Bush Telegraph Issue 28 Winter 2019

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Have you seen Owha?

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“Owha” is a female leopard seal that has been residing in NZ shores since 2012. Owha is short for her Māori name “He owha ōku tūpuna” which translates to mean “treasured gift from our ancestors”.  She received this name from the  local Māori hapu Ngati Whatua ki Orakei, after she spent more than a year in their home waters. 

Owha, has spent the last three years living in the waters of Northland and Auckland, where there have been over 300 reported sightings.

Leopard seals or “Rapoka” are Pinnipeds. “Pinniped” can be translated from Latin to “Wing foot” referring to the wing like forefoot of seals, sealions and walrus or “Pinnipeds”. 

The leopard seal is the second largest seal found in New Zealand waters after the Southern Elephant seal and can be identified by its disproportionately large head and lack of external ears.  There are two types of ‘eared’ seals which are commonly seen around the New Zealand coastline; the New Zealand fur seal and the New Zealand sealion. 

Leopard seals are currently considered a “Vagrant” species in NZ. However, with more and more sightings it appears they may be more permanent here than we originally thought. 

Leopard seals are impressive hunters and feed mainly on penguins, other seal species and krill. 

Leopard seals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act 1978 and it is an offence under the MMPA to disturb, harass, harm, injure or kill a seal.  If you approach a seal, please follow these simple guidelines which will enhance your safety and reduce disturbance:

· stay at least 20 m away;

· when approaching, walk slowly;

· do NOT disturb seals by making loud noises or throwing things;

· keep a clear path between the seal and the water so it can leave;

· keep dogs on a lead, at least 20m away;

· monitor children closely and keep them at least 20m away;

· don’t feed any seals;

· never attempt to touch any seals;

· when photographing leopard seals use the zoom on your camera, don’t walk closer than 20m .

If you see a leopard seal (5 sightings have been made on Aotea since Oct 2017), you should report your sighting on www.leopardseals.org/ or call 0800 LEOPARD (0800 5367273). Reports of sightings can greatly help researchers. 

Text by Shanti Morgan

Oruawharo Medlands Ecovision

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Oruawharo Medlands Ecovision (OME) is a revived concept of the historic Medlands Beachcare Group. A core group of residents have formed a committee and meet regularly with the aim “to nurture and protect the unique ecology of Medlands.”

To raise awareness and gain support and participation of local ratepayers, a stall was held at the Claris Club Easter Market and a Facebook page has been developed. A telephone survey is underway to gauge current rodent control activity on private properties and there are plans to formalise a communication strategy.

Three broad projects have been agreed upon: a rat reduction programme (preceded by baseline monitoring), a bird monitoring project involving regular bird counts, as well as planting designed to provide cover, nest sites and food for birds. Other ideas for the future include improving stream health, protecting breeding birds, community events and improved signage.

A small community library of resources has been established at the home of John and Peggy Garlick (9 The Lane) and a rat trapping library at Lotte and Dave McIntyre’s property (501 Medland Road) to encourage trapping on private properties. 

OME is grateful for the support of the GBI Environmental Trust and Auckland Council. For further information visit our Facebook page ‘Oruawharo Medlands Ecovision’ or to make an enquiry email oruamedeco6@gmail.com.

Text by Annamarie Clough; Photograph by Rendt Gorter

Trap Libraries Update

The Trap Libraries on Aotea sponsored by Auckland Council are run by volunteers from our community. They are there to help you do your bit to restore Aotea and reduce the impact of rats on your home and environment.  

We have a new Trap library for the Claris, Medlands community. Lotte McIntyre is hosting this and is a member of Oruawharo Medlands Ecovision who are trapping around Sandhills Rd.  

Traps and boxes are free to those who want to keep traps baited throughout the year where possible and keep a tally of catches. Post your catches on TrapNZ by registering on the Aotea project or email monthly catches to

Alison Walker  walkeralison5@gmail.com.  If you want traps but don’t wish to collect your catch data, we can sell you traps for $5 each and trap boxes for $7.50 each.

Collect your traps from …

·  Mulberry Grove school Thursdays lunch time principal@mulberrygrove.school.nz.

·  Cara Fraider cfraider@doc.govt.nz at Motairehe Marae & Kawa Marae

·  Lotte McIntyre in Medlands by appointment ring 0297705111 

·  GBI Environmental Trust at community day stalls or at   contact.gbiet@gmail.com

For more info go to www.gbiet.org/trap-library

Text by Alison Walker; Photo by Marea Gorter

New Biodiversity Advisor

I grew up on Great Barrier Island (3rd generation) so naturally I have a strong passion for the Islands diverse biodiversity and its protection/rehabilitation.

I gained a BSc with in environmental science at the University of Auckland before starting the journey home with a few interesting stops along the way.

Two of my previous endeavours included safely steering tourists over and often through, the steepest guided Glacier in the world, Franz Joseph glacier on the West Coast. I also carried out marine mammal (mostly whale and dolphin) protection onboard seismic vessels in various oceans around the globe. Both of these roles helped me realise what it is I want to do, protect this beautiful part of the world.

My new role as a Biodiversity Advisor has a focus on protection and enhancement of indigenous biodiversity and priority ecosystems on Great Barrier Island.  I will be providing technical services and advice relating to natural environment issues to private landowners; community groups and other parts of Council and DOC. I bring to the team knowledge and experience of the island’s vast natural landscape from my life here and my previous role as an environmental Contract Manager for Envirokiwi Ltd (8 years). Two of Auckland Council’s current projects include the control of invasive weeds and Argentine ants and these are where my main expertise lie.

As we approach spring things begin to warm up, start new growth and become active again, I am hoping to hear from anyone out there who may have questions, require advice, need help with identification, share knowledge or anything in general to do with the Islands Biodiversity. I am extremely grateful for this new opportunity here with the Auckland Council team and would also like to acknowledge the Local Board for their contribution towards the role.

By Thomas Daly

Soft Mingimingi (Cyathodes fasciculata)

This a shrub growing up to 5m tall depending on the location. It has a dark brown to black trunk. It is quite often mistaken for tea tree.

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The leaves are a dull green in colour, quiet narrow in shape, between 1.2-2.5cm long and 2-4mm wide coming to a sharp stiff point. The leaf also looks like it has lines running along its length.

The flowers which are a greenish white hang in clusters, generally at the end of the branch stems.

The drooping flowering parts are about 1-3cm long. The tiny flowers are 3-4mm in size and are sweetly scented. Mingimingi  flowers from late winter to early spring.

A red fruit or sometimes white fruit develops early spring to early autumn. A welcome addition to many of our native bird’s diet.

Text and photographs by Emmy Pratt  

Seasons | Nga Wahanga Stories from the Whare Teina Okiwi


I love seasons especially Spring because of the nice cut fluffy green grass on Rangiahua and the bright purple flowers in the meadow near the wooden swing.  The wind softly goes by making small little waves on the rocky beach while we collect some shells to decorate nana’s grave. As the sun happily shines above Sandy Bay it looks like a tropical ocean along with the star fish on the rocks and the stingrays gliding through the bay.  As the rain pours down into the earth, new shoots will show up. Na Tia

I like Summer because it is warm and you can have ice blocks and go swimming.  You can jump off the pontoon at Fitzroy. I jump off the wharf too and have lots of swims. Na Flint  

Free cat spaying/neutering - over to you Auckland Council! 

After more than 10 years GBIET is delighted to say we have stopped subsidising cat sterilisation.  It's fantastic to see the council has taken the lead on this now - you can get your cat spayed or neutered free of charge at the island's vet.  Council are also teaming up with DOC and increasing feral cat trapping along roadsides north of Harataonga.  If you have a cat and live in the north, make sure it wears a collar and contact Shanti or Jeremy at council for more info.  We know what carnage feral cats can wreak on our birdlife and lizards so it's great to see this increased effort.

By Kate Waterhouse

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