Restoring NZ natives from Cape to City

A Hawke’s Bay initiative is working towards ensuring native species are brought back to everyday communities, not just restricted to sanctuaries.

Words: Katie Kuo

What’s Cape to City all about?

Cape to City was established in 2015, with the vision of ensuring native species thrive where we live, work and play. It covers 26,000ha and is located between Hastings and Cape Kidnappers, and stretches down below Waimarama. 

Cape to City offers protection to native species moving from the Cape Sanctuary into the wider landscape, and helps to protect and increase native species already in the area so that they flow back into the lives of everyone in Hawke’s Bay. Cape to City is an attempt to cover all land uses in one conservation project, including farming, forestry, horticulture and reserves, as native species don’t adhere to human boundaries. 

The initiative is part of Predator Free Hawke’s Bay (PFHB), which is made up of three restoration projects: Poutiri Ao ō Tāne, Cape to City and Whakatipu Māhia. These projects bring together community and landowner conservation efforts to enhance our native biodiversity. Each project is linked with one another. 

Most of New Zealand’s land mass is privately owned and much is used for primary production. A smaller part, mostly managed by Department of Conservation (DOC), has high conservation value and contends with continual re-invasion of pests. In order to make a difference to New Zealand’s biodiversity, we need better integration between public and private restoration efforts.

This is where PFHB projects come into their own. PFHB began in July 2018 and is a $4.86 million four-year project. It builds on the success of landscape-scale ecological restoration projects Cape to City and Poutiri Ao ō Tāne, and in the future hopes to rid all of Hawke’s Bay of predators, including possums. 

A new project was formed under PFHB called Whakatipu Māhia – Predator Free Māhia. This will integrate biodiversity restoration into primary production landscapes in ways that deliver economic, social and environmental outcomes. When this is added to the work already being undertaken on high conservation value areas, there will be the greatest chance of significant, long-term biodiversity recovery across New Zealand. 

PFHB projects are bringing together public and private conservation efforts to make a positive difference for New Zealand’s native biodiversity. Councils, government agencies, farmers, hapū and iwi, schools, communities and philanthropists are teaming up through these projects to protect and enhance our natural treasures. Habitat restoration and enhancement, predator control and native species reintroductions are taking place across Hawke’s Bay on privately owned and public land, delivering positive economic, social, cultural, and environmental benefits. The flow on effects from these projects and partnerships are significant, not only for Hawke’s Bay but for all of New Zealand. 

Cape to City and Poutiri Ao ō Tāne were a New Zealand first for collaborative landscape-scale restoration in primary productive land, and they significantly influenced the current NZ Predator Free 2050 kaupapa. The delivery of milestones is through multiple workstreams: research, pest control, community engagement, habitat restoration, native species and project management.  

There are currently three main strands to the PFHB

  1. Possum eradication and predator suppression on Māhia 
  2. Extension of Poutiri Ao ō Tāne 
  3. Continuing all the trials and monitoring at Cape to City

Predator eradication 

The top predators in New Zealand include mustelids (stoats, ferrets, weasels), feral cats, possums, rats and hedgehogs. Our native species evolved without mammalian predators and are therefore vulnerable and unable to defend themselves. Predators along with habitat loss have caused many of our species to go extinct and have put many others on the brink of extinction. 

The predator control methods used in these projects are made up of two parts: initial knockdown and maintenance. The initial knockdown aims to drastically reduce the predator population to low levels that can then be maintained by a permanent network of traps that are checked infrequently. The maintenance network is then laid out using podiTRAPS (designed for humane killing of predators) with around one trap to 10-20ha. Wireless trapping technology sends satellite alerts when a trap has been triggered, instantly notifying the trap manager’s smartphone or computer. It reduces the amount of time, effort and resources involved in maintaining a widespread trap network, making it a reliable and efficient method for pest control on farms and other properties. 

The successes already achieved by Cape to City

  • Predators have been controlled to low numbers
  • Some bird species are starting to show recovery
  • More than 250,000 native plants have been planted
  • Cape to City have worked with more than 20 schools running environmental education programmes
  • In 2015, Toutouwai (North Island robins) were released from Poutiri Ao ō Tāne into a reserve on the Maraetōtara plateau in the Cape to City footprint
  • Since 2011 there have been more than 50 research outputs from PFHB projects, which has enabled a massive increase in knowledge on how to do predator control at a large scale in a primary productive landscape

Cape to City is having a significant impact nationally, and it was one of the contributing projects to the Predator Free 2050 announcement in 2017. The research coming out of the projects is being used nationally, and is a case study site for the Biological Heritage National Science Challenge. 

The plans for Cape to City in the next year (2020), are to continue to monitor biodiversity outcomes, run the low-maintenance trap network, work with teachers and maintain plantings. Most of the new work is happening in Whakatipu Māhia, where the focus is eradication, not suppression.

The government has set an ambitious goal of making New Zealand predator free by 2050. Cape to City express that this is an ambitious goal and will require new technology and the will of all New Zealanders to be realised. The goal itself has united efforts to restore our indigenous biodiversity. All New Zealanders have something they can get involved in to help stop biodiversity decline and help restore it. 

Learn more about Cape to City

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