Seabird colony proposed

SEE MORE BIRDS: Department of Conservation pest control expert Darren Peters and UK investor Paul Carberry at Long Point in the Catlins.
SEE MORE BIRDS: Department of Conservation pest control expert Darren Peters and UK investor Paul Carberry at Long Point in the Catlins.

The public may one day be able to visit seabirds such as the albatross at a breeding colony in the Catlins, if a project led by the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Trust is successful.

The trust owns land at Long Point where yellow-eyed penguins and muttonbird already nest, and is looking at establishing a larger, protected colony with different breeds of seabird.

More than 100 pest traps are already set each month, but that regime would need boosting for the project to work.

Yellow-Eyed Penguin Trust field manager David McFarlane said a "predator brain-storming session" was held over the past two days, with two Wellington-based Department of Conservation experts in pest control and predator fences present.

"The site has huge potential for other birds."

Options to protect the land ranged from a predator fence combined with a trapping and baiting regime to new pest-trapping technology, McFarlane said.

A management plan had been completed and the trust was now looking at how to implement it, although any option that included a fence would cost tens of thousands of dollars, McFarlane said.

"For the public to come and see a functioning seabird colony would be an awesome experience."

It was also important because seabird conservation was not well known, he said.

"There are lots of other seabirds that used to live on our coasts and hills that are absent now."

Potential breeding birds included the Storm Petrel and Bullers and Southern Royal Albatross, he said.

The brainstorming session at Long Point included representatives from South Otago and Dunedin Forest and Bird, Landcare Research, the Long Point advisory group, investors Paul Carberry, a tourism operator in the UK, and Fergus and Mary Sutherland from the Catlins.

Department of Conservation technical development manager Alastair Bramley , an expert in pest control, described it as a "fantastic project".

Part of his job was working out how pest control technology would develop in the next decade.

"There are a range of tools … in the future we may find we don't need fences at all."

Clutha Development Trust marketing manager Jo Lowrey, who also visited the site, said the potential tourism revenue the project would bring to the district in the future made it really exciting.

"If we do get albatross landing there, bird enthusiasts from around the world will travel to see them."

Clutha District Council planning and regulatory manager David Campbell, said there was merit in trying to establish a predator proof area for species preservation.

But, in terms of the council contributing resources, the biodiversity fund only had a modest budget, he said.

While a firm time table for the project depended on funding, McFarlane imagined wide scale predator control would begin within two to three years.

The Southland Times