Abel Tasman conservation project gaining momentum

HELEN MURDOCH
Last updated 12:30 03/11/2012

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A 30-year project to reverse the decline of biodiversity in Abel Tasman National Park will see 700 of the first pest traps in place across 4500 hectares by Christmas.

Project Janszoon director Devon McLean told the Tasman Biodiversity Forum that the project's early focus was to protect flora and fauna above 700 metres in the Canaan Downs area.

"It's got low rat numbers, so there is reasonable potential for control and the early re-introduction of native species."

Funded by an Auckland family trust, the more than $25 million project aims to ensure that, by 2042, the park's native biodiversity is no longer threatened by invasive weeds and pests.

The project area covers 19,130ha and includes all the coastal area of the park, the islands off the coast, the Foreshore Reserve, and a portion of the Canaan ecological area outside the park's southwestern boundary.

Mr McLean said the approach to the project was multi-pronged. "We want to make as big an impact as we can in the next five years."

Work to remove wilding pines would continue, and a problem weeds survey was to be completed by early next year. Baseline survey work on monitoring rats and pests would start this month.

Various means of possum control would also be monitored to gauge their success, Mr McLean said. If needed, aerial 1080 would be used in the Canaan area to protect fledgling birds during the beech mast.

Mr McLean said the 4500ha of subalpine protection would be extended to include 6000ha around the Totaranui, Awaroa and Onetahuti areas, to protect brown teal and seabirds.

Awaroa Head, which was also suitable for seabird nesting, could be fenced off to protect nesting birds from pigs and weka.

Work had already started on laying 200 self-setting traps, complete with weka protectors, on Pitt Head.

"It's the first trial with the weka protectors. We'll evaluate the product and set them for rats and stoats to see if we can bring robin back on to the headland."

A further 500ha around Torrent Bay and Bark Bay would be subject for ground-based possum control.

Mr McLean said the project was big, but manageable.

Public buy-in and support was essential to its success, he said.

"The key will be developing community support and encouraging and engaging the interest of the younger generation."

Consultation on the project's pest control strategy would go out to the community in the next three or four months, he said.

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- The Nelson Mail

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