Waitomo Glowworm Caves and Department of Conservation form partnership
Carl Fischer can tell you the health of a cave depends entirely on what's happening on the land above it.
The environmental officer spends half his time in the cold, wet, darkness of Waitomo's cave systems and half his time working on the ground above.
He's been doing the behind-the-scenes work to preserve the caves for almost three years, and is thrilled that a new partnership between Waitomo Glowworm Caves and the Department of Conservation will improve conservation outcomes across the district.
"The collaboration to better manage pests and weed species will in turn improve the native biodiversity in the bush and streams, and therefore the caves," Fischer said.
Fischer said glowworms make it easy to understand why stream health is so important.
"The glowworms depend on the insects in the cave, which depend on the amount of organic matter in the stream – and we depend on the glowworms.
"The glowworms are Waitomo's and even New Zealand's point of difference.
"There's nowhere else in the world you can see anything like them, which is why we are working so hard to protect them."
It took a massive glowworm die-off in the 1970s to wake people up to wider environmental dangers.
"They turned off their lights and the cave was closed for about nine months.
"No glowworms mean no glowworm business – the 1970s scare was a catalyst for the work we do now."
Fischer spends his days monitoring the Aranui, Ruakuri and Waitomo Glowworm cave environments.
When he's not below ground, he's in the office checking the cave data or out managing bait lines or planting trees.
He said the partnership with DOC will allow targeted management of pests and invasive weed species.
"Specifically, the pest control is about maintaining a systematic trapping, baiting and monitoring programme to reduce predators.
"By reducing predator numbers, we improve the vitality of the bush and the native biodiversity, which is linked to the health of the stream, which is linked to the health of the caves."
Any pollution and sediment that occur above the caves pass through the caves via the stream, Fischer said.
Over the next few weeks, more than 2000 native trees will be planted in the district, funded by Waitomo Glowworm Caves and Waikato Regional Council.
The trees include kowhai, manuka, toetoe and pukio and will be planted in the riparian margins between Waitomo Glowworm Caves and the Ruakuri Bush Reserve.
Fischer has been involved with the planting of thousands of native trees and erecting thousands of metres of fencing to keep stock out of waterways.
This work improves water quality, which is beneficial to the caves and the glowworms.
The Waitomo Glowworm Caves operation is a finalist in the Green Ribbon Awards for its work around managing water quality.