I made iNaturalists observation of the week. Read about leaf-veined slugs here.
New Zealand has two praying mantises, the invasive South African praying mantis and the native New Zealand praying mantis. The easiest way to tell the two species apart is the shape of the head. The thorax (bit that connects their heads to their abdomens) is much wider on a New Zealand mantis so by comparison the South Africans look like hammerheads.
I have started work helping New Zealanders keep their Parks and Reserves. Building and Construction Minister Dr Nick Smith says that we have to “choose between using land for houses or cows”. This is ridiculous – saying our reserves are for cows is like saying Eden park is for lawn mowers!
Smil, V. 2003. The Earth’s Biosphere: Evolution, Dynamics, and Change, MIT Press
Today I presented to the Local Government and Environment select committee on the Point England Development Enabling Bill. Link to submission below.
Things I learnt:
- Committee members will not read your submission before hand so make sure you spend most of your time covering your key points.
- You may only have 5 minutes but double if you are an organisation.
- Try and say something unique but the committee definitely needs to hear the same points made twice before they sink in.
- Ask for Powerpoint facilities before the hearing is scheduled.
Ngāti Paoa have been great and let me talk to Morphum who are doing an Environmental Assessment for consenting purposes. No one has made any promises and I am anxious the developers are not incentivised to do right thing for the birds, but I am optimistic. Note the logo on the development website above.
After more than half a century Green Lipped mussels have not returned to the soft seafloor of the Hauraki Gulf. However only 100km north at the mouth of the Whangarei Harbour something magic happened. Out of nowhere a huge bed of mussels appeared. I was slow to document it but here are some photos by Dr. Mary A. Sewell in April 2016.
The bed was quickly consumed. Locals could park their cars a few meters from the beds. There were reports of people turning up with wheel barrows and of cars and boats being confiscated for those who exceeded their limits. The beds have now been decimated, I turned up eight months later at low tide and followed some locals to the remaining beds. They looked like this:
The remaining bed ran along the edge of the drop off about 4m at low tide and supported a wide range of marine life. On my way back to the beach I wondered what conditions bought about this beautiful natural phenomena? There may well have been sufficient spat from mussels growing on the refinery wharf, but did a closure of the cockle beds promote natural the recovery? Could the neighbouring marine reserve have played a part? Was this a once off or part of the recovery of the Whangarei harbour since the Firth cement works has cleaned up its act? Then I spotted these:
It seems the cockle and pipi shells have created a firm substrate for the juvenile mussels to attach to. Is this how the bed started of? No hydroids or red filamentous algae to attach to, just green algae and shell? If so this is a recipe worth exploring for aided restoration elsewhere in New Zealand.
Note there was a large pipi & cockle die off on the shell bank where mussels appeared.
UPDATE: Nov 2017
The bed is back! The juveniles I photographed have grown and there are now house sized mussel beds growing on the shell banks. There are isolated individuals ranging for a hundred meters or so west of the main bed. Most mussels were around 6-8cm long. I could not find blue mussels in the bed, I did however see fish eggs, octopus, crabs, evidence of fish feeding on the mussels, triplefins and many shorebirds enjoying the exposed reef. The mussels were also growing in smaller patches off the edge of the sand bank into the channel where I found the remnants in Dec 16.
Hopefully this bed continues to regenerate despite the massive human harvesting effort. Identifying and protecting the seed stock would go a long way towards this.
The current here is very strong, here is a short video of 1,000s of young tuatua swept in current.
Images have been released of the Point England concept plan.
Although it looks pretty and I welcome the Omaru creek enhancements (that Watercare have been working on) and the walkway upgrades (that Auckland Council have been working on) there are some major problems:
- 50% of the existing dotterel nesting ground will be replaced with houses (click on the map below).
- Northern New Zealand dotterel don’t use wetlands or go near trees, they need open space. However the proposed wetland will be great for the pukeko and spur-winged plover which predate the dotterel.
- The houses and pathways will bring people cats and dogs into the area destroying the bird roost. The Tamaki Estuary will loose 50-90% of its remaining shorebirds (mostly South Island pied oyster catchers).
But lets not take my word for it (I am not a ecological scientist). We need an independent ecological impact assessment done before the bill is passed.
Follow the development at savePE.org.nz