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Regional Park to close for pest eradication

Tawharanui Regional Park to close for pest eradication

27 August 2004

Tawharanui Regional Park will close for approximately three months from September 6, while animal pests are eradicated from the 588-hectare peninsula.

The eradication of animal pests is a crucial stage in the development of the Tawharanui Open Sanctuary - a predator-free haven for native species at the park.

ARC Parks and Heritage Committee Chairman Bill Burrill says the vision for the open sanctuary is for visitors to Tawharanui to be able to camp and walk amongst kiwi, brown teal, bellbirds and tuatara and picnic in a puriri and nikau forest alive with bird song.

Cr Burrill says the park, northeast of Warkworth, will close from September 6 to December 1 for public safety.

Pest eradication on the park involves two aerial bait drops during September/October followed by ground based monitoring and mop up programmes to detect and remove any remaining pests. The park will only reopen when testing shows that baits have broken down to a level where public safety can be guaranteed.

All livestock has already been removed from Tawharanui Regional Park and will be returned once the livestock-withholding period has been reached and bait breakdown trials have determined the bait has broken down sufficiently to cause no risk.

Cr Burrill says wild cats, possums, rabbits, hedgehogs, ferrets, stoats, weasels, rats and mice will all be targeted for eradication as all these pests have a deadly impact on native flora and fauna.

The aerial bait drops are mainly targeted at the eradication of rodents whose successful removal will reverse a decline in reptiles and amphibians at Tawharanui, where up to 18 species of lizards, tuatara and frogs have been wiped out by predators.

The pest eradication will take place inside a recently completed predator-proof fence, which in combination with the eradication programme and ground based monitoring to detect reinvasions will significantly reduce the chances of animal pests re-entering the sanctuary and in time will allow native species to breed successfully.

"We are aiming to create New Zealand's first integrated sanctuary where farming, recreation and conservation of native species will combine. It will provide a unique opportunity for visitors to experience native plants and animals in a pest free environment," Cr Burrill says.

He says while the council regrets any inconvenience to visitors during the three month park closure, he hopes they will see the great benefits of creating the sanctuary which will be enjoyed by not only today's visitors but also generations to come.

The Tawharanui Open Sanctuary project is a partnership between the Auckland Regional Council and the community. The project has been significantly advanced by the establishment of the Tawharanui Open Sanctuary Society Incorporated (TOSSI) who co-ordinate volunteer activities as well as undertake fundraising. Support from iwi, adjoining landowners, local businesses and Tawharanui visitors has also been significant.

TOSSI deputy chairman Les Cave says the group's membership is excited that the open sanctuary project is about to advance to the next stage.

"Over the last two years TOSSI has been involved with fundraising for the now completed predator-proof fence. The aerial drop means that the predator-proof fence will now act as an effective barrier against the re-entry of pest species."

"Our members will be helping with the on going monitoring of bait stations and tracking tunnels to measure the success of the aerial drop."

ENDS

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