What is Tū Mai Taonga?
A collaborative project initiated by the Aotea Conservation Park Advisory Committee (iwi representatives and members of the community), Department of Conservation and Auckland Council, with the support of the island’s three sanctuaries. The key objective is to protect native species and ecosystems in the Aotea Conservation Park and Northern Aotea.
We will need to manage a variety of threats, providing holistic protection for our threatened species. Although the proposed project is in its early stages, it has been suggested that the first phase may focus on reducing* feral* cat populations. We would also explore ways to reduce rat numbers. Please note, this project does not include domestic* cats.
Tū Mai to stand, to be upright and Taonga our precious treasures, together this represents our collective vision te oranga o te ngahere, a healthy forest and ecosystem. The name of Tū Mai Taonga has been given to this work because through it we will stand up for the taonga (treasured) places and species in the Aotea Conservation Park and elsewhere on the motu. It is hoped that Tū Mai Taonga will support the eventual return of lost species including burrowing seabirds, kōkako, bellbird, tīeke and others, by reducing predators (feral cats and rats).
Why is Tū Mai Taonga needed?
Because the mauri (life force), health and the restoration of this place is important to many people. If we continue with today's limited management of feral cats and rats, it will not be enough to protect what taonga are left. We can expect the same declines, or worse results if we don't increase the effort. Additionally, climate change adds more stresses through more frequent drought and storm events.
Feral cats and rats have already caused the loss of all but two of Aotea's kōkako (which were taken to Hautūru, Little Barrier Island in 1994) and many other species including bellbirds, tīeke (saddleback) and burrowing seabirds which used to breed throughout Aotea. Predators are also endangering taonga species such as pāteke and preventing the recovery of others, including burrowing seabirds, skinks and geckos, pekapeka (bats), kererū and kākāriki. Less obvious is the long-term damage by predators to the regeneration and health of the ngāhere (forest).
What is special about this place?
The name for this project, Tū Mai Taonga, illustrates the many treasures found in Ngāti Rehua Ngātiwai ki Aotea's rohe whenua (tribal area). Our stakeholders and partners are committed to the restoration and protection of the taonga here.
The area is the largest forest in Aotearoa/New Zealand that is free of possums, stoats and browsing animals, and it is also where you will find most of Aotea's high value biodiversity locations and species. It includes Hirakimata and Mt Young, the Whangapoua basin and Te Paparahi (see map). These places are home to Aotearoa's largest populations of black petrel/takoketai, pāteke and chevron skink. There are also plenty of other taonga such as dotterel, banded rail, kākā, kākāriki, bittern, Hochstetter's frog and pekapeka (long tailed bats). If you live here you will be familiar with these creatures, but you may not know that they are usually rare or extinct elsewhere.
What is Tū Mai Taonga Proposing?
Stage 1 (from late 2020): Extending feral cat trapping and other control methods across the Conservation Park and on public land in the north of Aotea - building on current trapping, but increasing effort to reduce feral cat numbers to lower levels to protect pāteke and black petrel. Private land may be included where landowners want this.
Carrying out a feasibility study: What are the options, costs and benefits of reducing feral cats to near zero densities and rats to low densities within 3 years in the project area. The study will also look at how best to increase capacity in the local community to do the work and will be undertaken partnership with iwi, DOC, Auckland Council, sanctuaries and the local community.
Proposed project area
The proposed project area encompasses the majority of the Aotea Conservation Park and north of Aotea.
Why are feral cats a problem?
Opposite page - Short and Long-Term Impacts of Feral Cats and Rats on Aotea’s Forests. Adapted from information provided by George Perry, Forest Ecologist, University of Auckland 2020.
How will you be affected?
You may notice the increase in feral cat trapping on tracks and roads .
There will be some jobs created by the project locally.
Community research and feedback will help shape how Tū Mai Taonga goes about doing this work. Please help us by providing your feedback. You can expect to hear about the results within 2 months.
How can you be involved?
Please let us know:
If you see a feral cat, suspect feral cat sign
If you would like to be involved as a trapper or volunteer in another area of the project.
If you have ideas about innovations or efficiencies that could help the project.
* For clarity definitions of key terms are:
Feral cat: a cat which is not a stray cat and which has none of its needs provided by humans. Feral cats generally do not live around centres of human habitation. Feral cat population size fluctuates largely independently of humans, is self-sustaining and is not dependent on input from the companion cat population.
Domestic Cat: Common domestic cat that lives with humans as a companion and is dependent on humans for its welfare.
Reducing feral cat populations: using agreed and accepted methods for managing feral cat populations to zero densities. Reducing rat numbers: using agreed and accepted methods for managing rats to low levels.
How can you stay updated?
Tū Mai Taonga is YOUR Aotea conservation project. Enter your e-mail address here if you would like to stay informed.