Genesis Energy’s national Whio Forever recovery programme – conducted in collaboration with the Department of Conservation (DOC) and the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society (Forest & Bird) – has made significant gains in the year to March 31.
Such has been its success that the earlier target of achieving 500 protected breeding pairs by 2019 has been revised to 600 pairs by 2016.
The whio is endemic to New Zealand. The national population is currently just 3,000 and its continued decline has been attributed to habitat loss and the introduction of predators such as stoats, cats and dogs. The Tongariro River and nearby rivers, where Genesis Energy has a 362 MW hydro scheme, is an important environment for the whio.
Mitigation of threat to the whio was required when Genesis Energy was granted renewed resource consents for the Tongariro power station in 2004. But the Whio Forever recovery programme was born out of the company’s desire to go beyond its regulatory obligations. Coming together with DOC and Forest & Bird, the Whio Investment Agreement was signed in 2011, formalising a protection plan for whio and fast-tracking the 10-year recovery plan that had been in place since 2009.
The programme aims to grow the whio population so that it is no longer classified as under threat. To do that, whio are protected at eight secure sites, community groups are encouraged to participate in the protection of whio, and the whio’s role as an indicator of river health is promoted.
A $2.5 million management fund has been created for the programme, which achieved several key milestones in the year to March 31. Investment in predator control has seen 3,620 traps purchased for 12 sites around New Zealand - equating to 362 kilometres of extra trap line. A national trial of self-resetting traps has also been launched.
The whio nest egg project received a cash injection to support captive breeding sites and hardening facilities nationwide, which allowed for the release of 18 birds into the wild in the past 12 months.
Resources have been allocated to develop data loggers and a database that holds information about the whio captured from protection sites.
Significant funds have been allocated to six protection sites, and this has allowed for a full suite of predator control and population management resources to be established there. Such efforts have been rewarded in the Tongariro Forest, with number of breeding pairs increasing from 40 to 88 in this area in the year to March.
A whio awareness campaign was run during March 2013. A large national advertising campaign saw traffic on the Whio Forever website increase 85 per cent during the month. And a family weekend at Auckland zoo centred around the whio enclosure was attended by 7,238 people.
Genesis has also supported 11 community groups involved in the protection of whio, such as the Maungataniwha LifeForce Restoration Trust, which has been able to increase its trapping programme (448 new traps and 48km of trapping line) as a direct result.
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