Aongatete Forest Restoration Project Going Strong

06 May 2013

 By Hamish Dean, Kaimai Connection Co-ordinator

The project to restore the forest at Aongatete in the Western Bay of Plenty is going strong and has become a real joint effort between the Aongatete Forest Restoration Trust and Forest & Bird.

 The Co-operative Bank’s Senior Consultant Sharon Hines (left) and Branch Manager Sam Jones get stuck in loading rat bait into bait stations.

The Co-operative Bank’s Senior Consultant Sharon Hines (left) and Branch Manager Sam Jones get stuck in loading rat bait into bait stations.

The Trust has been managing pests in a 245-hectare area for several years with a large team of dedicated volunteers, while Forest & Bird began expanding the pest management area in 2012.  

We currently have 370ha under active management and this will be extended to 480ha in August when we undertake a knockdown of possums using cyanide.

While the trust and Forest & Bird run separate teams of volunteers, there was an impressive turnout at a joint workday recently, and the entire area was baited in just a few hours.

  Forest & Bird corporate sponsor The Co-operative Bank was represented at the workday by a small team of volunteers led by Tauranga Branch Manager Sam Jones.

It’s fantastic to see a national sponsor backing up its support with local action. I think there were a few bruises, but I hope I can talk them in to coming back!
 
The Co-operative Bank’s Senior Consultant Sharon Hines (left) and Branch Manager Sam Jones get stuck in loading rat bait into bait stations.

Because this was the first round of baiting in some of our new area the Forest & Bird volunteers were back the following weekend to top up the bait stations and implement bait-take monitoring, similar to that used in Ark in the Park. 

Bait-take is mapped using GIS

Bait-take is mapped using GIS

What became clear very quickly was that our efforts to keep the rat bait out of possums’ reach were in vain and I got some good trail-cam video of possums almost climbing into the stations to get at the rat bait, which was secured right at the back.

Aside from installing rat-specific bait stations the answer seems to be to get possum levels right down before controlling rats.

There’s plenty to celebrate though. We recently discovered a population of the threatened King fern (Ptisana salicina) in the middle of one of our blocks. North Island robins are now frequently seen around the Aongatete Lodge and even out by the carpark.

And a family of four riflemen were recently seen right by the lodge. Both of these species are undoubtedly benefiting from the pest control.

We’re working hard to attract more volunteers and more funding. They’re the essential elements in our drive to keep expanding the protection in this beautiful area of lowland forest.