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Success of Muriwai gannet colony means expansion

Success of Muriwai gannet colony means more expansion

17 February 2005

Bird numbers at Muriwai Regional Park’s gannet colony are increasing rapidly and its population is likely to more than double within ten years.

The ARC Parks and Heritage Committee yesterday received a report which, for the first time, maps the expansion of Muriwai’s gannet population over the past 30 years and makes projections for the next decade.

Gannets first colonised the Motutara Island off the Muriwai mainland in 1975. By 1979 the island colony had reached its capacity of 300 pairs and extended to the adjacent mainland at Otakamiro Point. ARC natural heritage scientists report that the north and south platform gannetries at Otakamiro Point now each support some 1000 adult birds and produce 200 to 300 chicks per year.

ARC Parks and Heritage Committee Deputy Chair Christine Rose says today’s report confirms the outstanding success of the breeding colony.

“Otakamiro Point is one of New Zealand’s most accessible and important seabird colonies and its ongoing success is extremely important to the ARC and the Auckland region,” Cr Rose says.

Most of New Zealand’s 70,000 gannets breed offshore and Otakamiro Point is the most accessible of the country’s three mainland gannet colonies.

Cr Rose says that as the Muriwai gannet population continues to grow a larger area of Otakamiro Point is likely to be occupied by nesting birds in the future, giving visitors an even closer encounter with the gannets.

“While this will add to the experience of Muriwai visitors it could lead to a greater risk of people disturbing the birds,” Cr Rose says.

“We will need to keep monitoring progress and if necessary provide extra protection where gannets are within touching distance of the public.”

Cr Rose says to minimise impacts on the gannet colony, the public need to keep their dogs away from the area, stay behind the barriers in place and take their litter home with them as rubbish can attract predators.

The ARC will continue to manage the Muriwai Regional Park colony as a regional natural heritage site as the gannets form an important part of the area’s ecosystems.

Mainland gannet colonies provide conservation opportunities for restoring links between native plants and animals in the area.

ENDS

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