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Cotoneaster Challenges Omori Locals

26 June 2019

Locals and visitors at Omori/Kuratau, a small settlement on the western shore of Lake Taupo, enjoy a stunning backdrop of native bush on surrounding DOC and regional council reserves.

Over the past few years, the dedicated team of volunteers that make up the Omori Kuratau Pest Management Group have reduced the numbers of animal pests in this area to such a low level that the native bird population is now flourishing.

Ironically, this success means that the Group‘s next challenge in protecting the bush is stopping the invasion of berry-producing weeds that are spread by birds from local gardens.

Cotoneaster in particular is a problem, thriving in the cold conditions of the central North Island and producing masses of seed-bearing red berries that are attractive to native birds. New cotoneaster plants mature quickly from seedlings, and form dense, long-lived stands that dominate bush areas, crowding out native plants.

Long-time locals and Omori Kuratau Pest Management Group stalwarts, Liz and Russell Shaw, are leading a core group of weedbusters in the charge against cotoneaster. Hundreds of cotoneaster plants have been cut down and disposed of at the local dump, with stumps treated with herbicide to prevent regrowth.

While there are several hundred permanent residents, visitors swell Omori/Kuratau’s population to several thousand during holidays and long weekends.

When out walking with their dog, Liz and Russell take time to chat with weekenders and neighbours about the cotoneaster problem.

“Most of them have been unaware of the weed and they are happy for us to cut and treat it for them in their absence”, says Russell.

“A lot of them are also taking it out themselves now that they are aware of the problem,” he adds.

The area also has a problem with feral cats, descended from family pets left behind by holiday makers in years past. Left to their own devices, these abandoned cats are able to thrive in the bush, feasting on the birdlife, and going on to breed and establish wild populations. The extent of the problem was highlighted in a recent trapping programme when 75 feral cats were caught in one round and another 60 in a follow up exercise.

“Their impact is compounded by the decrease in rabbit numbers due to calicivirus, with feral cats once again turning to native birds for food,” says Russell.

The voluntary conservation work has had funding support from Waikato Regional Council, The Omori Kuratau Ratepayers Association, Turangi Tongariro Community Board, as well as DOC, Weedbusters NZ, and the Taupo District Council, depending on the project involved.

“We tell anyone who wants to hear what we are doing, and why, to help raise awareness of the issues”, says Russell.

“Everyone involved in pest and weed work in the community is helping to protect our natural environment. It helps nature and beautifies our surroundings, and also makes the bush a nicer place for people to visit.

‘Working together like this builds community spirit and a sense of pride in what our community has and what it can achieve together,’ Russell says.

The Omori Kuratau Pest Management Group warmly welcomes new pest and weed warriors. If you would like to help look after Kuratau’s natural environment, Russell Shaw would love to hear from you. You can contact him at this email address: sspub@reap.org.nz

More information
All around New Zealand, communities, private individuals, local government, central government, and research organisations are actively involved in Weedbusters work. This includes active control of weeds, as well as education about invasive weeds and pest plants.

The Weedbusters programme celebrates the efforts of these individuals, communities and organisations, and aims to spread the message that each of us has responsibility for stopping the spread of weeds.

More information about weeds and weedbusting can be found at www.weedbusters.org.nz.

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