The Department of Conservation has reviewed its animal pest control operations in Tararua Forest Park. As a result, it is focusing its efforts on a 22,000 ha belt across the park, from Otaki Forks to Holdsworth roadend, where it is restoring the forest and its wildlife through more intensive animal pest control.
This initiative to restore a diverse native forest bird community to the park is named Project Kākā. The native parrot kākā, plentiful on nearby Kapiti Island and at Pukaha Mount Bruce, survives only in low numbers in the park.
View map of Project Kākā zone (JPG, 217K)
Why has this occurred?
Possum control undertaken in the park since 1994 has successfully protected high-altitude fuchsia forest, but the timing and intensity has been insufficient to benefit forest bird populations. The department wants to restore wider biodiversity values in Tararua Forest Park, including birds, insects and plants, and monitor the changes that occur in protected and unprotected areas.
How is this happening?
A possum attacks a bird’s nest
The Project Kākā zone is being treated by the aerial application of the pesticide 1080 (with pre-feed) every three years (from 2010). This is done in spring to target rats and stoats as well as possums, protecting native birds during the vulnerable nesting period.
Monitoring will determine whether predator numbers can be suppressed for more than one bird breeding season in each three-year cycle.
To achieve this more intensive pest control within the same overall budget, the department ceased the six-year treatment cycle (without pre-feed) it formerly carried out over approximately 38,000 ha within the forest park.
The department will intensively monitor changes in these adjacent forest areas over the next 10 years, compared to the Project Kākā zone, to learn more about effective forest management.
How was the Project Kākā zone selected?
The zone covers the highest use areas of the park, so that as many park users as possible can experience the expected increase in vegetation condition and bird life. It includes a diversity of forest types representative of the forest park, including fertile river valleys and higher altitude beech, kamahi and fuchsia forests.
The zone also incorporates the bulk of the Otaki Biodiversity Zone established in 2006, expanding the concept to the eastern Tararua Forest Park.
What are the likely outcomes?
The department expects a substantial increase in the numbers of native birds in the Project Kākā zone.
North Island kākā
Species expected to benefit include kererū, tūī, bellbird, whitehead, tomtit, rifleman and kākāriki (parakeets). It is also hoped that kākā will return to the forest from nearby strongholds on Kapiti Island and at Pukaha Mount Bruce.
If sustained pest control can be achieved, it may be possible to reintroduce locally extinct birds including robin, whio (blue duck) and kiwi.
How is this being measured?
Birds, vegetation and weta are being intensively monitored inside and outside the Project Kākā zone. Birds are monitored using point counts in late spring, supplemented by incidental sightings of rarer species. Vegetation changes are assessed using marked 20 x 20 metre plots.
Trampers in the Atiwhakatu Valley,
Tararua Forest Park
Pest mammals are monitored using a variety of methods, to measure the effectiveness of control operations.
Possums are monitored using wax chew tags. Rat, stoat and mouse numbers are monitored using baited tunnels containing inkpads and tracking paper.
The same method is being used to monitor weta numbers (though not a pest species!). Deer densities are being assessed based on faecal pellet counts.
When did this start?
The first pest control operation was undertaken in the Project Kākā zone in spring 2010. DOC and the Animal Health Board (AHB) joined forces to run their animal pest control programmes in the Tararua ranges as a single co-ordinated operation.
See: Key facts about the Tararua Range aerial pest control programme
How can I help?
The department wants to hear of sightings of falcon, kākā, and kākāriki and other rare or interesting wildlife anywhere in Tararua Forest Park. Please complete the online form.
Or you can use the form on the Project Kākā factsheet (PDF, 871K)
You can also get involved in volunteer work associated with Project Kākā. See Wairarapa volunteer opportunities