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Weed Eradication On Far North Island A Big Job

13 February 2001

It was a case of all hands on vines last week (Feb 8-10) when 31 women joined forces to continue the big job of getting rid of Madeira Vine from the Far North's Motuopao Island.

The work formed part of the Department of Conservation's Kaupapa Wahine Programme (Women in Conservation) and involved the organic removal of this aggressive weed from this spectacularly located, windswept island off Cape Maria Van Diemen.

Tangata whenua women from Ngati Kuri, as well as some women from other parts of the Far North community also took part in the work at this remote location.

Madeira vine is the legacy of a lighthouse keeper, who when leaving the island, carelessly discarded a pot containing the plant. The weed has subsequently taken over parts of the island threatening its' ecological values, including the rare flax snail Placostylus, seabirds and rare skinks and geckos.

There are currently no introduced mammals on Motuopao Island. Kiore (Pacific rats) were successfully eradicated in 1988 and 1990. During pre-European times the island was a notable Maori fishing camp and contains a number of European and Maori archaeological sites.

Last week's expedition team leader and DoC Kaitaia, Biodiversity Programme Manager Nicky Syddall said the nationally co-ordinated ‘Women in Conservation Fund’ or ‘Kaupapa Wahine’ was based on the principal of supporting conservation projects specifically for women.

The aim is to bring women from within DoC, Iwi women and others from local communities together to spend time involved in a conservation experience that they would not normally get the opportunity to do.

The fund also assists with women’s career development and networking in conservation.

The group was transported to the windswept, yet stunningly beautiful Nature Reserve off Cape Maria van Diemen, by helicopter and for two days, armed with gloves, hand trowels and plastic bags and combed through a third hectare of dense coastal flax for the weed.

The aim of the project is to rid the island of this and involves collecting the vine’s aerial parts and then digging up it’s roots and tubers.

The trip was also a first for Ngati Kuri women who commented that the opportunity to learn about the ecology of the area and to see live flax snails had a profound effect on many of them.

By Friday afternoon the success of the operation was visibly obvious in the huge pile of 40 large garbage bags filled with the weed.

Ms Syddall said she was overwhelmed by the result and that the group had managed to clean up most of the weed-infested area. She said that to be safe, the weed was double bagged and flown off the island for incineration.

She was hoping that the Department would be able to offer future trips to follow up on the progress made.

“ I am extremely pleased with the whole operation. Everything went smoothly, safely and together we made a huge impact on the weed. We made new friends and I am sure that many of us will remember this trip for a long time,” Ms Syddall said.

© Scoop Media

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