Shell New Zealand – Helping Kōkako Sing Again
Shell has a long-standing link with the Taranaki region and was until recently, the majority owner of the Māui Pipeline. It partnered with the Tiaki te Mauri o Parininihi Trust and the Department of Conservation, to prepare the forest for the translocation of kōkako to Taranaki, which has been without the bird since the last kōkako was removed in 1999.
A large conservation effort managed by the Trust has been underway in Parininihi. That will lower the pest population across 2,000 hectares of coastal and inland forest in North Taranaki, enabling the return of the kōkako and sustaining their presence.
Prior to the partnership, Shell published a children’s book with Puke Ariki that tells the story of Tamanui, the last Taranaki kōkako. The bird was removed because the surrounding ecosystem had become too populated by introduced pests.
Shell now funds the Trust in its pest control efforts. The work required an initial intensive phase to bring down total pest numbers, followed by on-going maintenance of tracks, traps and bait stations. Shell also supports the costs associated with administration of the project, including expenses like fuel and GPS technology.
Shell staff have taken personal interest in the kōkako project. The environment team volunteered for a trap baiting day, and a family day was held at Parininihi to showcase the initiative.
Shell’s environmental advisor has become an ambassador for the Trust, creating a Facebook page and promoting volunteer opportunities. The firm’s social investment manager posts updates on the Trust’s website, has set up a Givealittle page and offers in-house technical services to the Trust as needed.
Shell is active in raising the profile of kōkako in Taranaki. Trust members were invited to speak at its annual community dinner and raised donations. As part of the Zero Waste @ WOMAD initiative, Shell donated money for every kilogram of waste diverted from landfill. Royalties from the Tamanui story are given to the Trust, and the book has also helped the Trust gain access to local schools for presentations on kōkako and conservation.
The partnership has a clear goal: to prepare the forest to the required standard, then translocate the kōkako to the forest. Progress against this goal is being monitored closely. In November 2015, a tracking tunnel pest survey of the forest showed the pest population was 8.5 per cent, down from 14 per cent the year prior. This does not yet meet the target of below 5 per cent pests, but further efforts have since been made to achieve this metric (including a push to fill all bait stations in April 2016). A recent possum survey returned positive results, and it is anticipated that up to 20 kōkako will be able to be released in August 2016.
Biodiversity is one of Shell’s key investment imperatives. It sees the project as an umbrella initiative for Parininihi, believing that other wildlife and plants will benefit from conservation decisions made for the kōkako.
The project also provides Shell opportunities to work with local stakeholders, iwi/hapu and community groups, who consider protection of the environment a top concern.
The Community Initiative of the Year award category is sponsored by PEPANZ