Built a big dam about 7 yesrs ago, all hell broke loose – they left me alone. Pateke breed
    there now. Building another dam soon.hmmmm

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