Weeds on Motukorea

After the fire on Browns Island, lots of noxious weeds took hold. Although it looked like the crater was going to be dominated by bracken the weeds are winning. Black nightshade is dominant and there are thousands of woolly nightshades coming up, some as large as 1 meter wide already. Inkweed, apple of sodom and boneseed are also sitting up above the kikuyu.

Click for high res 360° image of the crater

Wooly Nightshade

I casually pulled up about 100 mullien but did not make a noticeable impact. Most disturbing was this animal dropping I found on a large mullien leaf.

Forestry and water quality

When I first heard about erosion in the Hunua Ranges causing havoc for Auckland’s water supply I wondered if it was because of recent deforestation. Drone footage shot by Watercare confirmed that theory for me (see stills below from this video). It seems strange media are not talking about it. To me it looks like just another case of our water being compromised for private profit.

A little bird told me Watercare own the land and were in the midst of replanting it with natives – it would be good to know the full details. I will email them.

Response
http://www.watercare.co.nz/about-watercare/news/Pages/Watercare-to-regenerate-pine-forest-in-Hunua-Ranges-with-natives.aspx
(2,089-72 = 2017) So sometime in 2017 they decided to start harvesting. But the wood in the pictures looks at least months old. My guess is the harvesting that caused the contamination was done in 2016 for private profit. Hard to tell from the information received. Awaiting a report with interest.

Evasive weeds

One of the hardest aspects of restoring and maintaining native habitat is weed control. Cliff faces are the most expensive often requiring carrying heavy loads to remote places and abseiling or a helicopter. Today I watched as DOC, Motuihe Trust and Yamaha trailed spraying pampas from an unmanned helicopter. The RMAX helicopters are piloted by remote control and used in a wide range of industrial and research applications overseas. The trial was a success and the team have plans to further improve the precision of the technology.

Fire on Browns Island

Just after the fire was put out on Browns Island I kayaked over to check on the shorebirds. I went for a short walk and was quite upset by the damage done to the reptiles.

I found so many burnt corpses. In places near the edge of the fire (where I think it was less hot) there was a native skink corpse (I checked the head scales) every meter or so. While sad it is nice to know so many lived on the island.
I found so many burnt corpses. In places near the edge of the fire (where I think it was less hot) there was a native skink (I checked the head scales) corpse every meter or so. While sad it is nice to know so many lived on the island.
This rare moko skink survived despite having her tail badly burnt. While other surviving skinks can live of the fat reserves in their tails while their habitat recovers this one will have to work harder.
This rare moko skink has survived despite having her tail badly burnt. While other surviving skinks can live of the fat reserves in their tails (while their habitat recovers) this one will have to work harder.
Although it was sad to see these golden bell frogs roasted alive, they are are not native. I was surprised to see them in multiple spots high up on the crater rim. Some seem to have survived under the rocks.
Although it was sad to see these golden bell frogs roasted alive, they are are not native. I was surprised to see them in multiple spots high up on the crater rim. At least one survived under a rock in the crater.

The rest of my photos here. Hopefully some good comes out of it.

UPDATE 30 DECEMBER 2016:
Six weeks later the grass has largely rejuvenated, however without the smothering grass, many seeds that lay dormant in the soil have germinated. Most of the new arrivals are invasive weeds, I saw wooly nightshade, apple of Sodom boneseed and moth plant. However the center of the crater is more interesting. From under the rocks bracken has emerged (how long could it have waited there?) and I think the reptiles will enjoy the extra cover.

Bracken now dominates the crater
Golden bell frog
Moko skink with re-generating tail

Pure New Zealand

I love James Cameron’s 2010 TED talk which has been used in the latest 100% Pure New Zealand campaign.

Like Cameron, I too grew up reading and drawing science fiction and exploring nature. This year my ‘journey of discovery’ took me deep into the Waitakeres for my own Avatar experience.

Bioluminescence Avatar

There, in the moonlight, I crouched in the middle of a small stream prodding and splashing away like a child. Like Jake Sully I was enchanted with tiny animals that (unlike glowworms who glow for hours) release a bright burst of bioluminescence. The limpets I was teasing are called Latia and they release bioluminescent slime as a defensive mechanism.

You won’t find these alien limpets anywhere else in the world and you also will no longer find them in most New Zealand streams. They need clean water, and we have filled our lakes and rivers with too much sediment for them to survive. Our waterways are far from 100% pure. Most of the rivers that are pristine are high in the South Island where it is too cold for Latia to survive.

Our government wants to treat our streams and rivers like drains. The legislation they have proposed sets extremely low standards for our waterways. I agree with the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment – sediment is one of the three big issues affecting our waterways. Yet our Government has not included sediment as an attribute in the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, and we can’t manage that which we do not measure.

In the 100% Pure ad James Cameron tells us that ‘curiosity is the most powerful thing we own’. My curiosity has changed the way I see the New Zealand environment. It has altered my enjoyment of the New Zealand wilderness. Where before I just saw bush, now see invasive plants. Having heard the morning chorus in our wildlife sanctuaries I am let down by our silent mainland forests.

So a few years ago I started a personal project about the positive stuff – the things that make New Zealand unique. MostNZ.com is a website showcasing what we can celebrate about New Zealand, how to experience those things and most importantly how to keep them. It’s a lot more honest than the 100% campaign but it’s still advertises New Zealand.

We can grow tourism and the economy by growing, protecting and restoring our wilderness. But to do it we need more, James Cameron; more curiosity, more imagination, more vision.

Let’s at least try for 50% pure. Let’s focus on the quality not the quantity of our exports. Let’s start doing restoration at an industrial scale and let’s really invest in our scientists who dream of a predator free New Zealand.

Like the narrative arc of James Cameron’s blockbusters we have tasks to master, battles to win and transformations to witness. The New Zealand story must have our unique environment at its heart.
James Cameron ends his Ted Talk with ‘‘No important endeavour that required innovation was done without risk.” – “Failure is an option, but fear is not.”