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BAY OF PLENTY REGIONAL COUNCIL TOI MOANA

Landtalk - Tim's Blog 2016

December 2016

Predator Free New Zealand a small step closer

Thanks to the votes of over 1000 locals, the Ōhiwa Headland Sanctuary Trust has become one of the Kiwibank Predator Free Communities. This is the latest achievement under the government’s Predator Free New Zealand initiative.

It’s a big step forward for the Trust and the Ōhiwa community. Their vision is to extend the predator control work already being carried out in the area by community groups, Bay of Plenty Regional Council and DOC. The ambitious plan is to put in place traps and bait stations throughout the 430ha of the entire headland to make it predator free.

The initial concept was proposed by a group of local residents and very quickly gained widespread support, so much so that one resident offered to purchase 100 DOC200 traps. With the support now of Predator Free New Zealand and Kiwibank, the vision is well on the way to becoming reality. A total of 140 traps have been purchased so far.

The headland is very defendable from a pest control point of view as it’s bounded the Ohiwa Harbour to the west, the Waiōtahe estuary on the east, the ocean to the north and a road to the south on the landward side, by a road.

The area contains valuable habitat for some rare shore birds and marsh birds which should soon be able to thrive unmolested by predators. But the area also contains many remnants of coastal forest, important habitat for many other more common forest birds, and their numbers will also be allowed to increase in the absence of predators. It will be a fantastic place to visit in years to come with the native wildlife restored to something like its former glory.

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

Predator Free New Zealand a small step closer 

Predator control and hard work pays off!

Six years ago Uretara Island, in the middle of Ohiwa Harbour, was alive with rats, mice and possums. Since then the Nukuhou Saltmarsh Care group, who care for the nearby Nukuhou saltmarsh area, have had the support of Bay of Plenty Regional Council, and The Department of Conservation, in reclaiming Uretara for the birds.

The Care Group got stuck into pest control in a big way. They now maintain 140 rat bait stations, placed in a 75m grid covering the island, along with 10 stoat traps. They also have bait stations and traps as buffer protection on the closest neighbouring mainland.

As a result, rat numbers on Uretara have been reduced to 0%. Which is quite an achievement in itself but what it means for the wildlife is even better.

Regular bird counts gauge the effects of this predator control. Fernbirds have been selected as an indicator species, since they live and nest low to the ground and are easily killed by rats and stoats. They are territorial, weak fliers and very vocal which makes them easy to count.

The group now have conclusive evidence that this predator control works and their efforts have been worthwhile. Fernbird numbers are doubling every year. In 2014 the fernbird count averaged just 10 birds, in 2015, 20 birds and this year, 42 birds. Other birds are likely to be responding in a similar way. Group volunteers have noted a rapid regeneration of native seedlings, now rats no longer eat most of the seeds.

Get in touch with Stuart Slade (s.m.slade@xtra.co.nz), 3124583, if you want to join this successful but ongoing effort.

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

ferbird 

November 2016

Restoring the Whakatāne Estuary

Many readers will have noticed the brown, dead pampas along the western river bank. The Whakatāne Estuary care group are responsible for the demise of this weed that dominates the area, including the small islands opposite the wharf. It was a major logistical effort involving the use of a barge and the support of the Regional Council. The group hope to finish spraying pampas this week. But after that there will still be more work to do as there are a large number of other invasive weeds and pest plants that dominate the area.

But this is only the group’s latest venture. Over recent years, they have tackled the rats along the town side of the estuary in an effort to protect the many birds that nest along the estuary margins. If you’ve walked along the Warren Cole walkway, you may have noticed the bait stations along the track.

Most of the invasive weeds in and around the Apanui saltmarsh have been removed, though it’s an ongoing battle with some of them! The weeds are steadily being replaced by planting with native plants and thousands have been planted so far.

Regular monitoring of the birds in the area shows that there are around 30 species present and the variety of habitat from sandflats to saltmarsh provides refuge for marshbirds, shore birds, waders and waterfowl.

And then there’s all the rubbish that needs to be regularly picked up and removed….

The group have taken on a huge challenge in trying to restore the estuary to the native wonderland it should be. There’s lots to do and if you’re interested in helping out at their regular working bees, give Rene de Jong a call on 3048158.

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

Restoring the Whakatāne Estuary 

October 2016

The tree we hate the most

Spring has well and truly arrived, the warm weather drawing plants of all kinds into bloom. But one of these flowering plants is universally disliked. Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense) will burst into flower over the next few weeks. Its profusion of white flower panicles exudes a powerful and unpleasant scent.

The clusters of small berries that will begin to appear as the flowers finish are enjoyed by birds who spread the seeds far and wide in their droppings. The resulting bushes can be found almost anywhere from sand dunes to bush to gardens. Like gorse, it was brought here from Asia for use as a hedge plant. Unfortunately it proved rather too successful.

Of all the invasive weeds, it’s the one we hear most about. It is a serious environmental weed, often completely replacing native vegetation. It is also considered by some to aggravate asthma and hay fever. But it is worth remembering though that most grasses will flower at the same time and the cloud of invisible, scentless pollen that they produce is proven to produce respiratory complaints. The problem may actually be the grass.

Unfortunately privet is so widespread that there is no possibility of eradicating it or even of effectively controlling its spread (although biological controls are currently being investigated by Landcare Research). The Regional Council is unable to enforce the control of privet but we’re happy to provide advice. The best way of killing it is to cut it down and treat the cut stump with herbicide to prevent re-growth. Go to our website, www.boprc.govt and look for our privet factsheet which tells you exactly how to do it.

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

privet 

Help needed to solve Rook mystery

Last spring I wrote about a small colony of rooks which had established near Ōpōtiki. A pair nested and raised three chicks last year. We had a plan to deal with these unwanted birds but before we could do anything, they disappeared. A single bird has recently been seen near Ōhiwa. We’d really like to know where these birds have gone to. They are likely to be nesting in a very prominent tree at the moment and will be very noticeable. They are very smart birds and easily spooked so we ask that you don’t disturb any you find – just let us know!

Rooks are slightly bigger than a magpie but they’re glossy black all over. Their beak is dark grey, straight and very prominent with a grey skin flap around the nostrils and throat. They will usually be seen in small groups and their call is an unmistakable harsh “kaah”.

Rooks were introduced from Europe in the late nineteenth century to help control insect pests on agricultural land. While they do indeed eat large numbers of insects, they also tear up pasture looking for them. They also have a liking for grain, maize and other large seeds and can cause a lot of damage to these crops.

In the Bay of Plenty Regional Pest Management Plan, rooks are classified as an eradication pest which means Regional Council staff or contractors will carry out any control necessary.

But to do that, we need to know where the birds are! So if you see one, please call 0800 STOP PESTS (0800 786 773) or the number below. You can find out more at www.boprc.govt.nz/pestanimals.

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

Rook

We need your help!

Regional Council biosecurity officers have been busy in the eastern bay over the last couple of years dealing with a number of new pest incursions. Some of these pests have been in New Zealand for a long time but continue to turn up in new places. One of the worst weeds in agricultural land, the aggressive and aptly named alligator weed, has been found at a number of new sites. And while it’s been around for a while, yellow bristle grass is now becoming a real headache for dairy farmers.

Wallabies have been found in places they haven’t been seen before. A family of rooks, aggressive birds that can wreck maize crops, have appeared near Ōpōtiki (see photo above). A red eared slider, a turtle with a taste for whitebait, was found in a local river.

Then there are new pests which have found their way through our rigorous border controls. The giant willow aphid has spread rapidly through the area over the last two years and there seems to be little we can do about it. In fact new to New Zealand insects turn up on a regular basis.

Almost all these new incursions have been reported to us by members of the public. We rely heavily on the public to report plants, animals and insects that seem unusual or out of place. We can often deal with a new pest when we catch it early. But as numbers grow, the job becomes harder and more expensive – if not impossible.

So please, keep the reports coming! Ring us on 0800 STOP PESTS, email STOP.PESTS@boprc.govt.nz or call the number 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

September 2016

Want to learn more about nutrient management on your farm?

For some years now, farmers, dairy farmers in particular have been diligently fencing their streams and often planting the fenced off banks. Stream crossings are generally better managed and often replaced with bridges. Managing dairy shed effluent disposal has also improved considerably over the last decade. All this work has had a positive effect on the quality of water in many of our streams with sediment and bacteria levels dropping.

But as recent events elsewhere in the country have shown, there are less visible ways that nutrients and bacterial contaminants get into our streams and groundwater. These pathways are a little more difficult to fix.

The Bay of Plenty Regional Council is committed to helping farmers develop solutions for their farms and to front foot some of the challenges which just keep coming. To this end, we are hosting a free nutrient management seminar. Well known independent farm consultant, Alison Dewes, will provide some insight into nutrient management plans, pathways of nutrient loss and possible solutions that could even save you money.

Dairy farmers will benefit most from this seminar, but drystock farmers will find it useful too.

When: Wednesday 28th September, 9.30 – 12.30

Where: Awakeri Events Centre

It’s free! And we’ll provide you with a generous morning tea. Please RSVP to Mieke Kapa at mieke.kapa@boprc.govt.nz or on 0800 884 881, ext 9534. If you’d like to find out more, give her a call.

You can see more of what Alison has to offer at www.tipuwhenua.com.

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

cow 

Our disappearing bittern

Recently an injured bittern was picked up off the Wainui Road (luckily by someone who knew what it was and how precious it is). Having been sent away for expert care and successful rehabilitation, it was released back into the Ōhiwa Harbour last week.

It was a precious bird because bittern are now quite rare, much rarer even than kiwi. Which is partly why so few people have ever seen one. They also live in marshes where not many people venture and their mottled brown plumage blends with the vegetation.

The wetlands and marshes they inhabit have mostly been drained now and they have few refuges left. There are a handful of birds which live in the saltmarshes around the Ōhiwa Harbour and possibly one or two other wetlands in the eastern bay. As they nest on the ground, they are easy prey for predators so the increasing predator control around the harbour and some other wetlands will be helping with their survival.

Over the years, several have sadly been found dead on Wainui Road. When alarmed, they stand very still with their head and neck erect – not very safe behaviour when they are surprised by an oncoming car. Please watch out for them!

If you’re out and about at dawn or dusk at this time of year, you may be lucky enough to hear a male making his booming call to attract a mate. They are a little bigger than herons but with a shorter, thicker neck and heavier body.

We don’t know how many bittern there actually are around here and we don’t know much about their movements. We need to find out more, so if you do see or hear one, please let us know.

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

bitton 

August 2016

Anyone for turtle fritters?

It’s not every day that a whitebaiter finds a turtle in their net. But that is what happened to a surprised whitebaiter quietly fishing on an eastern bay riverbank recently. The turtle was a red eared slider, so called because of the distinctive red stripe behind each eye and their habit of sliding off rocks and logs into the water. Worryingly, it’s not the first to have been found in that same river.

Red eared sliders are widely considered to be one of the world’s 100 worst invasive species. They originate from the southern United States and Mexico and are commonly (and legally) kept in home aquariums. They are usually bought as cute tiny pets for children but can become something of a problem when they reach adult size – as big as a dinner plate. At this point owners may get fed up with them and release them into the wild.

These turtles have a very varied diet and this one was possibly feasting on whitebait. They are also known to eat birds’ eggs and chicks. It’s not known if they can breed in New Zealand conditions but we don’t really want to wait to find out. Many of our native freshwater fish and birds are already struggling to survive as it is as a result of habitat loss and the predations of rats and introduced fish.

This slider was lucky enough to be re-homed. But please, any sort of unwanted pet, including aquarium creatures (and aquarium plants) should never be released into the wild. They can usually be rehomed through the SPCA or a pet shop.

If you do happen to see a red eared slider, or any other unusual animal, please let us know at the number 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

Red Eared Slider

Better water for all

The quality of the water in our rivers and streams has been much in the news lately. Here in the eastern bay we don’t face the serious issues of some other regions but there still are some significant improvements that need to be made in many of our rivers. Bay of Plenty Regional Council has a big role to play in ensuring that water quality is of an acceptable standard for local communities and that future generations inherit healthy streams and plentiful water.

In recent years most towns, industries and farms have made huge improvements in the quality of their various waste discharges into rivers. The next step is to ensure that domestic stock is kept out of rivers and streams. Again, many farmers have already made sure that their streams are fenced and, ideally, have their margins planted but there is still a way to go. As this work provides benefits for the wider community, the regional council can generally provide assistance with this work, offering technical advice and financial assistance.

The council has a team of land management officers whose role is to work with farmers, landowners and communities to deliver this assistance. For those of you in the Rangitāiki River catchment, your contact is Mieke Kapa, 0275381586. Mieke is based in Whakatāne. People in the Ōpōtiki district should get in touch with Tim Senior, based in Ōpōtiki, 0274958834. If you live just about anywhere else in the eastern bay, Charles Harley is the man to talk to on 021657581. Charles is also based in Whakatāne.

The team are also keen to work with landowners to identify ways of reducing the flow of farm nutrients (from fertiliser and stock) into waterways. This movement of nutrients is invisible but significant.

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

Better water for all

July 2016

Willows under pressure

Now that willow trees have lost their leaves for the winter, it’s hard not to notice the black appearance of the trunks and branches of many of the trees. It’s sooty mould, which grows on the excretions of giant willow aphids. The population of this aphid has exploded all around the country after first being found in Auckland in 2013. And it’s causing considerable concern for regional councils and others.

The aphids live on the sugars in the trees’ sap and while its impact on the trees is as yet unknown, it does seem likely that a large loss of sap will weaken the trees over time. This could have serious consequences as willows are used extensively for river bank and soil erosion protection. As they flower very early in spring, willows also provide a crucial early supply of nectar and pollen for bees.

The aphid’s honeydew excretions also provide food for wasps so we may also see long term increases in wasp numbers. Bees also harvest the honeydew, which alters the characteristics of the honey they produce and discolours it. It’s hard to find any up-side to this particular critter!

Research is being carried out to identify the long term impacts of the aphid on willows and to identify less susceptible willow varieties. There is also consideration being given to finding natural parasitoids of the aphid in its homelands in Asia, which could then be released here.

New Zealand’s border biosecurity protection is pretty robust and keeps many pests out of the country but the giant willow aphid is one of a number which manage to sneak through from time to time. It’s a good reminder, in Biosecurity Month, of how important biosecurity is to this country.

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

Giant Willow Aphid photo 

Reforesting our dunes

Since the opening of the Mōtū Trails cycleway in 2012, the dunes section of the trail, just east of Ōpōtiki, has been in the spotlight. As a result, some 10,000 native plants have been planted by an army of volunteers to try to restore the dunes to something like their former glory.

The plants grow slowly in this harsh environment but early plantings are now becoming quite visible, giving a hint of what the area might look like in years to come. Even some previously very rare plants, like the native shore spurge, Euphorbia glauca, are making a healthy come-back.

On Sunday 24th July, another 1500 plants will go into the ground. Further plantings will take place on the 7th and 21st August. We’d love you to come and join us for a couple of hours to help and you’ll even get a hot lunch when the work is done! Bring your bike and enjoy a ride on the trail afterwards.

This work is the culmination of another year of preparation, weed control and pest control. Rabbits have a taste for many of the small plants, so hundreds of rabbit burrows have been treated to reduce their exploding population.

The whole project is a collaboration between the Mōtū Trails Charitable Trust, Ōpōtiki District Council, DOC, Bay of Plenty Regional Council and, most importantly, the local community. Again this year a large group of volunteers will be coming all the way from Auckland to help out.

So come and join us for a morning on the dunes. Please bring a spade if you can. We’ll meet up at 9.30am Sunday 24th July at the Hikuwai Beach carpark and toilets.

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

Dunes 

June 2016

Join the Annual Garden Bird Survey

This week sees the return of the annual garden bird survey. This is the tenth annual survey making it the one of longest running citizen science projects in the country. Last year 3500 people participated and 138,000 birds were counted. The survey attempts to find out whether garden bird populations are increasing, declining or remaining stable. Anyone can join in and it’s very simple to do.

While many of the birds recorded are common introduced birds (the most common last year as you might guess was the house sparrow), there are a number of native birds commonly seen in gardens too. The native birds in the top 10 birds seen last year were the silvereye, tui and fantail.

We have a number of rare native birds that are monitored carefully to allow action to be taken if their numbers dip too low to ensure we don’t lose them. But we know very little about our more common native birds. This survey should act as an early warning system if we start to see a decline in the numbers of any of these birds in the surveys. But monitoring these birds across the country is an enormous task which is why assistance is needed from as many people as possible.

All you need to do is sit in a comfortable seat in your garden or inside by a window, any time between the 25th June and the 3rd July and record the birds you see. You can also carry out the survey in a park or a school. If you go to www.landcareresearch you can find out exactly what to do.

It’s quite a pleasant way to spend an hour on a nice sunny winter’s day!

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

tui 

Join in with some winter planting

The arrival of cooler wetter weather spells the start of the planting season. Some garden plants aside, most plants appreciate being planted during the winter, and the earlier the better. This gives them a chance to get their roots well established in the ground and gives them a better chance of surviving the hot drier weather of summer.

Community groups and volunteers all over the eastern bay between them will be planting thousands of native plants this winter, bit by bit restoring the landscape to its former glory. Sand binding plants will go into the sand dunes, trees will be returned to river banks and steep hillsides, schools will get a make-over and parks will be enhanced.

These planting sessions are always great social affairs, an opportunity to meet new people, get some exercise and gain the satisfaction of doing your bit towards the restoration of some special places. What could be more pleasant than spending a few hours of a sunny winter’s day on the beach planting up some sand dunes?

If you’d like to be involved in any of these planting sessions, let us know and we’ll point you in the direction of a planting near you.

If you’re a private landowner with a stream or a wetland that needs planting or a steep hillside that needs retiring and planting, now’s the time to start. We are here to provide advice and we can often help with funding to provide the plants and the necessary fencing.

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

planting day 

Winning the war on pests

Back in 2004 members of the Nukuhou Saltmarsh Care Group took up the challenge of doing battle with pests in their local saltmarsh. Since then the battle has turned into more of an ongoing war as they take on further challenges and the pests keep coming. The group held its annual get together and AGM at the weekend and had a number of achievements to celebrate.

Between them, the 40 members of the group gave nearly 2000 hours of their time to the war effort last year with about half of these hours spent on keeping Uretara Island in the Ohiwa Harbour free of pests. Rats are good swimmers and so the battle against them is ongoing. The trapped pest count for the year is 7 stoats, 25 weasels, 78 rats and 23 mice. Many more rats and possums will have succumbed to the poison baits laid in a carefully designed network. Constant vigilance keeps the island and the saltmarsh pest free.

And then there’s the weed control and replacing the weeds with natives. Keeping mice numbers down in the whitebait spawning area. Picking up other peoples’ rubbish along the Wainui Road bordering the saltmarsh, 100’s of kilos of it.

The results are obviously immensely satisfying for the group. Monitoring shows bird numbers are increasing, notably some of the rare secretive marshbirds – fernbird and banded rail. Native seedlings and ground dwelling insects on the island have exploded with the removal of rats. Hundreds of visitors enjoy the boardwalk and riverside walk, all built by the group. School groups have the opportunity of helping out with the work and contribute to the successes.

If you’d like to join this satisfying war effort, give Stuart Slade, the Care Group leader, a call on 073124583.

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

seedlings arrive

May 2016

Unwanted bird in the Bay

A small number of red-vented bulbuls have been spotted in Auckland in the last few years and they hit the headlines when a reward was offered for sightings of them which led to their capture. No rewards were ever paid out and it’s thought that there are still a few birds in Auckland.

Closer to home, a red-vented bulbul was reported by a member of the public in Te Puke recently. It has since been dealt with and removed and we hope there weren’t more. These birds, originating from parts of Asia from India to China, are thought to have been accidentally arrived here on ships. But we really don’t need yet another pest here. Red-vented bulbuls are notorious elsewhere for the damage they do to flower buds, fruit crops and vegetables causing significant damage. They are also very aggressive, chasing off other birds and competing with them for food. And they breed prolifically.

As a result, MPI, DOC and regional councils are keen to eradicate the birds that are here and to prevent their spread around the country.

About the size of a starling, these birds are quite recognisable by the bright red patch under their tail and the black crest on their head. They also have very distinctive calls which you can hear on the MPI website at www.biosecurity.govt.nz/pests

As with all new unwanted pests arriving in the country, we rely heavily on you, the public, to alert us to anything unusual. In this case, if you spot one of these birds, call MPI on 0800 80 99 66 or the regional council on 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

bulbul bird 

Please watch out for alligator 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. 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 infestation has been found in the eastern bay. It brings the number of sites we are dealing with here to six.

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. The latest find is in a kiwifruit orchard. 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 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 to report any suspect plant.

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

Landtalk - alligator weed

April 2016

Autumn wasps!

The Regional Council is getting lots of calls about wasps at the moment. Wasp numbers seem to be about normal for this time of year but this is the time when they can be a bit more annoying than usual. German wasps and common wasps, which are hard to tell apart, are feeding on sugary things at the moment so they are looking for anything sweet. This means that you will often find them in the garden feeding on fruit and they seem particularly fond of grapes, probably because they have a thin skin which the wasps can easily pierce.

In these situations there’s not much that can be done about them – unless you can find the nest. If you do find a nest (usually in a hole in the ground), the nest can be poisoned you can kill the wasps. You can find out how to do this on our website at http://www.boprc.govt.nz/environment/pest-management/fact-sheets/

While we can give advice about wasp control, we are not able to do the work for you. There are pest control companies and even some beekeepers who can provide this service.

Paper wasps (which can be distinguished from other wasps by their long, dangling, orange legs when they are flying) are also particularly noticeable just now. They can often be seen flying backwards and forwards along fences or other structures. They are more easily dealt with as they are not very aggressive and a squirt with household flyspray will do the trick.

But you won’t have to put up with any of them much longer, they will start to die off soon as the cooler weather arrives.

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 - wasp

A bright future for Ōhiwa Harbour

An exciting new action plan for Ōhiwa Harbour and its catchment was given the go ahead by the Ōhiwa Harbour Implementation Forum recently when the Forum gave its blessing to a revamped Ōhiwa Harbour Strategy. The Forum partnership is made up of Whakatāne and Ōpōtiki councils, the regional council and the four local iwi.

The new strategy builds on the work already done since the first version was launched in 2008. It reflects community aspirations for the harbour and its catchment and includes actions designed to keep the harbour a special place.

Over the next year, the Ōhiwa Strategy partners will work with farmers to fence off another length of stream and holding nutrient management workshops to help improve water quality.

Monitoring of all aspects of the health of the harbour is an ongoing task and this year a number of known rare plants will be checked, seed collected and new populations established wherever possible.

The partners will be looking for more opportunities to work with harbour residents to extend weed and pest control around the harbour margins.

Ōhiwa is also a special place for recreation and a plan will be developed to ensure that people can continue to enjoy everything the harbour has to offer. The evolving heritage trail will be developed further to provide visitors with opportunities to learn more about the harbour.

There is plenty for the partners to do! But recognition and thanks need to go to the many people from the local community who generously provide their time and effort help with this work in so many ways, big and small.

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 

March 2016

New weed alert for farmers

Velvetleaf (Abutilon theophrasti) is a highly invasive crop weed and is listed as an Unwanted Organism. It has been found in the Waikato in the past but the recent discovery of velvetleaf in fodder beet crops in the South Island has necessitated a response from MPI, with the aim of preventing it from becoming established. It’s considered one of the world’s worst cropping weeds. It grows rapidly and in large numbers will overwhelm crops.

Because velvetleaf seed can remain viable for over 50 years in the soil, the removal and destruction of plants before they have the chance to set seed is vital. It is essential to discover and remove any plants as soon as possible.

It’s an annual broadleafed plant growing up to 2m tall. The leaves are large and heart-shaped and feel velvety to the touch. The yellow flowers produce distinctive seedpods with 12-15 segments in a cuplike ring.

Farmers are asked not to attempt removal of any suspect plant but to photograph it if possible, mark its location and report it immediately through the 0800 80 99 66 MPI hotline which will ensure a swift response from an investigator.

While the latest incursion is in fodder beet crops, in the Waikato it has been found in maize. In the eastern bay, dairy farmers and maize contractors in particular should be on the lookout for it. At this stage, it’s highly unlikely to be found in gardens or in the wild.

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

Velvetleaf 

Working towards better water

The quality of the water in our rivers and streams nationally is much in the news at the moment. The government has given regional councils the job of working with landowners and local communities to ensure that water quality in their local rivers is of a standard that is acceptable to local people.

Here in the eastern bay the regional council has been working with landowners to protect streams and rivers for many years and a lot of work has already been done by farmers and community groups. Currently the main focus is on the Rangitāiki and Ōhiwa Harbour catchment.

For many years, the regional council has been monitoring water quality in many of our rivers and we have a good picture of what is happening in them. You can check out the state of your local river, and other rivers around the country, online on the LAWA website, www.lawa.org.nz. Here you can also see the trends over time illustrated by simple infographics. For example, the Nukuhou River, which flows into the Ōhiwa Harbour is showing a steadily improving trend in almost all the water quality indicators. It’s also the LAWA river of the month.

Most farmers and landowners are well aware of the need to take action and this improvement is testament to their hard work, improving their dairy shed effluent management, fencing streams, planting their margins and retiring steep land. The regional council supports this work with financial incentives and technical support and the work is clearly paying off. There is plenty more to do but the issues are complex and not fixed overnight.

Many farmers are proud of what they’re doing but as one recently said it’s not easy to find the balance between a profitable business and good water quality. And we all derive benefit from both.

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

Stream planting 

February 2016

A helping hand for the birds of Ōhiwa Harbour

Apart from being a great place for us to enjoy ourselves at the weekend the Ōhiwa Harbour is an enormously important place for birds of all kinds. The numbers of many of them were steadily dwindling for many years until members of various care groups intervened on their behalf.

The nesting of many of the wading birds is still affected to the vagaries of high tides and storms but the control of rats, stoats and some of the predatory black backed gulls has made a huge difference.

This year as a result, many of these wading birds bred very successfully. In particular the Caspian terns set a record with 45 birds raising 20 chicks. Similarly some 250 white fronted terns raised over 100 chicks. Variable oystercatchers fledged around 20 chicks and red and black billed gulls fledged about 80 chicks.

This is an excellent result thanks to the persistent work of a small number of care group members who regularly maintain the traps and bait stations, keep the invading weeds under control and carefully monitor the nests. Keeping humans, vehicles and dogs away from the nesting sites is sometimes an extra battle for them too.

Most of us take the wheeling, chattering flocks of these birds, and the thousands of godwits and other migratory birds, for granted but the harbour would be a very different place without them. Bird watchers come from all over the world to see these birds.

There is always more to be done to look after our vulnerable wildlife, so if you’d like to help with this work please get in touch on the number below.

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

wading birds 

Another weed removed from the district?

African feather grass is an invasive grass which over time can take over and dominate pasture. It’s avoided by stock, which allows it to get ahead. So it’s not a good pasture grass. As a significant threat to our regional agriculture production, it’s listed as a containment pest plant in the Regional Pest Management Plan.

We are not sure how long this weed has been present in the Ōpōtiki District but our records show that in 2000 it was found mainly in the coastal area around Ōhiwa and Ōpōtiki and infested an area of about 24ha over 12 sites. All 12 sites have been carefully inspected at least once a year since 2000 and no new sites have been identified since 2000. Any plants found have been sprayed.

This year, for the first time, no African feather grass plants have been found at any of the known sites. Since the seeds are generally fairly short lived, we are hopeful that we have finally eradicated this weed from the Ōpōtiki District.

Identifying it is not easy as at first glance it resembles any other grass with long leaves and is only really obvious briefly when it flowers around Christmas. It has a very distinctive, long flower head. If you do see anything which looks like the photo above, please let us know!

This is a good example of catching an invasive weed early on in its establishment. When we do this, we can often eradicate it. Once a weed has become common, like privet or gorse, eradication becomes impossible. So we really do need your help in keeping an eye out for unusual weeds and reporting them to us.

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

African Feather 

January 2016

Look for Rooks

A small flock of rooks has recently been reported just east of Ōpōtiki. This is not a bird we want establishing in the eastern bay so we’re asking for anyone who sees any of these birds to let us know.

Rooks are slightly bigger than a magpie but they’re glossy black all over, with a violet-blue tint in the right light. Their beak is dark grey, straight and very prominent with a grey skin flap around the nostrils and throat. They will usually be seen in small groups and their call is an unmistakable harsh “kaah”.

Rooks were introduced from Europe in the late nineteenth century to help control insect pests on agricultural land. While they do indeed eat large numbers of insects, they also tear up pasture looking for them. They also have a liking for grain, maize and other large seeds and can cause a lot of damage to these crops when the seed is sown.

In the Bay of Plenty, small populations of rooks around Rangitaiki and Galatea have been subjected to ongoing control in recent years. But they are very smart birds and easily spooked so we ask that you don’t disturb any you find. In the Bay of Plenty Regional Pest Management Plan, they are classified as an eradication pest which means Regional Council staff or contractors will carry out any control.

But to do that, we need to know where the birds are! So if you see one, please call 0800 STOP PESTS (0800 786 773). You can find out more at www.boprc.govt.nz/pestanimals.

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

Rook 

A new weapon against wasps

As the summer progresses, wasps will start to make their presence felt. They are one of our most unpleasant pests, and in some places in some years, they can reach plague proportions in the late summer.

They are a well-known hazard for people and multiple stings can be quite dangerous. But apart from this wasps can have a devastating effect on wildlife. Wasps need protein at certain times of the year and at these times they consume huge numbers of insects of all kinds. This in turn reduces the food available to our many insect eating native birds. Wasps can also cause significant losses when they attack beehives and vineyards.

For years, scientists have been looking for a way to exploit wasps need for protein and produce a protein based poison bait. A private Nelson based company, Merchanto, has finally made a breakthrough and produced a bait called Vespex which is highly attractive to wasps but of no interest to bees and poses little risk to humans or animals. It means that the need to find wasp nests and apply poison directly to the entrance, often a dangerous exercise, is not necessary as wasps take the bait back to their nests themselves where they feed it to their larvae. Trials of the bait in severely wasp infested areas have reduced wasp populations by up to 95%.

However, while this bait is technically available to the public, it needs to be used carefully, systematically and can only be used in bait stations. So bait users need to be approved and registered before they can purchase it. This involves an online test and a small fee. You can find out more at www.merchento.com.

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