The Tūpuna Maunga (ancestral mountains) or volcanic cones represent some of the most significant cultural, archaeological and geological places in Auckland.
Pest plants and animals can quickly undermine these values if left unchecked. One of the most prolific and troublesome pests of all is the common rabbit.
Auckland Council’s biosecurity and specialist parks teams, under the guidance of the Tūpuna Maunga o Tāmaki Makaurau Authority, have been on the case over the last 18 months, with fantastic results.
“Rabbits are very destructive pests,” says Malcolm Harrison, Biosecurity Advisor for the Tūpuna Maunga.
“Burrowing and scrapes cause extensive damage on erosion-prone soils, and their presence often attracts predators that threaten our native ecology and pose a risk to recreational activity such as walking and running.”
Rabbits can destroy vegetation, pasture and rare threatened native plants that are established on the maunga, as well as vegetation in neighbouring gardens. Astoundingly, one pair of rabbits can produce 100-plus rabbits in one year.
Using control methods such as burrow fumigation and night shooting (limited to the hours of 12am [midnight] to 4am on weekdays), a total of 1278 rabbits have now been removed across five of Auckland’s maunga: Te Pane o Mataoho / Māngere Mountain, Maungarei / Mount Wellington, Ōwairaka / Mount Albert, Ōhinerau / Mount Hobson, and Ōtāhuhu / Mount Richmond.
For each maunga, the number of rabbits has been cut by at least 98 per cent, with 100 per cent removal achieved on Ōwairaka / Mt Albert.
“We’re obviously very pleased with this result,” says Harrison. “By removing the rabbits and backfilling the burrows we’ve been able to stabilise the soil and stem the erosion.
"We also know that the reduced rabbit numbers will have other beneficial effects to the wider ecology on the maunga.”
It is hoped that complete removal of rabbits from Maungarei / Mt Wellington and Ōtāhuhu / Mt Richmond can be achieved in the near future, along with other maunga over the next three years.
In 2014 the Ngā Mana Whenua o Tāmaki Makaurau Collective Redress Act, 14 Tūpuna Maunga were returned to the 13 mana whenua iwi and hapū of Auckland, marking an important milestone in the restoration of these iconic tāonga (treasures).
Auckland Council is responsible for the routine management of the Tūpuna Maunga, under the direction of the Maunga Authority.
For a full list of the 14 Tūpuna Maunga, and to learn more about the Tūpuna Maunga o Tāmaki Makaurau Authority, check out the Auckland Council website.