Tongariro Times August 2011

Tongariro Times August 2011

Facebook - Project Tongariro is now on Facebook

Go ahead and 'like' us on Facebook to keep updated on everything going on with Project Tongariro from news updates to upcoming events and trips - it will all be on Facebook!

2011/2012 Member Field Trip and Volunteer Calendar

The 2011/2012 Member Field Trip and Volunteer Opportunities Calendar is now available and will be distributed soon.  Some exciting field trips have been planned this year with plenty of advanced notice so you can add them to your calendars.  We've also provided dates for all sorts of volunteer opportunities so you can make plans to participate in events that interest you....

Upcoming Field Trips
Whakapapa Ski Day - 10 September 2011 (11th September 2011 Contingency Day)
AGM & Kaimanawa Wild Horse Country - 8/9 October 2011

Upcoming Project Tongariro Volunteer Opportunities
Waiotaka Wetland Planting - 24/25 September 2011
Whakapapa Alpine Garden Weeding - 9 October 2011
Tussock Traverse Planting - 29 October 2011
Taonui Viaduct Restoration - 3/4 December 2011

Contact to express interest in any of these activities.

AGM & Kaimanawa Wild Horse Country Member Field Trip
Join us for Project Tongariro's 27th AGM to be held 8 October 2011 at 10am at the Forest and Bird Lodge in Whakapapa Village.

Forest and Bird has kindly offered the new lodge as a venue for the upcoming AGM and have offered members' rates for accommodation.  Make a weekend of it and participate in the planned activities including the exciting member field trip to the Kaimanawa Wild Horse Country on Sunday 9th October.

10 am              AGM
1 pm to 3 pm    Volunteer Activity - Whakapapa Alpine Garden Weeding
5 pm                Pre Dinner drinks at Forest and Bird Lodge (BYO)
6.30 pm           Dinner catered by National Park School
7.30 pm           Guest Speaker - Dr Harry Keys
                       'Erebus Volcano - Science, Adventure & Romance'

2 nights accommodation including dinner - $90 per person
1 night accommodation including dinner - $60 per person
Dinner only - $30 per person

Bring your own sleeping bag, pillow case, towel, toilet gear.  BYO breakfasts and lunches.  Tea, coffee, milk and pre-dinner nibbles provided.  Note: 32 beds only.

Kaimanawa Wild Horse Country Member Field Trip - Sunday 9th October

We invite you to join us on a special journey into the back country of the Kaimanawa Mountain Range.  Normally inaccessible to the public, Project Tongariro executive member Peter McNaughton has gained access across Army land from Waiouru to this interesting area.  You can expect to see wild horses, shub/tussocklands and unusual landscapes.  On a good day, the views are excellent!

$20 per person
40 people max or 8 4WD Vehicles
Meet at 9.30am at Lockheed Martin Workshop within Waiouru Camp.  Drive to the guard box at the entry to the camp, once through the checkpoint turn left to the workshop.

Tour will be 4 to 5 hours.  Bring your lunch.  You will need to book a space.

Contact for more info and to express interest. 

2011 Memorial Awards

Project Tongariro's 2011 Memorial Awards have been made to Yvonne Taura and Kirsty Myron, both students at Waikato University. (Yvonne is on the left and Kirsty is on the right below)

Yvonne explains her project:  What are the effects of willow and willow control on wetland aquatic invertebrates?

Species’ of the genus Salix, willows, have become a dominant feature in New Zealand wetlands, in particular S. cinerea (grey willow) and S. fragilis (crack willow). Control efforts have focused on grey willow as it is the most significant threat to wetlands, due to its ability to invade and displace native vegetation. Intensive willow control programmes attempt to restore and maintain vegetation types to its former condition, although the ecological response to this has been rarely evaluated. Aquatic invertebrates are found in all freshwater systems and have fundamental biodiversity and ecological values, however the scope of research currently available limits any conclusions regarding the impacts of willows on aquatic ecosystems.

My thesis research endeavours to investigate aquatic invertebrate communities residing within native wetland ecosystems and determine whether communities are significantly altered by S. cinerea infestations. Also, I aim to examine the responses of these aquatic invertebrates following willow control treatment relative to untreated sites.  The results of this study will provide necessary quantitative data and multivariate comparisons regarding aquatic invertebrate community composition and abundance amongst willow communities in wetlands. A study of aquatic invertebrates living among willow communities in wetlands is timely and will be of immense value ecologically and economically to wetland managers in order to make more informed decisions for the restoration of New Zealand’s wetlands. 

Kirsty explains her project: Pittosporum kirkii: autecology and conservation of an endemic epiphytic shrub.

Pittosporum kirkii Hook.f. (Kirk’s  kōhūhū, thick-leaved kohukohu) is an endemic epiphytic shrub predominantly occurring in montane forest, an exemplary example being Erua Forest. It has a known distribution from Mangonui in Northland, to Raetihi in Manawatu-Wanganui. Large numbers have been observed growing terrestrially on Great Barrier Island, however it is rarely rupestral. It is in decline, or in serious decline throughout its current range this is believed to be the result of browsing by possums and forest clearance. Very little is known about the autecology and eco-physiology of this elusive shrub. Furthermore, little is known about epiphytic communities in temperate rainforests, and even less is known about the role epiphytes have in New Zealand’s forest ecosystems.

The primary objectives of this research are to: 

- Enhance the currently limited ecological knowledge on Pittosporum kirkii autecology across its known distributional range, and on the associated epiphytic community.
- Provide conservation and restoration strategies
- Produce a contribution to the Flora of New Zealand series of P. kirkii.  
- Uncover and discuss the water relations under drought conditions, comparing terrestrially and epiphytically sourced P. kirkii.  A further comparison will be undertaken with epiphytic congener, Pittosporum cornifolium.

About the Memorial Award...

Project Tongariro's Memorial Award was established by the society in memory of Keith Maurice Blumhardt, William Edward Cooper, Douglas Neal McKenzie, Derek Ian White and Marie Pauline Williams, who died on Mt Ruapehu while testing helicopter rescue equipment on 9 December 1982.

The award is open to any applicant for study – for fauna, flora, geology, volcanology, weather and natural and human history of Tongariro National Park. Since the inaugural award in 1991, 35 young researchers have benefited from these awards enabling a wide range of research to be done in the Park.  From heather, to bats, skinks, kiwi, stoats, to visitor stats, to geology, to lahars, to botany and climate.  An amazing legacy.  Have a look at the past recipients and their projects here.

Leading the Tongariro Tramping Club along the Old Blyth Track...

Member of the Tongariro Tramping Club had heard about the historical research done by Project Tongariro's Kay Rabarts and in particular her rediscovery of the long-unused sections of the Old Blyth Track.  In late June, Roy and Annette Dench, with myself at the tail, led a group of 19 of their members after their AGM (and a very filling lunch!) along the track.

After the essential group photos near the camp site on Ohakune Mountain Road, we set off in our wet weather gear, as the weather was quite changeable.  The first section appears to have been used as a bush tramline as it is very straight.  With a car shuttle, we walked the second section, with remnants of boardwalks and fragile bridges (which we kept off due to their condition).  The group enjoyed this walk as they had never walked it before.  Finally, the third section, where we came across the largest wooden bridge still standing on this track, then followed the terraced track to where it meets the Ohakune Mountain Road again, then the final car shuttle.

The group thoroughly enjoyed this walk. I am sure some of the group will be spending some more time on this track as they were eyeing up the entry points!   We were invited to join the group for dinner at Alpine Restaurant in Ohakune, to end the day.  We made new friends so hope we'll meet again.

Frank Katavich

Rotopounamu Update - Bird Monitoring Results
by Jo Nash
Biodiversity Ranger
Department of Conservation, Turangi Taupo Area Office

In February 2011, Project Tongariro intern students and DOC biodiversity rangers spent 2 weeks monitoring the birds at Rotopounamu. The method used was 5 minute bird counts where you sit in allocated positions and listen and watch the birds in the surrounding area for 5 minutes. Any bird seen or heard is recorded. 476 counts were completed and the results of 13 main bird species were analysed and compared with 2009/2010 results.

Figure 1: Number of counts per 5 minute bird count for the 13 species at Rotopounamu

Some remarkable results came from this year's monitoring. All species increased in numbers apart from falcon and silvereye. Kaka, robin, fantail, kakariki, whitehead, long tailed cuckoo, kereru, grey warbler and honeyeaters (bellbird and tui) increased in numbers significantly. Although silvereye appeared to decline they have always been recognised as bad indicator species due to their flocking behaviour. It is difficult to estimate numbers when they are flocking and people often underestimate the numbers they see. 

Because monitoring was undertaken post-breeding season, these results show that the birds had a very successful breeding season which at this stage we can associate with low rat numbers from October to February.

The increase of NI robin, fantail, whitehead, grey warbler, bellbird and tui can all be associated with rodent control at Rotopounamu. For these birds, rats have the greatest impact through direct predation on nests and competition for food including fruit, seeds and invertebrates. The young of these species will have been calling throughout the month of February and would have been picked up in the bird call monitoring. Fantail, bellbird and tui in particular have had a hugely successful season.

An interesting observation is that kaka is one of the species that has significantly increased in numbers from last season. It is well know that kaka are stoat sensitive species however research has also shown that there is considerable overlap between the preferred foods of kaka and possum (O'Donnell & Dilks 1986) and that possums remove some of the high energy food sources that kaka probably require for breeding (Wilson 1984). Rats are not considered as much a competitor because they generally don’t feed in the canopy where kaka food is located. However rats have been confirmed as predators of kaka nests. On Kapiti Island in 1988, nearly 23% of nests were preyed upon by Norway rats. Mainly chicks were eaten. There is some evidence that kiore prey on kaka chicks on Little Barrier Island (Lloyd, 1991). Ship rats that are much more arboreal than other rats and are widespread and common on the mainland could be significant predators (O’Donnell & Rasch, 1991). As a result although stoats are not managed at Rotopounamu, managing rats and possums might have some benefit to kaka and could explain the significant increase in kaka numbers from last year. It is also important to note that although mustelids are not controlled at Rotopounamu (apart from the 50 traps around the lake), tracking tunnels were run in December 2010 to monitor mustelid numbers and no mustelids were tracked indicating there is a low number of mustelids at Rotopounamu.

Kereru is another species that has done significantly well this season. It is believed rodent control has improved their breeding success.  Rats and possums (of which were both controlled to low numbers) are known to be the biggest threat to the nesting stage of the kereru (Mander et al, 1998). It is likely that this year was a good fruiting year because a large proportion of kereru will attempt to breed in good fruiting years whereas if the fruiting is bad very few kereru will try and breed (Mander et al, 1998). Similarly however, the increase in kereru this year could have been a result of a good fruiting season last year. It is likely however that the low rat and possum numbers at Rotopounamu did increase the survival rates of any young kereru that were bred this year. 

In conclusion, most bird species have done very well this breeding season at Rotopounamu which is very likely to be due to the control of rats and possums to low numbers within the 540ha protection block. It is important to recognise that there is a limitation in this project being that there is no control site to compare how the birds would have done without rodent and possum control i.e bird count monitoring undertaken outside the protected area in February.

Only data since 2009-2010 has been used in this analysis. This is because we know this data has been collected using the same methods as the same training programme has been used for the past two years. Prior to this time, people collecting the data did not go through formal training.

Te Kawakawa Wetland Planting - 7th September 2011

We have been asked by the Waikato Regional Council to assist with planting day at Te Kawakawa Wetland (across from Hatcheries) on 7 September.  The area has been spot sprayed and there are about 1500 plants.  A BBQ lunch will be provided.  If you are keen to help out contact

Living Legends

Living Legends is taking the field to the forest during New Zealand’s hosting of Rugby World Cup 2011. During September and October 2011 they'll be planting almost 85,000 native trees and honouring our Rugby Legends.
The Whakaipo Bay Recreation Reserve is one of the most stunning locations that Living Legends will be helping to restore. This former farm is now a very significant recreation area for Taupo and the wider New Zealand community. Bordering the lake and less than 15 minutes from Taupo central, it is seen as a key area to promote recreation opportunities. It is inevitable that this landscape, with its spectacular views across Lake Taupo and entry to the W2K mountain bike trail, will become a national icon within the lands managed by DOC.

On 18 September 2011, volunteers, joined by King Country rugby legend, Sir Colin Meads, will plant 5000 additional native trees at this site as part of Living Legends programme of work. 

Posted: Mon 22 Aug 2011

Roel Michels