The Eastern Whio link has taken a new and exciting approach to protect and enhance on-farm biodiversity.
This unique initiative connects farmers with hunters and fishers to achieve considerable outcomes for conservation.
In 2020 a group of hunters and fishermen got together to resurrect a whio (Blue Duck) population in the upper Waioeka catchment. They built relationships with local landowners to bring this iconic species back.
In the project’s first year, 20 whio chicks were fledged from the last four remaining pairs. In the second year, 26 chicks were fledged, and before long, a stable whio population started to thrive. Next, the project team diversified to focus on other species; kiwi, pekapeka and pōpokotea. This was achieved through a matauranga Māori approach with farmers, tangata whenua, local hunters and fishers operating as a tightly-knit group.
Winning the NZ Biosecurity Awards Community Award for 2021 is a testament to the time and energy of all of the individuals and organisations that made this happen: Matawai Marae, Department of Conservation, Sam Gibson- NZ Landcare Trust East Coast Catchment Coordinator, Geoff McLaughlan- Eastern Whio Link project manager, Kerry Gibson, Joanna Barbarich, Tairāwhiti Environment Center, Bene Footwear and Trust Tairāwhiti. This project is an example of success through cooperative partnerships.
Through funding provided by MPI, the NZ Landcare Trust has supported this work directly, with Sam Gibson (NZLT East Coast Catchment Coordinator) providing technical expertise and upskilling project volunteers, farmers and tangata whenua. In addition, the Trust facilitated on-farm kiwi and bat surveys and a series of kiwi aversion training events that ensured farm and hunting dogs within the project’s footprint had adequate training to prevent a loss of on-farm biodiversity through predation of kiwi, whio and weka.
Funding from MfE, under the Jobs for Nature, has enabled the team to scale up their work and integrate a marae-based model into predator-control for biodiversity conservation. This project can inspire others to take on landscape-scale conservation efforts in other regions to bring our threatened species back from the brink.