Volunteers moving mountain
By Grant Johnston
Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust’s project is having plenty of life injected into it by a swag of volunteers.
The Trust has 150 registered volunteers who come from throughout the Waipa District and beyond, who contribute to a range of activities and tasks that are helping the project to forge ahead.
Their volunteer labour has helped build metalled tracks through the northern and southern enclosures (cells which showcase the project for visitors).
The southern enclosure (accessed via Tari Road in Pukeatua) will have over 5 kilometres of track in a 65 hectare fenced enclosure.
Volunteers have also built bridges over streams and marked out grid lines throughout the enclosures. The latter task alone required 690 hours, with volunteers hacking their way through bush and plotting the points for the tracking tunnels with GPS.
The first two poison drops have taken place over the past month (the latest on Thursday).
The effectiveness of the poison baits in cutting predator (rats, cats, stoats and mice) numbers is being monitored by another group of volunteers.
Each week the monitoring stations will be checked by an army of 70 volunteers, six local schools and Maungatautari Marae members.
When the Courier visited a group of three women from Hamilton were checking their line of 34 monitoring stations in the southern enclosure. They do this each Tuesday, along with a line in the northern enclosure on Maungatautari which is at the end of Hicks Road.
Like other volunteers, they offer their labour free because they believe passionately in the need for the project and because it is their way of helping preserve a unique piece of New Zealand and even ‘turning back the clock’ for some species.
The monitoring stations comprise a plastic tunnel containing inked card - for recording ‘passers by’ lured by the peanut butter bait. The cards with suspect prints are scanned by a group of experts for a precise read of what has left its prints. A similar system at Tiritirirangi Island in Auckland was able to show that rather than a feared mouse, a print left belonged to a pregnant weta.
There has been plenty of invaluable but free input from experts in the fields of science, ecology and biology.
Kiwi will be released in the enclosures once they are proven to be predator free.
Volunteers have helped with the laying of power cables alongside the walking tracks that will eventually provide night lighting so visitors can view the nocturnal kiwi in action.
Another group of volunteers has been in charge of planting alongside the tracks - all plants sourced from the mountain.
Fundraising for the $14 million project to fence the entire 45km perimeter of the mountain has reached close to $4.5 million.
“We’ve received some great donations and made good progress, but we still have a long way to go with our fundraising,” says Trust chief executive, Jim Mylchreest.
A third of the 45km perimeter fence is scheduled to be installed this financial year.
Grants have ranged from the large gaming trust and corporate contributions to the $55 membership and $100 fence donations of people who just want to help out.
The Trust has over 800 registered members - people who appreciate the enormous potential the project has to provide a large natural haven for endangered and rare species.
Trustee Ted Tauroa sums up the feeling of fellow trustees who have an enormous ongoing commitment to the project.
“It was something that had to happen in New Zealand. If we hadn’t done it now it would probably have been too late.”
Want to help?
To become a member of the Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust, donate $100 towards a metre of fence and receive a certificate with the fence number on it and/or make a nominal donation contact the office at 07 823 7455 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or simply post your donation to PO Box 476, Cambridge.
To find out more about the Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust project or register as a volunteer, contact the office at 07 823 7455, email email@example.com or check website www.maungatrust.org