Takitakitoa wetland impresses trustees
- Richie Cosgrove
“The best bang for your buck” is how Game Bird Habitat Trust Chairperson Andy Tannock described Takitakitoa Wetland on Saturday morning.
Trustees from the New Zealand Game Bird Habitat Trust were visiting the stunning wetland near the Taieri River during the annual meeting of the Trust in Dunedin.
Right: Game Bird Habitat Trust Chairperson Andy Tannock checks out the birdlife present at the restored Takitakitoa wetland.
It was the first meeting of the new board appointed by the Minister of Conservation in July consisting of Andy Tannock, Neil Candy, John Cheyne, Jan Riddell, Mark Sutton and Chantal Whitby.
The trust was meeting to review applications made to the trust for wetland projects across the country for 2020, they have approved 11 applications.
Funding for the award winning Takitakitoa project came from The New Zealand Game Bird Habitat Trust, which exists to improve New Zealand game bird habitat.
The Game Bird Habitat Trust is the sole body dedicated to providing financial backing for shooting and conservation in New Zealand and receives its funding from the sale of the Game bird stamp as part of the hunting licence.
It has been influential in supporting many projects by recognising that often all that is needed to enable a project to go ahead is a modest grant.
The Takitakitoa Wetland project near Dunedin has been one of the largest wetland enhancement projects undertaken without funding help from any non-Fish & Game sources.
Otago Fish & Game was gifted the lower portion of the wetland in 1994, around 40 hectares, and later obtained the upper portion or the 70ha wetland, through a land swap deal.
The project was launched with a $50,000 grant from the Game Bird Habitat Trust largely spent on constructing a 350m bund so the valley floor, drained in the 1960’s, could be re-flooded. Otago Fish & Game Council also put funds into the project.
“It was basically taking 32 hectares of drained, failed farmland and turning it back into wetland” says Otago Fish & Game Chief Executive Ian Hadland.
“Takitakitoa is a shining example of hunter funding being used for greater conservation benefit.
“This is an ecological restoration project which has benefits for not just duck hunters, but anyone interested in enhancing or conserving natural habitat for the future.
As soon as water re-filled the wetland, all sorts of wildlife turned up, species which had not been previously observed there while it was in its degraded state, says Mr Hadland, who describes the project as a massive success.
“There’s clearly conservation benefits there that even I didn’t expect to be honest,” he adds.
“Some creatures turned up that I didn’t even know were in the neighbourhood…like the pied stilts. There are probably 30 to 50 that have moved in to live and raise their chicks.”
The wildlife included species well outside of Fish & Game’s area of interest such as inanga (whitebait) fernbirds, grey teal and royal spoonbills.
However Mr Hadland points out that mallard ducks and some other game birds have also colonised the area, and allowed for the wetland to be used for novice hunting in particular.
“Getting the next generation of hunters out there to appreciate wetlands and learn their value is important. Those young hunters will undoubtedly fund similar conservation efforts in the future. Takitakitoa is in general a project that Fish & Game can hold up as “a great example of duck hunter-funded conservation project,” he says.