Bush Telegraph Issue 27 April 2019

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Caspian Terns at School

Sarah Harrison told us that the Caspian Terns were nesting near our school so we went and had a look , we did some sketching and did some research.

Did you know?

The Maori  name for the Caspian Tern is Taranui.  The scientific name is Hydroprogne caspia.

The Caspian Tern is one of the largest terns and they nest on a rocky point outside our school in Mulberry Grove.

Drawing by Majir aged 7

Drawing by Majir aged 7

Adults have black legs and a black cap to below the eye during the breeding season. But the black cap becomes speckled or spotty when they are not breeding.

We found out the chicks and eggs are in danger from cats and dogs because of where they nest, sometimes the tide and the waves might wash the eggs away.

Caspian terns can breed in groups or just as a pair with other terns or gulls.

Drawing by Anya aged 10

Drawing by Anya aged 10

The nest is a shallow scrape in sand or stony ground and may have some grass, feathers, sticks or other material. The two parents share sitting on the eggs . They lay  1–3 dark speckled light grey or olive-brown eggs and take about 3 weeks to a month to hatch.

Caspian terns are vulnerable because of people, their dogs, and off-road vehicles. Black-backed gulls and red-billed gulls may attack eggs and chicks if people disturb them.

Eggs are laid from late September through to late December. Chicks are fed whole regurgitated fish by both parents.

Text by Mulberry Grove School

Lodge Opening

Visitors off the boat

Visitors off the boat

On Saturday 23rd March 2019 the new lodge on Motu Kaikoura was opened.  150 people attended alongside the noise of many kakas.

Motu Kaikoura, within Port FitzRoy, is a scenic, public reserve to support natural regeneration of the vegetation free of invasive plants and animals. Since the eradication of deer, regeneration is very obvious, and bird life is increasing. Rat eradication is an ongoing struggle.

Rodney Ngawaka greeting the people

Rodney Ngawaka greeting the people

Current volunteer trustees are: Rod & Rosalie Miller, Geoff Davidson, Mike Lee, Mel Galbraith, Harry Doig, Sue Daly, Gemma Parkin and Kim Grove. We meet monthly to discuss issues ranging from eradication of rodents and weeds, maintenance of roads, tracks, machinery and always finances. A source of income now are the cabins upgraded by Warkworth Rotary volunteers.

New lodge with harbour view

New lodge with harbour view

The island was bought for the people of New Zealand and was opened by Prime Minister, Helen Clark on 7th May 2005.   it is a public reserve and everyone is welcome! Check us out at our website. Come for a visit! www.motukaikoura.org.nz

Text and photographs by Rosalie Miller  

Houhere  |  Hoheria populnea

It is the  Lacebark that you are most likely to see on Great Barrier and is in flower now until May.  An erect, much branched tree that grows up to 10m or so. The common name comes from the pattern of the stringy interlaced bark.  The somewhat leathery leaves have quiet marked serrated margins up to 14 cm long by 6 cm wide.

Hoheria populnea

Hoheria populnea

This variety can be semi deciduous, becoming nearly bare in the winter. That is if your local Keruru has not already near denuded it.

The flowers are about 2.5 cm in diameter and pure white with many stamens. Growing in clusters or singly in great profusion. They have a slight scent.

The fruit are odd looking and winged, with fine seed cases each with a single seed arranged as wings around a central axis. They germinate well as anyone who has Houhere in their garden will tell you.

A tree that is well worth it in the garden.

Text and photograph by Emmy Pratt

Trap Library

Auckland Council Environmental Services has made a significant grant for traps and trap boxes for residents and landowners on Aotea. If you want free gear all you need is a commitment to all year round trapping. When you apply, you supply your address and sign up with TrapNZ to record your monthly catches.  If after 6 months you have not used the gear or recorded your figures then you need to return all gear.

The first depots are being set up at Mulberry Grove School,  Motairehe Marae and Glenfern. Additionally, the Great Barrier Island Environmental Trust have them available.  Traps and boxes are also available at cost to those who do not wish to be part of the island -wide register.

This is a great opportunity for community groups to set up projects with the help of the Ecovision facilitator and Auckland Council. Okiwi are leading the way and of course the existing sanctuaries are always ready to help new set-ups.

Alison Walker & Shanti Morgan

Ecovision Update

The Ecovision initiative is a project of the Great Barrier Local Board to facilitate ecological restoration projects to develop and collaborate towards a shared ecological vision. Project representatives meet every month. The next Ecovision Open Day invites everybody interested in ecological restoration to visit Glenfern at 2pm on Saturday the 11th May. The new ‘Oruawharo Medlands Ecovision’ group,  with the advice of Professor John Ogden, will soon be starting an ecological study of the surrounding areas to identify and monitor issues deserving more attention. If you are a Medlands resident and would like to join this group, or be part of one in your area, contact Rendt on 029 770 7123, via Facebook: Great Barrier Ecovision or learn more at http://greatbarrierecovision.on-the-inter.net/

Rendt Gorter

Dumping of Dredgings

On the 5th of February this year, Coastal Resources Ltd was issued a 35 year permit to dispose of 250,000 cubic meters per year of dredge waste from Auckland and Waikato, 25 km off the coast of Aotea (Great Barrier Island).

Kelly Klink, of iwi Ngāti Rehua-Ngātiwai ki Aotea, and the Society for the Protection of Aotea Community & Ecology, have lodged appeals against the resource consent in the High Court. Both appeals have been accepted by the High Court and are awaiting a court date.

Protect Aotea.png

Ngati Rehua Ngatiwai ki Aotea have a significant and an undeniable interest within the area - holding mana whenua and mana moana. Kelly states that “the proposed activity will have an irreversible impact on our moana” and “the harm will be irreparable to the wairua and mauri of Moana nui o Toi, adversely affecting the marine environment upon which our iwi have relied on mai rano”.

What can you do to help?

1. Go public—put a  PROTECT AOTEA sign on your front gate, letterbox or roadside.

2. Make a donation. If you are able, give a little on our Givealittle page, Protect Aotea.

3. Sign the petition at www.toko.org.nz/petitions/protect-aotea-from-marine-dumping

4. Join our Protect Aotea e-mailing list via elise.bishop@gmail.com.

5. Join us on Facebook, Protect  Aotea Great Barrier Island.

Okupu Beach Birds

NZ Dotterel  (Photograph by Emma Waterhouse)

NZ Dotterel
(Photograph by Emma Waterhouse)

Okupu is happy to let you all know that we have one NZ Dotterel that has grown to maturity.

In early November a nest was found with 2 eggs, they hatched at the beginning of December. Unfortunately within a week one chick had disappeared but the second one never looked back. Very protective parents.

A second pair of NZ Dotterels also attempted a nesting  but were washed out in the Christmas high tides and storm.

We also had a pair of Variable Oystercatchers attempt nesting. First time in about 5 years. One egg. The first nesting was at the same time as the NZ Dotterels and within a few meters of  the dotterels nests. Unfortunately that nest failed at about the time the dotterels hatched. End of December they re-nested at the same site with one egg again. This egg failed as well but the parent refused to give up and sat on the nest for nearly 2 months—it takes about 32 days for an Oyster Catcher egg to hatch.

Variable Oyster Catcher egg  (Photograph by Emmy Pratt)

Variable Oyster Catcher egg
(Photograph by Emmy Pratt)

The fact that the birds nest at the same time, that people like to use beaches, and that they have more than enough natural predators to put up with, explains why it is no wonder they have a hard time. The birds  will get off the nest when you come onto the beach and stay off if you linger too close to the roped off area. When the parent is off the eggs, they can cook in the hot sun or get too cold in a strong wind—the egg can fail due to these temperature changes.

Have your say about changes to the Dogs and Dog Management Bylaws. Go to aucklandcouncil.govt.nz and search Have your say..png

All credit to those people who took time to look at the signs and kept their distance from the roped off area, and those dog owners who kept to the northern end of the beach or went down at low tide.

Text by Emmy Pratt

Go to aucklandcouncil.govt.nz and “Have Your Say” about Proposed changes to our Policy on Dogs and Dog Management Bylaw.


Bush Telegraph Issue 26 February 2019

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Have you seen a diving petrel? (kuaka)

They are barely 20 cm long and weigh 130 g – about the same as a small chocolate bar.  The only smaller seabirds that you will see round us are storm petrels.  The best thing about them is their beautiful blue feet, and the way they “fly” underwater.  They mainly eat small krill, captured by pursuit diving, using their wings for propulsion – hence the name.  One study recorded an average dive depth of 11 m and a maximum of 22 m!

Diving petrel after diving, by Les Feasey.jpg

Small and chunky, they can look like tiny penguins on the sea surface. Or you might see them with their short whirring wings and characteristic straight-line flight close to the surface, or buzzing over waves. They form large, dispersed flocks at sea, don’t follow boats and stay in our waters throughout the year. After a storm you will often find them wrecked on our beaches.

Diving petrels are very vulnerable to predators like rats, stoats, cats and weka, so they are mainly found on small pest free offshore islands.  On Aotea this means they only breed on a few rock stacks, like the ones around Rakitu.

Adult common northern diving petrel, photographed on a rock stack north of Stanley Island, Mercury group, by Alan Tennyson.jpg

They excavate their own burrows (imagine that!) in rock crevices or under dense vegetation. In the Mercury Islands they lay a single egg in August. Both parents share incubation for c.53 days and it takes another 44-55 days for the chicks to fledge – about early December. Pairs are monogamous, remaining together over many seasons (though divorces are frequent). Young birds return to the colony where they were born when 1-2 years old to breed. They are one of few petrels that can lay a replacement egg if the first egg fails.

By Kate Waterhouse, with thanks to NZ Birds Online and the Northern NZ Seabird Trust


The recent community days offered an opportunity to meet lots of locals, bach owners and visitors to Aotea  and discuss how we can better protect our island wildlife.  Claris New Year Picnic was particularly busy where demand for our free trap boxes (courtesy of PFNZ 2050) and sale of rat traps was a sell-out. 

One of the concerns raised in discussion was the lack of protection for dotterel breeding grounds on our beaches.  Surely an urgent issue for the community and DOC to address this year.

Our Landscape map of Aotea was on display showing many of the private land owners who are practising pest control.  There was much interest and several more properties added. 

There has been a noticeable growth in community projects underway.  The Okiwi community has shown how effective it can be when neighbouring properties band together and set up trap lines.  Jo O'Reilly has led a very successful project with regular bird counts through the year.  Much of Medlands has some form of pest control happening and Murray Staples now manages more properties.  The Barrier Golf Club has protected its wetland with the help of Shanti Morgan, Auckland Council.


The Environmental Trust still has some trap boxes available: One free trap box with every snap-e traps for $7.  Text Alison 021 2259976. 


A new part-time resident at Awana, Barry Scott, is interested in being involved in conservation and predator control and is planning to set up rat trap lines along the dunes above Awana beach and around the Awana Estuary, with consent from DOC and QEII Trust. Given he will be on the Island sporadically if there is anyone interested in working with him on this project please contact him at
d.b.scott@massey.ac.nz or Tel: 021 070 4848


You might be wondering about whether this disease that can kill big kauri is on the Barrier. Unfortunately it is.  A few track sections will be closed this summer because there are diseased trees on or near them and other tracks need work to protect trees they pass.  People or animals like dogs or pigs could spread the disease by standing on soil with the disease in it, which sticks to boots or feet and gets transferred to healthy trees.

Kauri by K Waterhouse.jpg

Kauri forests are unique and used to cover much of the central part of Aotea. They have their own ecosystems, hosting plants like kauri grass which don’t occur elsewhere. Most of the big Barrier kauri were logged in the 19th century, with huge rafts of logs taken out of Kaiarara, Whangaparapara and even over the Whangapoua bar. Today, you can see young kauri, also called rickers, poking their spear shaped heads through the kanuka all over the Barrier, but especially along the Forest Road. These will be the kauri forests of the future if we can keep them safe from dieback now.

It’s simple to keep kauri safe.  When you see signs asking you to clean your shoes or stay on the track follow their advice. If you are hunting or in the bush, stay well away from kauri.


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Much of Aotea Great Barrier Island is covered in young forest and shrubland recovering from the effects of fire and logging. A common native species in such vegetation is mānuka (Leptospermum scoparium).  Although widespread, mānuka has some interesting ecological features, including being the only one of NZ’s woody plant species to show clear adaptation to fire.  If you look closely at a mānuka plant you will see that it is covered in small woody capsules.  Each of these capsules contains hundreds of small seeds - so many that in a m2 of mānuka canopy there may be up to 300000 viable seeds!  Storing seeds in capsules like this forms a seed bank in the canopy, and is quite common among plants adapted to deal with fire.  This strategy is called ‘serotiny’ and occurs when a plant stores seeds and then releases them immediately after some trigger - in this case fire - when conditions will be advantageous for seedlings.  These strategies are very rare in NZ’s flora because prior to human arrival fires were extremely infrequent.  On the other hand, some weedy exotic species are well-adapted to fire.  On GBI there are three species of Hakea, all from Eastern Australia, and all are strongly serotinous and able to quickly capture space after fire.  Hakea sericea (needle-leaved Hakea) is, for example, thriving in the area around Claris that burned in January 2013.  Hakea sericea and Hakea gibbosa (downy leaved Hakea) are common on the track to the Kaitoke Hot Springs, and at the Okiwi end of the Harataonga walk all three co-occur (the third being Hakea salicifola, willow-leaved Hakea)George Perry

Left-to-right: mānuka with flowers and seed capsules, dead Hakea sericea with open capsules evident (Harataonga track) and Hakea gibbosawith abundant closed seed capsules (Kaitoke Hot Springs track). (Photos: George Perry)


Sponsored by Auckland Council, and the GB Environmental Trust. Available for island residents.

Contact the Vet, on 463 or email gbivetanne@gmail.com.


Under active management, the island’s flora and fauna is slowly regenerating. Rat monitoring has shown low numbers low with seasonal fluctuation. As a result plant and especially ground nesting birds are all on the increase. It is now a struggle to walk through what was deer vegetation barren.

This year has seen our new headquarters completed. A big thank you to Women & Architecture for their fantastic effort and volunteer time. Also, thanks to the suppliers of building materials at free and discounted prices. There has been a major upgrade on all the cabins which are now available for renting. Our facilities are also regularly used for research and study groups. www.motukaikoura.org.nz.
Rod Miller, Chair


Would you like to make a difference? Do you share a desire to protect, and restore the birds, plants, lizards and other taonga that make their home here? We are looking for 2 or more trustees who can volunteer their time to help achieve our vision: “To work with the community to protect native species through the eradication of rats and feral cats, to re-introduce species lost to the island, and to work towards an ecology-based economy for Aotea Great Barrier.” There are many ways to contribute depending on your experience and availability. If you would like to know more, please email us on contact.gbiet@gmail.com or call our Chair on 021 881 218. We’d love to hear from you.

PEdmonds, Home but not safe.jpg

Drawing by Peter Edmonds


PO Box 35, Okiwi, Gt Barrier Island, 0960

Phone:  02 234 GBIET  (022 34 42438)

Email: contact.gbiet@gmail.com

Facebook: Great Barrier Island  Environmental Trust

Twitter: GBIET@GBITrust


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