New QEII covenants on Pongaroa Station

From Malcolm Rutherford, QEII rep for the District :

It’s always interesting doing the first monitoring visit on a new registered covenant.  The fences are up, and the stock is out, and the next job for me as the local QEII rep is to set up some photo points. I pick a range of spots where we will see change over time. Around the edges where there is plenty of light there is a very rapid response and within a year there is a noticeable improvement in the condition of the vegetation.  In contrast, on soils that have been compacted by cattle, and in areas that are a bit darker it can take much longer with some species not coming back for a few decades if at all. At Pongaroa there are small seedlings coming up already, so hopefully they can get a good start and start to form the understory, and the next generation of canopy trees.
The two new covenant blocks at Pongaroa Station keep stock out of 2.5 km of stream in the Whangawehi and Wainui catchments. There is also a major revegetation program planned.
One treat of carrying out a monitoring visit is finding interesting species On this visit I came across an epiphytic orchid called Drymoanthus adversus. It isn’t much to look at and can be hard to spot, but if you get close enough at this time of year you’ll see it has quite stunning flowers – you’ll need a magnifying glass to have a good look though as they are tiny.

2019 school programme summary

Jenni and Rae have been busy engaging with the school community. Here is a summary of the work they have taken part of. Well done and congratulations for your commitment to the cause.

This year, the school’s application to be a Predator Free School was accepted by Predator Free New Zealand Trust, sponsored by KiwiBank. Every year they select up to twenty schools to be part of of Predator Free Schools programme. This programme has a focus on teaching kids about what makes NZ’s native species special and how introduced predators impact their survival. It also encourages them to take collective action for the care of the environment. Traps, tracking tunnels and other resources are provided to enable successful programmes. Jenni has supported teachers this year  through WCMG and Enviroschools.

Other Workshops, related to Kaitiakitanga, have included:

Bird surveys in the school grounds and research about local birds. Related to this was a plant survey.

Tracking tunnels made and baited to analyse what pests are visiting Te Mahia School. These were followed by commercial tracking tunnels. Both showed that rats and mice are the predators to deal to so far.

A bug motel constructed by Juniors, to encourage birds in the school grounds, for a free smorgasbord.

Research about pests and predators and their effect on local birdlife and insect life. A highlight related to this was the visit Bree and her handler, Helen, made to the school, class by class. Bree is a Conservation Dog, trained to sniff out Whio (blue duck). Helen showed how well trained and reliable Bree is.bree modeled  her various uniform garbs and Helen answered questions about why Bree is needed.

The years 4 to 8 students visited Electric Village where they participated in a workshop about Energy – sustainable / renewable energy forms compared to forms of energy that contribute to Climate Change or use non-renewable resources. They followed up in class during Term 3 with Science learning on this topic. In November they will participate in the Great Solar Cooker Challenge with other Enviroschools.

Making ruru (morepork) nesting boxes, to be installed in Term 4 on large trees in the school grounds. The students worked in house groups to produce their own ruru nesting box.  They will watch closely next nesting season to see if they have made it safe for ruru to feed at school and raise owlets. The technology challenge is to decide how to install the boxes effectively on the trees they have selected.  One box is destined for Whangawehi.

Other workshops have been focused on Tūrangawaewae.

Tūrangawaewae are places and feeling where we feel especially empowered and connected. They are our foundation, our place in the world, our home.

In preparation for the School Gala clay tiles and magnets were created from clay. The children had to make their clay work relevant to Mahia.

At Te Mahia School there are six house groups which have been established at the school for a long time.  Over the years the significance of the names of the house groups has been almost forgotten.  The students have been researching the relevance of their house group names ( maunga in the area), to them and their whanau, and they are preparing to create murals in Term four for an outside wall of the library.

Tuia 250 is an important aspect of the concept of Tūrangawaewae. Given that Te Mahia is the final visiting point (15 to 19 December) for the Tuia 250 flotilla the students are preparing for this during Term 4.

Whangawehi walkway survey

The field work regarding the Whangawehi walkway survey was completed on Tuesday the 8th of October. It took a couple of attempts to cover the full length of the walkway. The computer work can now start. A big thank you to Kevin Taylor from Survey Gisborne Limited and his team (Allan) for assisting us with this work. A big thank you too, to the New Zealand Access Commission for providing financial and technical support. We will keep you informed on the next steps.

Massey Uni Tree trial update

On Wednesday the 9th of October, Georgia came to assess the site. She had been warned that a lamb had gone into the planting and that some trees had been nibbled ! The preference went to the Mahoe and the griselinia as well as the Five fingers. Most trees are recovering but some had to be replaced. The site is reasonably steep and hard so the next few months will be difficult and certainly a good way of demonstrating which specie can adapt to a hill country environment.

We will keep you posted

Insect monitoring

On Friday the 27th of September, Janice Edwards laid out our insect traps. This monitoring is done every year as part of the WCMG monitoring programme. It is usually carried out about the same time every year. Several sites are assessed every year and the information collected helps us better understand how the insect population responds to our large scale restoration programme. Insects are extremely important as they are the food source for a number of other species that we are hoping to bring back.

A big thank you to Janice for her commitment to this very meticulous work.

White bait work on Pongaroa Station

On Wednesday the 11th of September 2019, Helen Jonas and Hawaiki Walker from DOC went with Nic to the Whangawehi stream to carry out some white bait work. The spawning site was fenced off in 2014 but still remains marginal in terms of the quality of its habitat for white bait spawning. The hot spot is a short 100 m stretch of river where the fresh water mixes up with the salt water. White baits lay their eggs in the vegetation growing on the river bank during king tides. The eggs need to be exposed to the air to be able to mature.

Today, the team laid several hay bales and pegged them firmly to the banks. The idea is to offer a favourable environment for the fish to come back and lay their eggs. The river banks have been eroded over the years (due to floods and storms) and offer upright papa surfaces with no vegetation. We hope that this trial will be successful.

Local white baiters Nathan and Wayne explained that last year was an exceptionally good year for white bait. This year, fishing has started off fairly slow. Nathan was really impressed by the extensive plantings and explained that the water was cleaner and the fish more abundant. Having spent more time along the river recently, he has noticed more and more cats and stoats so we need to improve our pest control work.

A big thank you to Helen and Hawaiki from DOC for their help. Enjoy the photos and the short video clip

If you want to learn more about best practice and fishing regulations please follow the link :

Regenerating Hill Country project

The regenerating Hill Country team wants to extend their thanks to the Whangawehi Catchment Management Group and all of the people who gave their time and hospitality whislt they were visiting in Te Mahia this week. Henrik, Katherine and Ang met with farmers, kaitiaki and agencies to learn about the work of the WCMG and the vision for the future of Te Mahia and surrounding Hill landscape. This work is part of a longer term project researching how best to future proof hill country farming and communities.

Henrik and his team will get back to us with a report /summary of their findings. Thank you all for your support.

Beef and lamb research project

On the 15th of August 2019, Georgia a Masters student from Massey came to establish 300 native trees as a trial on Pongaroa Station. Trees included : Mahoe, Taupata, Fivefingers and Griselina. This trial is part of a Beef and Lamb Research funded project sitting under the umbrella of the Regenerative hill country landscape. Georgia will be monitoring tree growth and nutritional value during the next couple of years. These trees are potential food source for stock if managed appropriately. We will keep you updated on Georgia’s findings.