Gardening contributor Ruud Kleinpaste joins Jack Tame, listen above!
Little Barrier Island (Hauturu) has had relatively little modification in the past 1000 years or so; the only introduced animals of great concern were kiore (pacific rice rats), domestic cats and German wasps. No doubt these wasps got there on their own steam, flying across the sea from the mainland.
The cats (which arrived in the 1870s) were trapped and removed from the island between 1977 and 1980; Dick Veitch was leading a team that was hunting these predators for years! Cats were preying on a range of important taonga (seabirds, lizards and naïve songbirds, especially the ground breeders, poor fliers and the flightless species.
Kiore were removed through aerial baits in 2004 and surprisingly… when the kiore disappeared, so did the German wasps. They’ve never been seen since and to this day, nobody has any idea why! Research is carried out to investigate why this may be.
Now, the island’s ecology is functioning almost like it has always done… apart from some pernicious weeds that keep on flaring up and needing a lot of intervention to stop them spreading. Many of these weeds “fly” from the mainland, either as seeds (Pampas Grass has air-born seeds) or through droppings of birds that make the journey to Hauturu (climbing asparagus is a great example)
The Hauturu Supporters Trust is a group of dedicated people that tries to assist DOC, the Rangers and Scientists to keep the island in good order and that includes raising funds for weed control and environmental education and weed awareness, especially on the adjacent mainland. The Trust also supports with the purchase of essential materials and technology to enhance the Conservation efforts of the staff and scientists on the island; most of this related to Biosecurity and the message that the island is a NO-LANDING area!
Yes, you can visit the island (for instance via work and walk weekends with the Hauturu Supporters Trust) but the biosecurity measures are extremely strict to avoid new introductions of predators and other exotic organisms.
If you’ve ever been to Tiritiri Matangi Island, you’ll know what it will feel and sound like to live in a Predator-Free New Zealand in the future. The experience is mind-blowing: you go for a walk and see Kaka, saddlebacks and stitchbirds (hihi);
Hauturu steps this up a few notches again, with penguins nesting under your bunkroom and kiwi sniffling around the tracks in the evening. Kokako keeps you awake in the morning and Kakapo is heard booming from the ridges while giant weta rustle along the ground and on tree trunks. Giant Centipedes pitter-patter on the leaf litter…
This is a magnificent place – this is the exemplar of the “new Normal”