$200k grant for Martins Bay

Remote bay 'one of Fiordland's gems'

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 16:43 17/07/2014
signing
NEIL RATLEY/Fairfax NZ

Young conservationist Billie Comer, 8, helps Conservation Minister Nick Smith sign a memorandum of understanding for funding a conservation partnership with the Hollyford Conservation Trust at Martins Bay yesterday. Also pictured are trust chairman Ron Anderson and deputy chairman Adam Fairmaid.

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A conservation partnership signed in the dunes of remote bay in Fiordland National Park aims to safeguard birds and allow the return of species decimated by predators in the remote area.

Conservation Minister Nick Smith signed a memorandum of understanding for Martins Bay yesterday to provide a $200,000 grant over three years to support the Hollyford Conservation Group.

The group, a private charitable trust made up largely of crib-owners and regular visitors to Martins Bay, will carry out pest control in and around the bay.

"Martins Bay is an area of stunning natural beauty that showcases some of the best flora and fauna that make New Zealand so special," Smith said.

"Pests including rats, stoats and possums, however, pose a serious threat to these species. The grant ... will help the Hollyford Conservation Group to set up rat and possum poison bait stations and a stoat trap network to stop the decline of their populations."

DOC would provide further support for the project with a 1080 drop on the hills surrounding the area, he said.

Hollyford Conservation Trust chairman Ron Anderson said the area was one of Fiordland's gems.

"Across a relatively small area we have an enormous range of native species, well known as a "biodiversity hotspot," Anderson  said.

"It's up to us to protect it, to restore it to where it was a few decades ago."

The area includes fragile dune communities and a population of Fiordland crested penguin, world recognised lagoon and wetland including habitat for kotuku or white heron, significant podocarp forest and southern rata, and    like so many areas of our conservation estate    many rare or endangered native birds.

It was also the only area in New Zealand where bottlenose dolphins entered a fresh water lake, he said.

"The long-term goal of the group is to grow the populations of the birds, and to re-introduce species that formerly inhabited the area," Anderson said.

Sitting back and doing nothing as pests wiped out native species was not an option for the Martins Bay stakeholders, he said.

"This is not a five minute job, this is a 20-year vision that will ensure our kids and grandkids enjoy this special place."

The group's vision would realised by private funding, but would also need continued funding from DOC, he said.

DOC deputy director general of conservation partnerships Kay Booth said these types of partnerships were the future of conservation.

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"DOC is moving away from the place where it was doing conservation for New Zealanders, we now have to do conservation with New Zealanders,'' Booth said.

- The Southland Times

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