Reversing the decline of the Shorebirds of the Tāmaki Estuary

I presented this report to the Maungakiekie-Tāmaki Local Board today as they are yet to seek advice from a shorebird expert at Auckland Council in developing their Open Space Network Plan (OSNP).

It recommends:

  1. Shorebird expert to review the report.
  2. Local Boards commit to reverse declining shorebird numbers.
  3. OSNP revised with dedicated and enhanced shorebird roosts.
  4. Serious investments in shorebird roost protection and enhancement.

I have also attached my amendments to the OSNP and my submission on the OSNP above.

UPDATE: 1 May 2019.
Great response from the Ōrākei Local Board, nothing from the Maungakiekie-Tāmaki Local Board (yet) who have approved their Open Space Network Plan with no space for shorebirds.

UPDATE: 18 June 2019
Great article on the report by Farrah Hancock here

UPDATE: 12 July 2019
“The report’s recommendations accord closely with the Council’s policies and objectives to protect biodiversity in the Auckland region.”
– Dr Tim Lovegrove

UPDATE: 01 September 2019
Report covered on page 9 of the Panmure Business & Community Newsletter

UPDATE: 12 September 2019

The MTLB have made changes to the OSNP as follows:

Page/title Amended text
Page 10 (Coastlines and Waterways)

The Tāmaki Estuary is home to a varied number of shorebird species. The shorebirds roost in the reserves along the coastal edge throughout the year including Point England Reserve, Wellington War Memorial Reserve and Tahuna Torea Nature Reserve.

Several species are threatened and the populations are in decline.

Threats to the shorebirds include disturbance of their roosts preventing them from resting, particularly at high tide, from lighting of the reserves at night, dogs, humans, unsuitable vegetation and construction.

Page 20 (Environmental Quality) + Shorebird populations are in decline due to their roosts within the coastal reserves being disturbed
Page 36 (Improve biodiversity and water quality)

Protect and enhance shorebird roosting areas:

+ Investigate opportunities to restore roosting areas for shorebird populations

+ Provide opportunities to protect existing roosting areas.

The wording is well chosen and at a high level it addresses my core concerns. A good start to reversing the decline of the shorebirds in the Tāmaki Estuary.

UPDATE: 7 May 2020
The authors have really taken on board the feedback! Shorebirds (which contain the most conservation dependant species in the region) were excluded from the plan. They now feature on pages 10, 21, 37, 51, 52, 55, 93, 94, 109. You can download the finalised copy of the Tāmaki Open Space Network Plan here. [Published here first!]

UPDATE: 20 August 2020
Ōrākei Local Board’s environment work programme 2020/2021: Tāhuna Tōrea investigation of habitat restoration for shorebird roosting $15,000

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.

Development

A large development in Glen Innes

I have always assumed when humans ‘develop’ land, some of it ends up in the ocean. I had a look at some of the Glen Innes development in the rain today to see what was going on.

A failing silt fence holding back cubic meters of muddy water
A failing silt fence holding back cubic meters of muddy water

The local creek is suspiciously the same colour as the water at the development site
The local creek is suspiciously the same colour as the water at the development site

It was good to see development companies trying but unfortunately all this mud ends up smothering marine life and poisoning the Hauraki Gulf. Not such a nice development.

Swimmable

I had a lot of fun illustrating this comic which explains what swimmable means.

swimmable
It was fun to write myself into the comic in a socratic kinda way. I think I might do some more of these.

Pure New Zealand

James Cameron

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.”

How to be wild and free

“No!” This is how we teach restraint, over time the child masters the rules and becomes a functioning member of society. But he finds pleasure in the quiet places where no one can yell “No” at him, places where the rules don’t apply, where he can be wild and free.

There is a huge psychological transformation that occurs when you’re outdoors and find that you are no longer alone. Every imaginable cultural judgement can be projected in just a single person. They are not just changing our behaviour they are changing how we think, making us self conscious.

Some people feel this more than others, but perhaps this is why humans bleat and stomp about environmental rules. Because when we are in the wild with all those wild things, we feel wild too. We feel free from all those rules and judgements, those “No”s. So we fight those that tell us “don’t go there”, “don’t kill that” or “leave that alone”. Because they are reducing our freedom, which is true. But unfortunately we live in a world of human expansion and decreasing environmental resilience, our choices now have a greater cost than those of previous generations. We are slowly learning we can longer afford to be wild, we have to share our freedoms, not just with this generation but the next one too.

The reason the human population has grown so fast is because we are so adaptable and culture (our behaviours and technology) has evolved and will continue to evolve much faster than our genes. Those that are following the rules, participating in restoration, conservation, trash removal, pest eradication, citizen science and moving from eating to recording wildlife are developling a new culture. This new culture is already growing fast and with it some of our wilderness is coming back, building resilience and expanding our freedoms. We are finding a new way to be wild and free.