Rotopounamu - Pihanga Restoration Project

Rotopounamu - Pihanga

What’s happening?

Project Tongariro and the Department of Conservation (DoC) are currently developing an operating plan which aims to protect the native biodiversity of Mt Pihanga and Lake Rotopounamu by adopting a sustained integrated management approach. The area is apart of Tongariro National Park and the World Heritage Site. The project is to be community focused with integrated pest management and advocacy at its core.

Vision

“Restoring the mauri of Mt Pihanga ”

The word “mauri” used in this context is defined as the life-force of the forest and all the native species that live within it. It is a term which describes holistic health and encapsulates culture and species alike.

Objectives

There are a number of desired conservation outcomes we would like to achieve. They include;

  • Advocating and supporting the community in managing conservation.
  • To inform and involve people in conservation, through interpretation and volunteer opportunities.
  • To maintain and improve a biologically diverse area within Tongariro National Park.
  • To ensure no new local extinctions of native fauna or flora occur at the site.
  • Ensure introduced predator numbers are kept as low as possible on a continuous basis, in order to establish self-sustaining populations of indigenous species.
  • To re-introduce species lost to the area and those endangered species that would thrive.
  • To meet the objectives of the Tongariro Management Plan and principles of the World Heritage Site Status.

Why do we want to restore this area?

Restoration means “to bring back to an original state by repairing”. New Zealand’s biodiversity has been plagued by land disruption and introduced mammalian predators. Introduced predators have had a devastating impact on our indigenous fauna and flora. We have reached the point we can only protect representative areas on the mainland and must use islands as refuges for those species that cannot endure the raft of introduced predators present on the mainland.

DOC and TNHS have identified Mt Pihanga/Lake Rotopounamu as a representative site because of its biodiversity and cultural values. Its geography and access lend it well to being managed in an integrated way. Adopting this approach will achieve some of the requirements of the Tongariro National Park Management Plan and World Heritage goals.

Because we are dealing with a range of pests and keeping them at low numbers constantly, the forest and birds will flourish, making it a better place to live and visit. We will be able to re-introduce species that were lost to the area, hence providing more pleasure for visitors and locals alike.

What is Integrated Pest Management?

An integrated management approach addresses the entire ecosystem. Instead of focusing on just one threat, it address’s a multitude of threats, using different control techniques at the same time, at the same place. It also includes the social component of conservation by involving the community and ensuring they contribute to their local area.

It is an intensive approach which means all predators, with perhaps the exception of mice, will be controlled to low numbers on an on-going basis. Pests to be controlled include possums, pigs, stoats, weasels, ferrets, rats and cats. This technique offers the current native populations of fauna and flora to regenerate and become self-sustaining.

How is it happening?

Rats numbers are being heavily reduced during the breeding season with 1000 bait stations over 600 ha around Rotopounamu.

Kill traps inside wooden covers are around the track as a last resort for stoats, weasels, ferrets and rats. Possums are controlled preseason.

The conservation techniques for managing pests and monitoring native species is assessed regularly.

We will need to measure our achievements by undertaking some monitoring of those pests we are controlling and those species who will be benefiting from low numbers of pests, such as kereru. This helps us to understand what we are doing right and what we can improve.

When is it happening?

The project began in 2003-4 over 300ha around the lake. This was extended in 2009.
The hands on conservation and pest control happens between September and April, during the bird breeding season.

Community Involvement

Although the department and the TNHS are taking a leading role, the real success of this project lies within the local community. Other groups help us with baiting, running tracking tunnels and telling others of the project.