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Landtalk - Tim's Blog 2015

December 2015

Pets not pests this summer

We’re all familiar with unwanted felines being dumped and becoming a problem over the holidays. But pet lizards, turtles, parrots, fish and wallabies are also ending up in the wild.

A huge amount of time and effort goes into dealing with all these animals that end up becoming pests. We ask people to de-sex their pets and dispose of unwanted ones humanely or through the SPCA.

Aquariums too need to be considered. Tipping the contents of an aquarium down the drain or into a waterway is almost certain to have far reaching consequences.  Some aquarium plants have already become well established in many Bay of Plenty waterways, playing havoc with our native flora and fauna and we don’t need any more. Many water weeds look very similar to aquarium plants.  

It’s safer to either compost the plants or dispose as green waste. And buy your aquarium plants and fish from reputable dealers.

Released pet birds too can easily become pests. Eastern rosellas are already well established throughout the region causing a headache for orchardists. Other released birds have become a problem elsewhere.

Reptiles too are threatening to become a nuisance. Non-native reptiles like bearded dragons, and red eared slider turtles are being found in increasing numbers in some parts of the country.

And then there are wallabies. We have recently found several wallabies in the eastern Bay of Plenty that must have been released here by someone.

All these animals and plants have significant impacts on our economy and our wild places. If you see anything unusual when you’re out and about over the holidays, please let us know, call 0800 STOP PESTS (0800 786 773).

Written by Tim Senior, Bay of Plenty Regional Council land management officer, Ōpōtiki, Ph. 0800 884 881 ext 6010, tim.senior@boprc.govt.nz

Turtle

Our award winning river

Last week a group of local farmers received fantastic recognition for their hard work improving water quality. The Morgan Foundation presented Bay of Plenty Regional Council chair, Doug Leeder with an award for the Bay of Plenty’s most improved river for 2015 – the Nukuhou River.

Nitrogen levels in the river have been slowly but surely declining since 1995 as a result of the farmers’ actions. Their first step was usually to improve their dairy shed effluent systems. Effluent now goes into ponds or tanks and is generally used to irrigate and fertilise pasture. The next step was to keep cows out of the river and its tributaries and almost all of them are now fenced.

The regional council have been providing them with technical expertise and financial support since 2005. Since then farmers have installed another 49km of riparian fencing, built six bridges to allow stock to cross the river without walking through the water, upgraded stock races to avoid run-off going directly into the streams, retired and planted a further 333ha of steep land, and planted 48,000 native plants, mostly on riparian margins.

All this work requires a lot of labour and considerable sums of money. Farmers have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on this work which has environmental benefits for all of us. It’s great now for the farmers to gain recognition for this work and to have clear evidence that it has been worthwhile and has made a difference. It will also have made a difference to the Ōhiwa Harbour, so special to so many, as the harbour environment will be benefiting from the reduction in nutrients too. And the good work will continue.

Written by Tim Senior, Bay of Plenty Regional Council land management officer, Ōpōtiki. Ph 0800 884 881, ext 6010, tim.senior@boprc.govt.nz

 

November 2015 

Woolly nightshade Woolly nightshade

The Regional Council probably get more calls about woolly nightshade than any other weed. It’s obviously a much disliked plant. Woolly nightshade is a containment plant in the Bay of Plenty Regional Pest Management Plan. The rules in the plan require landowners to destroy this plant if they find it on their properties. The reason for this is to protect all landowners collectively from the spread of this aggressive weed.

As it’s such a widespread weed, it’s not possible for us to police these rules on every affected property. So we rely on people doing the right thing.

Spraying is the best method of dealing with a number of smaller plants but it’s important to use the right spray: T-Max, Tordon pastureboss and brushkiller are the only ones that are effective.

Larger plants are more easily dealt with by cutting them down and treating the stump – liberally spray the cut surface and the sides of the stump right down to ground level with a mix of 1 part of glyphosate (eg Roundup) in 4 parts of water. Or even more simply, the trunk can be completely ringbarked with a sharp knife and the ring barked are sprayed with undiluted glyphosate.

For more details, check out our website www.boprc.govt.nz/environment/pest-management/.

Woolly nightshade grows rapidly and you can’t turn your back on it. Infestations will need spraying every year until the seed bank in the soil is exhausted. It’s also a weed which can invade pasture quite quickly, especially rougher hill country. Stock will generally avoid it – it’s toxic and has a very unpleasant smell (and probably taste).

This column is provided by the Eastern Land Resources team at the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. For more information on pests of all kinds, please call us on 0800 884 881 ext 6010 or at info@boprc.govt.nz

 

October 2015

Not Wanted: Wallabies

Off the rugby field we generally get on well with our Australian neighbours. But some of their wildlife is not welcome here. Wallabies are one of them. Alarmingly, the Regional Council has been alerted to three possible sightings of wallabies in the eastern bay recently.

Dama wallabies have formed a long established population around the Rotorua Lakes. Their diet is not selective and they graze most small plants down to ground level, threatening the long term survival of native forests in the area. They have a similarly disastrous effect on farm pasture. The Regional Council is working hard to stop them spreading any further east than Kawerau.

A contractor with a specialist wallaby indicating dog is employed to investigate reports of wallabies. Of the three recent sightings, nothing was found at the first. At the second, a wallaby was found and despatched. The third sighting is still under investigation. This is time consuming and expensive work and a direct cost to ratepayers.

Cute though they may seem, wallabies are classed as a pest.  Wallabies are an unwanted organism under the Biosecurity Act, so it’s an offence under the Act and the rules of the Bay of Plenty Regional Pest Management Plan to move wallabies from one place to another. In other words it’s illegal to keep such an animal as a pet! We rely heavily on members of the public reporting sightings of unusual animals like wallabies. If you ever see one, please report it immediately by calling us on 0800 STOP PESTS (0800 780 773), or the number below. We need to know while the scent is still hot! You can be assured it will be investigated very quickly.  

Written by Tim Senior, Bay of Plenty land management officer, Ōpōtiki, 0800 884 881, ext 6010, tim.senior@boprc.govt.nz

Wallaby 

Quiet achievements of a volunteer army

On Saturday, volunteers from ten care groups got together for their annual celebration of their year’s achievements. The event was hosted by the Ōhiwa Bush Reserves Care Group and was combined with the annual godwit welcome, part of the BirdsaPlenty festival.

There was plenty to celebrate. Members of these groups have, between them, put in many thousands of voluntary hours helping to look after some of the special places, mostly public reserves, in the eastern Bay of Plenty. Boardwalks have been constructed, informational signage erected, bird numbers patiently counted and weed infestations removed.

Around 1000 bait stations have been regularly baited by volunteers over the year to remove an unknown number, probably thousands, of rats and possums from bush, beaches and wetlands. Some 800 stoat traps have been set with rabbit meat or eggs to remove hundreds of stoats and weasels.

These groups, along with a small army of others including many school groups, have planted well over 10,000 native trees and shrubs this last winter to help restore some neglected areas to their former glory. Added to this, Coast Care groups have planted another 23,000 sand dune plants. The rewards for the volunteers lie in the turning of the tide against pests of all kinds and the visible and measurable results of their work.

These are extraordinary achievements. If you’d like to help out in any way with some of this interesting and valuable work get in touch with us or one of the groups.

These groups are provided with funding, equipment and advice through various Bay of Plenty Regional Council or DOC programmes and often supported by district councils too.

Written by Tim Senior, Bay of Plenty Regional Council land management officer, Ōpōtiki, Ph. 0800884 881 ext 6010, tim.senior@boprc.govt.nz

Quiet achievements of a volunteer army

September 2015

Rabbits wanted - Whakatāne and Ōpōtiki only

After a fairly cold, and at times wet, winter, we expected rabbit numbers to decline. This doesn’t seem to have happened. In such high numbers they start to become an issue for some farmers and they are a particular problem in the sand dunes where they have a great liking for the native plants that so many volunteers put so many hours into planting every winter.

We all know that stoats and ferrets are the worst predator of our local kiwi (and other birds) that we are trying so hard to look after. But perhaps their favourite food is rabbit. In fact the only reason we have stoats and ferrets in New Zealand at all, is that they were brought here in an attempt to fix the rabbit problem.

Stoats can’t resist rabbit meat (even salted) and so salted rabbit meat is the bait of choice for attracting stoats into traps. Just at the moment we have plenty of traps but not enough rabbit meat to go in them! Bay of Plenty Regional Council staff are also trialling a new poison bait for stoats – which also needs to be incorporated with rabbit meat.

Consequently we need lots of rabbits! So this is a plea to all those of you out there who enjoy a stroll and a spot of rabbit shooting in these longer spring evenings. There’s no shortage of live rabbits! Please bring us your rabbit carcases (skinned and gutted!). You can drop them off at the Regional Council offices in Quay St in Whakatāne or Bridge St in Ōpōtiki.

We can’t give you a bounty for them but you can rest assured they will be put to good use in the cause of saving our native birds.

Written by Tim Senior, Bay of Plenty Regional Council land management officer, Ōpōtiki. Ph 0800 884 881, ext 6010, tim.senior@boprc.govt.nz

Rabbit

River bank restoration

One sunny day last week, a class of senior students from Ōpōtiki Primary School spent a morning planting native trees along the bank of the Waiaua River, east of Opotiki. It seemed a daunting task – there were nearly 500 plants waiting to get their roots into the ground. Some of the ground was quite stony too which made the digging difficult. Luckily there were a few parents and teachers on hand to help out.

But the job was done in no time and the kids all seemed to have a great time doing something different outside the classroom. There was some learning involved too, with 24 different species of plant, from mānuka to kahikatea and some of them unfamiliar to the kids. All have their own requirements for light, soil and moisture.

The work is part of an ambitious project, led by Ngāti Patu Moana, to restore nearly a kilometre of river bank. The planting is but one step on the way; weeds and piles of rubbish had to be dealt with first and then a roadside fence erected. For a year or two the plants will need careful releasing from the competing weeds till they are big enough to look after themselves.

The river here is a popular whitebaiting spot and in the summer, there is a busy swimming hole. So the trees will provide shade and a more pleasant environment for the many visitors. The trees replace a wilderness of weeds and assorted rubbish.

It will be a real transformation of the area and the work is proudly supported by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council Environmental Enhancement Fund.

Written by Tim Senior, Bay of Plenty Regional Council land management officer, Ōpōtiki. Ph 0800 884 881, ext 6010, tim.senior@boprc.govt.nz

Waiaua planting

August 2015

The battle for our birds 

Spring is not far away and before long birds of all kinds will begin nesting and laying eggs. But sadly for many of our native birds this will be a futile exercise thanks to the worst of their predators, ship rats. Ship rats are common everywhere, including in the bush. They are very agile climbers and will eat the eggs and chicks in any nest they can find (not to mention insects, lizards and seeds). If the food sources are plentiful, there may be more than ten rats per hectare. It’s no wonder that so many of our forests are so silent.

So this is the time of year when pest control gets into full swing to give those nesting birds a fighting chance of successfully rearing their chicks. A small army of people, mostly volunteers from community groups, but also landowners and contractors will soon be setting out rat bait in bait stations in a number of reserves and private bush blocks in the eastern bay. The bait stations have to be carefully spaced to ensure every rat has access the bait. The most common bait used is Pindone.

Robin

Warning signs are always erected on the perimeter of reserves and at public entrances where Pindone is laid. It’s important that visitors comply with instructions on the signs and dogs should be kept on a lead. Bait stations are kept well away from tracks and uneaten bait is removed within a couple of weeks, so the risk for visitors is minimal.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council supports a lot of this pest control through our biodiversity programme. It’s hard, unpleasant work and it’s an inconvenience for many visitors but it’s the only way we can ensure the survival of at least some of our birds like the robin above.

Written by Tim Senior, Bay of Plenty Regional Council land management officer, Ōpōtiki. Ph 0800 884 881, ext 6010, tim.senior@boprc.govt.nz

 

Ferrets and Kiwi don’t mix

Many readers will have walked into the Ōhope bush in recent months and heard kiwi calling. The population of kiwi here is steadily growing but it takes an enormous amount of work to look after them. The Whakatāne Kiwi Trust volunteers spend many hundreds of hours every year trapping one of their worst predators – stoats.

It only takes a single stoat to avoid the network of traps to wreak havoc amongst young birds. Once the birds are close to adult size, they are safe from stoat predation.

The many dedicated volunteers recently had the gut wrenching experience of such an event. The rogue stoat was eventually caught and since the kiwi population is now so large, its predations have had virtually no long term effect on our local kiwi.

Ferrets are a different matter. Ferrets are much bigger than stoats and can also kill adult birds. They are also harder to kill, requiring bigger traps. Unlike stoats, they are poor climbers so they can only get at ground nesting birds. In the past, ferrets were farmed for their fur. When the fur market collapsed a few decades ago, many of these ferrets were released into the wild. Luckily ferrets have rarely been found around the kiwi project area but vigilance is required to make sure it stays that way – so please let us know if you ever see one!

The Whakatāne Kiwi Project is one of the great success stories nationally in the battle for our birds. It’s supported by your Regional Council, DOC, Whakatāne District Council, Ngāti Awa and other neighbouring landowners. Go to www.whakatanekiwi.org.nz to see how you can lend your support.

This column is provided by the Eastern Land Resources team at the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. For more information on pests of all kinds, please call us on 0800 884 881 ext 6010 or at info@boprc.govt.nz

 

Ferret

 

July 2015

A tiny fighter against wasps?

A tiny mite found on wasps looks like a promising biocontrol agent against the winged pest.

New Zealand’s wasp problem is considered the worst in the world. Apart from being a well-known hazard to humans and reducing native bird and insect populations, the foreign pest is estimated to sting the country’s primary industries around $130 million a year.

Mites were first discovered on wasps in 2011 and it seems that wasp nests where mites are present are far smaller than usual. But there is still a lot to learn about the relationship between the mites and their host wasps.

Landcare Research scientist Dr Bob Brown, who is conducting research into the mite, is collecting information about the mites’ presence on wasp queens over winter and is seeking help from the public. He is after wasp queens from around the country to see how many are infested with the mite.

The queens are much larger than the more commonly seen worker wasps. They leave their colonies to hibernate for the winter and go in search of somewhere dry and dark, often in garages, sheds or wood piles. Here they can be found sitting quietly with their wings tucked away.

Bob says that the queens are very docile at this time but he still advises people take care when handling one. He recommends placing captured wasps in the freezer overnight to kill them.

Dead wasps can be posted to Dr Brown at PO Box 69040, Lincoln 7640. They should be packed with tissue paper inside a pill jar along with a description of where the wasp was found (such as a wood pile), in what part of the country and the sender’s contact details.

The research is funded by the Ministry of Primary Industries’ Sustainable Farming Fund.

Written by Tim Senior, Bay of Plenty Regional Council land management officer, Ōpōtiki. Ph 0800 884 881, ext 6010, tim.senior@boprc.govt.nz

Mites on Wasp

Planting up the Ōpōtiki Dunes Cycle Trail

For several years now since the opening of the Mōtū Tails, many members of the local community have spent a little time every winter planting up the back dunes along the Dunes section of the trail. The goal is, bit by bit, to restore these dunes to something like they would once have been. Over the last 150 years most vegetation has been cleared and burnt and the bare dunes then grazed, often until quite recently.

Apart from restoring the dunes, the plants, as they grow will enhance the experience for riders on the trail. So it you’re a cyclist and have enjoyed the Dunes Trail in the past, you’re welcome to join us to put a little something back into the trail. You can even bike the short ride from Ōpōtiki to the planting site and carry on afterwards!

Where: This year the focus is on the dunes just to the west of Hukuwai Beach. If you’re not familiar with the area, Hukuwai is about 2km east of Ōpōtiki on SH35 where there is plenty of parking. We’ll meet there and walk back along the trail a little way towards town to the planting site. Look for the Coast care flag.

When: Sunday 26th July is the day and 9.30 am the start time.

We’ll only work for a couple of hours and then share the usual light refreshments and a sausage sizzle which will be provided. Spades and gloves will also be provided but please feel free to bring your own favourites. And bring a friend or two. For more information call the Ōpōtiki i-site on 07 315 3031.

Written by Tim Senior, Bay of Plenty Regional Council land management officer, Ōpōtiki. Ph 0800 884 881, ext 6010, tim.senior@boprc.govt.nz

Planting

June 2015

Gorse to Trees at Onekawa Park – come and join the planting day!

The Onekawa Te Mawhai Regional Park, on the headland between the Ōhiwa spit and Bryan’s Beach is a spectacular and historic place.

Visitors often comment that they would like to see less gorse and more native trees. All of us who look after the park agree wholeheartedly! Right from the start there has been a plan to do exactly that. Over the last few years, we’ve removed some of the gorse and planted several thousand native trees, thanks to the help from a small army of local volunteers.

The park is managed collaboratively by Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Ōpōtiki District Council and Upokorehe, the local iwi. But it belongs to all of us and the planting provides an opportunity for everyone to get involved with its enhancement.

This year’s planting will take place on Sunday 12th July, beginning at 10am and finishing at 12.00pm. Everyone and anyone is very welcome to come along and lend a hand. Please bring your favourite spade and gardening gloves. There will be a BBQ and a cuppa to follow the work. There are fantastic views from the hill to enjoy as you work and it’s always a great social event too.

We’ll meet up at the Bryan Road carpark. Turn off SH2 at the Waiotahe River bridge into Ōhiwa Beach Road. This will take you to Bryan’s Beach. Don’t follow the sign to the Regional Park as this will take you to the main entrance on the Ōhiwa side. At the end of Bryan’s Beach, turn left into the Bryan Road cul de sac and you’ll find the carpark there.

Written by Tim Senior, Bay of Plenty Regional Council land management officer, Ōpōtiki. For more information, contact me on 0800884881 ext 6010 or tim.senior@boprc.govt.nz

Onekawa 

Rivers to the Ocean field trip

A mid-winter field trip is planned for residents from around Ōhiwa Harbour and its catchment and further afield – in fact for anyone interested in finding out more about the harbour and its catchment. Leaving by bus from Tauwhare Pa at 9.45am on Wednesday 24th June, the trip will visit places of interest around the harbour.

Community groups will showcase the work they are doing controlling pests and bringing back the birds. Farmers will explain the work they are doing in the catchment to help improve water quality. We’ll look at new initiatives to provide for the growing number of visitors to the harbour, how our historic and cultural heritage is being protected and a whole lot more.

It’s about bringing the community together and it will be a great opportunity to meet people from around the area. From Nukuhou to the sea, we all have an influence on the harbour and its wellbeing and we can explore this and discuss the issues that arise.

There will be something of interest for everyone and you can enjoy a barbecue lunch provided along the way.

The tour will finish back at Tauwhare Pa at 2.30pm. (for those unfamiliar with the area, the Tauwhare Pa car park is between the Harbour Rd turnoff at Ōhope and the Oyster Farm).

We’d love you to join us. Places are limited by the seats on the bus, so please RSVP to Tim Senior – see contact details below.

This column is provided by the Eastern Land Resources team at the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. For more information on pests of all kinds, please call us on 0800 884 881 ext 6010 or at info@boprc.govt.nz

Onekawa Te Mawhai Regional Park 

May 2015

1000 pests and 1000 hours

The Nukuhou saltmarsh care group recently held their annual meeting and celebrated a number of milestones in their work. A very special cake was cut and shared to celebrate 1000 pests trapped over the last 11 years around the saltmarsh and on Uretara Island in the heart of Ōhiwa Harbour. This is in addition to the many more pests, possums, rats and mice that will have been removed by their poison bait regime.

There are 37 active members in the group and between them they have clocked up over 1000 hours of voluntary labour in the last year. Apart from dealing with pests, they have been steadily reducing  invasive weeds and restoring habitat by planting many hundreds of native plants. This year the planting has had boosts with help from students of the Trident High School Green Team.

The outcome of all this work is a significant increase in the bird populations in the saltmarsh and on Uretara Island. Some of these birds are quite rare. And on Uretara, with no more rats to eat the seeds, the forest understory is flourishing with new seedlings.

Ridding the river margins of mice has been another significant achievement and this will allow whitebait to spawn with greater success (mice have a liking for whitebait eggs which they feast on in large quantities).

Building on the huge achievements by this group and several others around the harbour is an ambitious plan to encircle the entire harbour with pest control. If you are lucky enough to live around the harbour and would like to be involved in this plan in any small way, perhaps by looking after a bait station on your property, give us a call.

Written by Tim Senior, Bay of Plenty Regional Council land management officer, Ōpōtiki, Ph. 0800884 881 ext 6010, tim.senior@boprc.govt.nz

Landtalk - 1000 pests in 1000 hours

Cleaning up our rivers

Improving water quality in our rivers and streams is often in the news these days and it’s a major focus for Bay of Plenty Regional Council. One of the many streams that has received attention in recent years is the Nukuhou River which flows into the Ōhiwa Harbour.

All farmers are now good at ensuring their dairy shed effluent doesn’t get into the water. One of the next steps in improving water quality is fencing to keep the stock out of the water. Over the last decade, farmers in this catchment have almost completed fencing off all the streams. In fact about 90% of them are now fenced which amounts to about 125km of fencing – no small task. The job has been made more difficult as old willows slowly collapsing into the stream needed to be removed first.

Native stream bank planting is carried out wherever possible. Shrub willows are often planted in more difficult places where the bank is likely to erode. On a few sharp bends in the stream, careful placement of rock has been necessary to prevent severe erosion.

All this work comes at considerable cost to the farmers though Bay of Plenty Regional Council has assisted wherever possible with technical advice and through subsidised riparian management plans. But the farmers still shoulder the bulk of the cost and all of us who use the water in one way or another further downstream should appreciate their work. There are big benefits for wildlife too.

Slowly but surely regular water testing is beginning to show positive results with almost all the measured indicators showing a trend in the right direction. But there is always more to do, maintaining the work already done and tackling the complex problem of nutrients filtering into the stream.

Written by Tim Senior, Bay of Plenty Regional Council land management officer, Ōpōtiki, Ph. 0800884 881 ext 6010, tim.senior@boprc.govt.nz

Cleaning our rivers - landtalk 

Ōhiwa, a very safe and healthy harbour

A recent report on the environmental monitoring of the health of the Ōhiwa Harbour and its environs showed the harbour to be in a pretty good state. The water quality of the harbour itself is good and the Nukuhou River, its major tributary showed some slight improvement.

Those who enjoy swimming or mucking around in the water in the summer will be pleased to know that, while the water is quite cloudy, it’s very safe for bathing with harmful bacterial levels well within Ministry for the Environment guidelines. The cloudiness is due to a number of factors and this is common in estuaries.

In recent years, the overall quality of the water in the Nukuhou River has been showing some slight improvements. Farmers and Bay of Plenty Regional Council have been working hard to improve the management of the land in the area and this seems to be slowly paying off. For example, nearly all the rivers and streams, and the harbour margin itself, have now been fenced off from stock and the margins planted in many places where it’s possible.

Measuring of the number and variety of small animals and plants which live in the harbour shows that marine life is fairly stable. Shellfish are very sensitive to changes in water quality and a recent Ministry for Primary Industries survey found that numbers of cockles and pipi have increased in recent years. However it is not well understood why most of the cockles remain too small to harvest. Harvestable pipi numbers are also static.

There is still lots to do to improve the overall health of the harbour and the two district councils, the regional council, the four local iwi and DOC are working hard together to do just that.

This column is provided by the Eastern Land Resources team at the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. For more information on pests of all kinds, please call us on 0800 884 881 ext 6010 or at info@boprc.govt.nz

Ohiwa Harbour 

April 2015

Please look out for this aggressive weed

Alligator weed is very aptly named as it can rapidly gobble up farmland, taking over pasture and cropping land and making them almost completely unproductive. And it is very easily spread and extremely difficult to get rid of. It’s one of the worst weeds we have in the bay of Plenty. Recently a new very large infestation has been found in the eastern bay. It brings the number of sites we are dealing with here to five.

Alligator weed originates from South America and is principally an aquatic plant but it’s also quite at home on dry land and spreads very rapidly, growing from the tiniest of fragments. It has opposite leaves up to about 8cm long and has hollow stems to allow it to float in water. While stock will eat it, it can be toxic.

Fragments of alligator weed are very easily spread from place to place by farm machinery so it could quite easily be found almost anywhere. Do you know where contractors’ machinery was before it came to your place?  Has it been cleaned? You certainly don’t want this weed on your place.

Whenever we find this particular weed, we work very closely with the landowner to manage the site and cover all the costs involved with the eradication. These infestations are nearly always identified by observant landowners or agricultural contractors and we really need everyone to be vigilant and let us know about any unfamiliar plants you find.

For a closer look at this plant go to www.boprc.govt.nz/environment/pest-management/ and check out the factsheet. Call our pest hotline on 0800780773 for more information or to report any suspect plant.

Written by Tim Senior, Bay of Plenty Regional Council land management officer, Opotiki, ph 0800 884 881, ext 6010 or email tim.senior@boprc.govt.nz

Landtalk - alligator weed 

March 2015

Wasps

We are fielding a lot of calls about wasps and wasp nests at the moment. Their numbers are probably at their highest at this time of year and will often be found in the house looking for either sugar or protein (they’re very happy to take nibble of your steak at this time of year). The nastiest are German or common wasps. Both are very bright yellow with black markings. For most of us it doesn’t really matter which is which – they both have a nasty sting!

Apart from their impact on us humans with their sting, they also have a significant impact on our native wildlife. They eat huge numbers of other insects which in turn has a big impact on pollination and all the other important services that insects provide. This also means less food for native insect eating birds.

These wasps commonly nest in holes in the ground. But nests are sometimes found under houses or in the roof space or in trees. They consist of a large ball of pale papery scales which gets bigger as the season progresses. These nests are actually quite beautiful structures. But they can contain thousands of wasps. A nest found bursting out of the ground recently in the eastern bay was described as being the size of a couch.

How you deal with any nest you find depends on how brave you are! Beekeepers are often able to help out but this is not usually a free service. You can also find a factsheet on wasps describing how to control them on our pest management pages at www.boprc.govt.nz or call our pest hotline on 0800 780 773.

Written by Tim Senior, Bay of Plenty Regional Council land management officer, Ōpōtiki, Ph. 0800884 881 ext 6010, tim.senior@boprc.govt.nz

Landtalk - wasp 

A valuable plant turned bad

A cultivated kiwifruit vine in Korea is reputed to be 600 years old. A single 30 year old vine can smother 1000 square metres of native bush. Imagine what it could do after 600 years. This is the darker side of this extremely valuable plant and a battle with its wild offspring is underway throughout the Bay of Plenty.

Wild kiwifruit is invading bush throughout the Eastern Bay. Many birds, particularly waxeyes, find the fruit an easy food source. The seeds are spread far and wide in their droppings. As each fruit can contain 1000 seeds, the potential for its spread is substantial. 

Kiwifruit and waxeyeWild kiwifruit vines are often found relatively close to orchards. But we also find them much further afield in all kinds of out of the way places, possibly the result of the discarded remains of someone’s lunch. In the past pig hunters have been known to dump reject fruit in the bush to attract the pigs.

Home gardens also occasionally harbour somewhat neglected vines and it would be helpful if the fruit was always removed from these or if the vine was removed altogether. This is quite easy to do – see our factsheet in the pest management pages of our website, www.boprc.govt.nz

The control of wild vines is becoming increasingly costly to kiwifruit growers who provide the lion’s share of the funding to carry it out through their industry. So it’s in everyone’s interest to keep these wild vines controlled.

If you do come across any wild vines or if you need help with a troublesome vine at home, please call us on our pest hotline, 0800 780 773 and we’ll ensure its dealt with.

This column is provided by the Eastern Land Resources team at the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. For more information on pests of all kinds, please call us on 0800 884 881 ext 6010 or at info@boprc.govt.nz

Photo: Waxeye with kiwifruit 

February 2015

Long term plan for thistles

For many years, Bay of Plenty Regional Council biosecurity staff have been enlisting the help of armies of insects to wage a quiet war on thistles. We have a number of very different problem thistles (all introduced accidentally from overseas) and so we’ve released a number of different ‘biological control’ agents which have a liking for one thistle or another.

There are three agents which feed on nodding thistle. The larvae of the gall fly and receptacle weevil feed on the seeds, and the crown weevil larvae feed on the base of the plant. The receptacle weevil is common on nodding thistles in the eastern bay.

The green thistle beetle feeds on the leaves of Californian thistle. It’s been released in recent years and has now become widespread in the western bay. We’ve had limited success so far in the eastern bay but are hoping to release more beetles shortly.

For the common scotch thistle, there is a gall fly whose larvae feed on the seeds. Thistles are going to seed now and we’ve have recently found thistle seed heads heavily infested by gall fly around the Whakatāne area. We’ll distribute these further afield in the coming years.

This is all bad news for thistles but the good news may be a little slow in coming for affected pastoral farmers. Many of these agents reduce the number of seeds dramatically. But there will be vast numbers of thistle seeds already lying dormant in the soil which we call the seed bank. And unfortunately these seeds can survive there for many decades. So this work is just the beginning of an extremely long term plan to reduce the impact of thistles on our farms.

This column is provided by the Eastern Land Resources team at the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. For more information on pests of all kinds, please call us on 0800 884 881 ext 6010 or at info@boprc.govt.nz

 

January 2015 

Bringing back more birds to Ōhope

It’s now well known that we have a large and ever growing population of kiwi on Whakatāne’s doorstep in the Ōhope reserves. It’s the result of a huge amount of hard work by hundreds of volunteers, not only looking after the birds themselves but also making the reserves a safe haven for them by removing predators – rats, stoats and cats.

The reserves’ pest free status has paved the way for the next step in the restoration of the area with the re-introduction of robins. In August, 40 robins were translocated from Mokoia Island. The birds have evidently found the Ōhope reserves much to their liking and have made themselves very much at home. In fact, as DOC ranger Bridget Palmer says, they must have been making eyes at each other as they left the transfer boxes. Birds were seen feeding fledglings as early as October and some birds have nested for a second and possibly third time.

Robins seem quite unafraid of humans, so you’re already quite likely to be able to see them on a quiet stroll round the Fairbrother Loop track. They are easily spotted as they spend much of their time feeding on the ground or very low down in the trees. They also have a very distinctive melodic call. And unlike kiwi, you don’t’ have to go out at night to find them!

So you know what you’re looking for on your walk, check out the Whakatāne kiwi Trust’s Facebook page where there are lots of great photos and a video of one bird, Charlie, being fed by hand.

This is another outstanding result of all the hard work by the Whakatāne Kiwi Trust, the volunteers and the many sponsors and is supported in part by funding from Bay of Plenty Regional Council.

This column is provided by the Eastern Land Resources team at the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. For more information on pests of all kinds, please call us on 0800 884 881 ext 6010 or at info@boprc.govt.nz

 

Summer on the water 

The long hot days of summer are well and truly here and many of us will be making good use of our rivers and lakes, here and further afield, for fishing, swimming and boating. We’re spoilt for choice.

But while you’re out enjoying the water, please be careful to clean your fishing gear, boats and trailers when you move from one lake or river to another. There are a number of highly invasive and damaging fish and aquatic weeds that we don’t want spread around.

While we haven’t yet found the infamous koi carp (pictured above) in the Bay of Plenty yet, its eggs and those of other unwanted fish are easily spread amongst fragments of weed attached to trailers and boats. The weeds themselves are often invasive ones we don’t want spread around either. And there’s also didymo to be aware of too, and while we still haven’t found it in the North Island we need to take every precaution to make sure it doesn’t arrive.

As far as these pests are concerned, with a few notable exceptions, most of our rivers and lakes are in relatively pristine condition and we can all do our little bit to help keep them that way.

So please check, clean, and dry if you can, all your gear before moving from one waterway to another. It only takes a few minutes but could save us huge costs trying to get rid of a new invader, not to mention the cost to our biodiversity and fisheries.

If you see an unusual fish or aquatic weed or anything you think might be didymo, call the Bay of Plenty Regional Council on 0800 STOP PESTS (0800 780 773) or the national biosecurity hotline on 0800 80 99 66.

This column is provided by the Eastern Land Resources team at the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. For more information on pests of all kinds, please call us on 0800 884 881 ext 6010 or at info@boprc.govt.nz

 

December 2014

Summer at the Beach

Over the last few months, many hundreds of volunteers, from schools, local businesses and other groups, have planted 23,000 native plants along the sand dunes in the eastern Bay of Plenty. It’s an extraordinary achievement but only the latest step in the dune restoration programme that’s been in progress for two decades.

Restored dunes, with their covering of native sand-binding plants, in particular spinifex and pingao are not just nice to look at. They provide habitat for butterflies, lizards and birds. Importantly for us, they provide significant protection for the coastline – and the roads and houses that we’ve built there – from erosion and storm damage. When the dues are functioning correctly with the right plants on them, they rebuild quickly after any storm damage.

So, when you head to the beach for a swim this summer, bear in mind all the work that’s been put into the dunes by so many people. The marked access-ways are there for a good reason – many feet quickly destroy the plants – so please use them.  Horses and vehicles create even more damage so please use them away from the dunes and respect the local bylaws. The photo above shows volunteers from Fonterra in Edgecumbe constructing new walkway fences.

And spare a thought too for the birds – several areas of beach have been temporarily fenced off to protect nests of the rare NZ dotterel.  Please respect these fences too and keep dogs well away.

In the eastern bay, the Coast Care programme is supported by Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Whakatāne and Ōpōtiki District Councils and the Department of Conservation.

Written by Tim Senior, Bay of Plenty Regional Council land management officer, Ōpōtiki. Ph 0800 884 881, ext 6010, tim.senior@boprc.govt.nz

Landtalk - Fonterra

 

A milestone for Uretara Island recovery

We often read of New Zealand islands, often far from shore and often inaccessible, becoming pest free after much hard work and undisturbed havens for wildlife. We now have such an island right in our backyard.

Uretara Island, once bush clad, then populated by Māori and more recently by European settlers and cleared of its bush, eventually became a reserve and the bush slowly began to grow back. But the rat, possum and stoat numbers also continued to grow, steadily decimating the wildlife.

But now another milestone has been reached in slowly turning the island around. Members of the Nukuhou Saltmarsh care group have set out a network of 150 bait stations, each 50m apart. Poison bait was carefully placed in these every few months. The photo shows care group members, loaded up with packs of bait, trudging through the mud to the island.

Recent monitoring shows that his has been a huge success with no rats now being found on the island at all. There is little doubt possums would have met the same fate as the rats.

This will be a huge plus for native birds which will be able to breed without having their nests constantly robbed of eggs and chicks by these predators.

But the lack of rats and possums will also mean a huge increase in large insects and berries. This means more food for the birds and more seedlings taking hold to hasten the repair of the forest.

The stage is now set for the natural biodiversity of this special island to bounce back. The hard work is done voluntarily by the care group members and the equipment and bait is funded by Bay of Plenty Regional Council through its biodiversity programme.

This column is provided by the Eastern Land Resources team at the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. For more information on pests of all kinds, please call us on 0800 884 881 ext 6010 or at info@boprc.govt.nz

Uretara crossing

 

 

November 2014

A new Australian visitor

A sharp eyed local resident recently noted some unusual little bugs on roadside vegetation. Her interest was piqued as they were very pretty with striking green and gold markings. Her investigations as to its identity led to a flurry of interest in scientific and biosecurity circles as it turned out to be a bug that had never been recorded in New Zealand before.

It’s a green tortoise beetle, a native of Australia. Whether it was blown here, or arrived as a hitchhiker in cargo or baggage is unknown. Further investigation is also being carried out by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to find out what it eats as there’s always concern about what impact a new arrival may have on our agricultural industries and our native flora and fauna. We also don’t yet know how widely distributed it is.

Co-incidentally MPI have recently put out an alert about the brown marmorated stink bug. This has not yet been found in New Zealand, but it has already invaded North America from its native Asia, causing considerable damage to many fruit crops. It’s not wanted here of course and MPI have asked people to keep an eye out for it.

However, just to confuse us all, there is a brown form of the common stink bug, or green vegetable bug, and they look very similar. The marmorated stink bug has slightly more striking markings on its back. Go to www.biosecurity.govt.nz to see their fact sheet.

MPI are asking people to catch it and call them.The biosecurity hotline number is 0800 80 99 66. Given the havoc that some new insect arrivals can have can wreak we all need to be vigilant and let them know of any new or suspicious finds.

At www.landcareresearch.co.nz you can find great bug identification guides.

Written by Tim Senior, Bay of Plenty Regional Council land management officer, Ōpōtiki. Ph 0800 884 881, ext 6010, tim.senior@boprc.govt.nz

Green tortoise beetle

Photo: Green tortoise beetle.