Local Govt | National News Video | Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Search


Early spike in rat numbers signals conservation carnage

Conservationists in the central North Island warn that native bird populations are due to “take an epic hammering” this Spring when predator populations balloon. Staff of the Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust have seen a significant increase in rat numbers on their two properties in inland Hawke’s Bay, a precursor to spikes in the number of stoats, ferrets, possums and other pest or predator species.

Rats are being detected at rates of up to 58 percent, about twice as many as would normally be detected in August, when counts are usually conducted. This early monitoring was in response to warning signs at the back end of last year, when heavy fruiting of several plant species signalled the multi-species mast event taking place at the moment.

Peraxilla tetrapetala, or red mistletoe, was one of the species that flowered unusually early last year. It is known in te reo as pikirangi, pirirangi or roeroe. It is a parasitic shrub up to one metre tall with smooth leaves which normally only flowers around Christmas time. Numbers have increased markedly at the Trust’s property in the Maungataniwha Native Forest and by early November the forest floor beneath host trees was already littered with flowers.

Elaeocarpus dentatus, known in te reo as hinau or whīnau, also flowered heavily. It is common at Maungataniwha and has plump berries during the winter which can escalate rat numbers through the colder months into Spring. This is the point at which the rats then cause carnage among native birds that are breeding.

Red beech was flowering about as heavily as FLRT staff have ever seen.

“The rats will have a massive effect on the populations of smaller birds such as tom-tits and robins,” said Trust staffer Barry Crene. “Rat numbers will help drive up stoat numbers and they’re going to nail heaps of kiwi and whio. The whole thing’s going to be as ugly as we’ve seen it in a very long time.”

Mr Crene said there was little that conservationists could do except “take the hit” and make preparations for increased trapping and other predator and pest control work.

Masting is a natural event that happens every three to five years. A tree species will produce more seeds than usual. It’s an effective species survival mechanism because predators will not be able to consume all the seeds. Ironically though, it leads to a boost in predator numbers.

This year the Trust has seen several species mast simultaneously.

“I have no doubt that this mega-mast event will have a detrimental impact on the population numbers of pretty much all our native species,” Mr Crene said. “We’ve been tracking really well in recent years but this definitely feels like a ‘three steps forward, one step back” type of situation.

The Forest Lifeforce Restoration (FLR) Trust is fast carving out a name for itself as one of the most prolific and successful kiwi conservation initiatives in the country.

In addition to the Maungataniwha Kiwi Project the Trust runs a series of native flora and fauna regeneration projects. These include a drive to increase the wild-grown population of Kakabeak (Clianthus maximus), an extremely rare type of shrub, and the re-establishment of native plants and forest on 4,000 hectares currently, or until recently, under pine.

© Scoop Media

Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

New Reports: Flood Risk From Rain And Sea Under Climate Change

One report looks at what would happen when rivers are flooded by heavy rain and storms, while the other examines flooding exposure in coastal and harbour areas and how that might change with sea-level rise.

Their findings show that across the country almost 700,000 people and 411,516 buildings worth $135 billion are presently exposed to river flooding in the event of extreme weather events...

There is near certainty that the sea will rise 20-30 cm by 2040. By the end of the century, depending on whether global greenhouse gas emissions are reduced, it could rise by between 0.5 to 1.1 m, which could add an additional 116,000 people exposed to extreme coastal storm flooding. More>>



Gordon Campbell: On The Commerce Commission Fuel Report

The interim Commerce Commission report on the fuel industry will do nothing to endear the major oil companies to the New Zealand public... More>>


Emergency Govt Bill: Overriding Local Licensing For The Rugby

“It’s pretty clear some clubs are having difficulty persuading their district licensing committees to grant a special licence to extend their hours for this obviously special event, and so it makes sense for Parliament to allow clubs to meet a community desire." More>>


Leaving Contract Early: KiwiBuild Programme Losing Another Top Boss

Ms O'Sullivan began a six-month contract as head of KiwiBuild Commercial in February, but the Housing Ministry has confirmed she has resigned and will depart a month early to take up a new job. More>>


Proposed National Policy Statement: Helping Our Cities Grow Up And Out

“We need a new approach to planning that allows our cities to grow up, especially in city centres and around transport connections. We also have to allow cities to expand in a way that protects our special heritage areas, the natural environment and highly productive land." More>>


Ombudsman's Report: Ngāpuhi Elder 'Shocked' By Conditions At Ngawha Prison

A prominent Ngāpuhi elder is shocked to find inmates at Ngawha Prison are denied water and forced to relieve themselves in the exercise yard... Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier has released a report highly critical of conditions at the Northland prison. More>>


Promises: Independent Election Policy Costing Unit A Step Closer

The creation of an entity to provide political parties with independent and non-partisan policy costings is a step closer today, according to Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Associate Finance Minister James Shaw. More>>


School's In: Primary And Intermediate Principals Accept New Offer

Primary and intermediate school principals have voted to accept a new settlement from the Ministry of Education, which includes entrenched pay parity with secondary principals. More>>


IPCA On 'Rawshark' Investigation: Multiple Police Failings In Hager Searches Confirmed

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that the Police's unlawful search of Nicky Hager's property in October 2014 resulted from an unwitting neglect of duty and did not amount to misconduct by any individual officer... More>>


Broadcasting Standards: Decisions On Coverage Of Mosque Attacks

The Authority upheld one of these complaints, finding that the use of extensive excerpts from the alleged attacker’s livestream video on Sky News New Zealand had the potential to cause significant distress to audiences in New Zealand, and particularly to the family and friends of victims, and the wider Muslim community. More>>




InfoPages News Channels