Awhitu Landcare AGM 15 June 2019
In 2019 there has been much energy in the pest control space as the government’s predator free and the council’s pest free strategies have gained traction across the region, bringing with them an increase in both support and funding for community-based organisations such as ours.
We are extremely grateful to the Auckland City Council and Franklin community board for their support this year, and especially to Michael Ngatai who has really listened to us and quietly and effectively supplied us with much needed pest control supplies, a new storage shed, drainage and water supply improvements for the nursery, access to council expertise and specialists. The list goes on.
Our pest control programme, funded by Auckland City Council until June 2020, grows from strength to strength. Our pest control contractor Pete Shepherd isn’t here to thank in person, but his efforts, supported by Martin Robertson and Steve Sherie have seen possum control effectively maintained this year. Some 600 contractor-managed bait stations are matched by an equivalent number of community-managed stations. The catch from 26 Cyanide runs in this period shows that the downward trend continues in possum populations on those rugged and inaccessible west coast margins. Our mustelid trapping programme is expanding 3-fold with the addition of 200 new traps. We are now better resourced to support landowners with feral cat trapping.
Auckland Council recently commissioned an RTC (residual trap count) on the peninsula. This is an independent measure of the effectiveness of the possum control programme, and the first such audit in several years. The results were heartening to say the least – an average of 5.98 % across the peninsula. This data provides Landcare and the pest control team a solid basis for planning the pest control effort for the next 12 months.
But our predator free goals cannot be achieved without the support and engagement of the Awhitu Community. We are very excited to announce that we have recently won Auckland Council funding, in a fiercely contested round, to support landowners and community volunteers in their pest control efforts. We’ll be rolling this out over the next 6 months and more information about specific initiatives will be communicated shortly. But simply put, our vision is that the Awhitu landowners and residents who want to make a difference will have the support and resources they need to contribute to the conservation effort on the peninsula.
And in this vein, I’d like to acknowledge Mick Grantham who has spear-headed a rat trapping pilot project with the Orua Bay community. This is a fantastic example a of grass roots, community led initiative, and is a great model to take forward.
We are very proud of Awhitu Landcare’s nursery whose mission is to supply eco-sourced plants for revegetation projects on the peninsula, while providing a community space where volunteers can meet and work. This year the nursery, managed so capably by Sigrid Sharplin, and supported by Jill Mclean while Sigrid was on parental leave, has raised 12,000 plants. These trees and shrubs are propagated entirely from locally sourced seed and are destined for some 15 local revegetation projects.
Plant numbers are down a little on the last financial year due to some unexpected challenges. A Myrtle rust infestation last year seriously hampered the running of the nursery for some months and water supply issues arising from the drought this summer resulted in the loss of some plants. But we have bounced back and the nursery is flourishing. I encourage you to drop in on a Tuesday or Thursday to say hello, or even better to stop for an hour or two and join the crew at the potting up bench.
We are blessed to have such a skilled and dedicated team. Our Resource Centre Manager Sarah Williams is talented, passionate and has a level of expertise in conservation that we are so lucky to have. Sigrid Sharplin our Nursery manager is so knowledgeable and skilled in the ways of both plants and people. Pete Shepherd our pest control specialist is respected and loved by the residents of the peninsula. And we are supported by many, many volunteers. Those who join the committee and share the work of keeping the organisation ticking over, those who support the nursery volunteer days. And most importantly our members; the residents and the landowners who care enough about our unique and beautiful environment to set a trap, or plant out a stream bank, or keep the climbing asparagus under control in their bush block.
This afternoon we are saying farewell to more than 50 years of combined service and dedication to the Awhitu Landcare committee.
Alison Marsen and her husband Gary were founding members of Awhitu Landcare. Alison has been a hardworking and dedicated member of the committee for 18 years, and has been both the convenor and the secretary at different times. I have leant heavily on Alison this year, and am very appreciative that she agreed to stay on for ‘just one more year.’
Margaret Magkill has been a member for some 15 years and a committee member for many of those. Margaret brings a keen mind to the committee and tireless effort to the nursery. And she has assured me she will continue to be there come potting up day in the nursery.
Jenny Hinton, likewise has been a Landcare member for 15 years, a staunch nursery volunteer and committee member for many years. I have always appreciated Jenny’s thoughtful approach and local insight. And I know we will continue to see Jenny in the nursery.
Christine Wormald, is a long time resident with significant experience in conservation projects both here and in Australia. Although we are sorry to see Chris step down from the committee where her practical approach is much appreciated, we are very grateful that Chris will continue to volunteer at our market stall and Saturday opening of the resource centre.
In summary, Awhitu Landcare has ended the financial year in good shape and good heart. We are busy, slightly overwhelmed at times, but very enthusiastic about the way forward.