Above: the predicted growth in Auckland's pest-free areas by 2050
Auckland is a region surrounded by individual sites of conservation success.
Purging islands and fenced reserves of pests and reintroducing native flora and fauna have helped to regenerate many endangered populations. But as long as these successes remain isolated from one another, the future of Auckland’s native taonga will hang in the balance.
Brett Butland, Auckland Council’s Pest Free Auckland 2050 programme project director, says the key to protecting and restoring our native biodiversity lies in encouraging a pest-free “mosaic of connected habitats” across the region.
The obstacle, he says, is that “a great number of our species don’t travel very far. So, the need for a more connected habitat is crucial. In the past, we have seen birds and invertebrates begin to successfully spread out from pest-free reserves, only to be predated upon and curtailed.”
The solution is to create expansive ‘green corridors’ between the existing successful reserves to facilitate the migration and population growth of our native fauna.
The growing community effort
Since the Pest Free Auckland programme was established in 2017, the number of community-powered conservation groups the council works with has risen well into the thousands. The groups range from predator trapping, weed eradication and native planting, to the preservation of individual species.
“People may think, ‘What I do here isn’t going to make a difference’, when really that’s what matters,” Butland says.
The results are heartening. Wētā populations in the Manukau lowlands are on the rise; kākā have been found in Northcote, Kohimarama, Waitākere, Drury and even as centrally as Cornwall Park; korimako (bellbirds) have been reported in Ōrākei; and even pekapeka (long-tailed bats), which are classed as ‘nationally critical’, have been seen from Patumahoe to Henderson.
“The critical thing is to not delay. Do something: talk to your neighbours, take action,” says Butland. “Talk to us. Send us an email and we’ll respond.”
The council’s park rangers regularly lead volunteer days at reserves, educational talks and workshops, alongside the Department of Conservation. These events can be found via the Auckland Biodiversity Facebook page or the Pest Free Auckland 2050 newsletter.