Funding a boost for projects in region

Eight community conservation groups in Marlborough have been granted close to $200,000 in Government funding to support various projects around the region.

The projects include protecting endangered bats, indigenous fauna and flora and eradicating pests and weeds that threaten them.

Conservation Minister Nick Smith said 90 Biofund grants had been approved nationally. "These [grants] are about DOC partnering with communities to protect the birds, plants, landscapes and habitats that make New Zealand special," he said.

Forest & Bird has been allocated $17,504 for two projects on d'Urville Island.

The first project would focus on consultation between Forest & Bird and the iwi and landowners of d'Urville Island. The second project would focus on surveying the endangered long-tailed bat population, believed to be the biggest in the South Island.

Forest & Bird's top of the south regional field officer Debs Martin said they wanted to know as much about the bats as possible.

Ms Martin said the money would be used to consult with people on the island, in the hope they would give permission for specialised staff to go onto their land and survey the bats.

"We want to know what bats are there and what habitats they are using."

This species of bat was nationally critical, she said.

"They are more threatened than the brown kiwi . . . you can't get more threatened than that."

Ms Martin said they hoped to get to work immediately. If they left it until after March it would be too late, she said. "Any time beyond March is too cold for readings to be reliable."

She said the bats only came out once a fortnight during the colder months, which would create inaccurate readings.

The Marlborough Express