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How good are the Poor Knights? - By Ben Barr

Media Release – (Opinion Editorial/Column) 7 January 2014

How good are the Poor Knights?

By Ben Barr – NorthTec Conservation and Environmental Management Tutor

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The Poor Knights

Ridiculously good! I recently took NorthTec’s first year Conservation and Environmental Management students on a field trip with Dive! Tutukaka and it was nothing short of spectacular.

On the way across we saw a pod of bottlenose dolphins heading north, no doubt on an important mission for food or fancy. Half way to the Knights we discovered a lone seal sunbathing in the gin blue water, and a giant sunfish on a jellyfish hunt. The seal casually glanced at us with that innocent yet slightly mischievous look that only a seal can give, and then got back to his suntan.

When we reached the marine reserve it was all on! A massive rolling front of trevally was surface feeding on krill, who in turn were feeding on plankton that are so abundant at this time of the year. But it didn’t end there… a tsunami of Buller’s shearwaters swept across the shoal feeding on the krill the trevally were thoughtfully rounding up, and lazy snapper mooched below waiting for a free lunch (there is such a thing at the Poor Knights). The Buller’s shearwater only nest on the Poor Knight’s islands as there are no introduced pests there. A couple of million of these amazing birds will return to the islands during the night to feed their chicks, transferring nutrients from the sea to the land and thereby driving a completely different ecosystem – the Island’s forest.

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Tutor Ben Barr (third from left) with students at the Poor Knights.jpg

Under a canopy of pohutukawa, geckos and skinks feed directly on the fish the adult seabirds spill. These lizards will eat giant bugs and beetles but will need to watch out for huge tuatara, or even giant centipedes that have a taste for reptilian blood! The Poor Knight’s giant weta come out at night to feed on coastal vegetation that proliferates due to the nutrient-rich soils the seabirds help engineer. I’m not sure whether the icing on the Poor Knights cake are the giant flax snails or the choir of bellbirds and kakariki that sing of the joys of living on their own island. Either way, the Poor Knights are a jewel that needs to be celebrated… and an amazing place to go and learn about conservation and the environment.

NorthTec is the Tai Tokerau (Northland) region's largest provider of tertiary education, with campuses and learning centres in Whangarei, Kerikeri, Rāwene, Kaikohe and Kaitaia.  NorthTec also has over 60 community-based delivery points from Coatesville in rural Rodney to Ngataki in the Far North.


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