A predator-free fence protected them, but in 2014 the birds at Bushy Park Sanctuary, a 90 ha forest near Whanganui, faced a savage threat from invading rats. A massive effort by volunteers, the Bushy Park team and DOC staff to trap and poison the marauding rodents created breathing space.
Then, in late 2015 the Bushy Park Trust received $146,000 from DOC’s Community Fund, which, says trust chair, Liz Tennet, created a turning point allowing them to protect and guarantee the sustainability of the sanctuary. It was good news for one of Australasia’s Top-25 restoration projects, home to kiwi, hihi, toutouwai, karearea and tīeke set amongst one of the few patches of virgin lowland forest in the lower North Island.
“DOC’s Community Fund grant has made such a difference to the sanctuary,” Liz says.
“The grant allowed us to work closely with Forest & Bird to employ a sanctuary manager who in turn has been able to harness the energy of our more than 200 volunteers and implement a poison and trapping programme.”
The trust developed an MOU with Forest & Bird, followed by a biodiversity sustainability plan, which means that the sanctuary is now permanently protected. This included ensuring the main predator fence, gates and additional rodent fence were fully functional and maintained and that Bushy Park regularly undertakes an effective monitoring regime for the whole forest.
Since heading off the potential rat disaster, two years of continual monitoring shows that the rodents have disappeared, and tracking tunnels and a predator dog show no sign of mustelids either; it’s a satisfying effort and result all round. What’s even better is that the community support and credibility of Bushy Park has significantly increased.
“Because DOC supported us with their funding, the community has gained confidence in the sanctuary and their support has blossomed,” Liz says.
The trust continues to develop close relationships with local iwi, the regional council, Whanganui Regional Museum, Sarjeant Gallery and the district council. Liz says the trust has also established a very beneficial relationship with the Wanganui North Rotary Club, which has helped provide funds for Bushy Park’s heritage buildings.
Studied by scientists from around New Zealand and the world, the protected mature lowland rainforest and its inhabitants are also visited by more than 2,000 school children that participate in the sanctuary’s education programme.
With a wide variety of birdlife thriving in the sanctuary, the trust now helps other predator-free areas increase their bird populations. In 2015, they translocated 40 tīeke (saddleback) to Taranaki’s Rotokare Scenic Reserve and earlier this year they translocated 40 toutouwai (North Island Robin) to the Taranaki sanctuary.
The trust and their dedicated volunteers are keenly aware that they must remain vigilant, keep monitoring and motivated. In this case, their gratitude for DOC’s Community Fund is enormous and the flow-on effect has seen it multiply in a way that leaves everyone feeling good.