Pikikurunga Range from Kairuru
Pikikirunga: 'Climb Up High' encompasses the Trusts' collective name and vision for its ecosystem restoration and protection projects on Tākaka Hill private and neighbouring Public Conservation Land (PCL). The Pikikirunga Range dominates the Tākaka Hill and the surrounding Golden and Tasman Bays landscape. Author of Rocks and Hard Places - The Tākaka Hill, Cliff Turley, describes Tākaka Hill, also known as The Marble Mountain, as "The chaotic landscape of marble protrusions, sinkholes, tomo and caves is the outstanding geological feature of the Tākaka Hill, a source of fascination to all who pass over it." The Pikikirunga Range was uplifted along the Pikikirunga fault line to form the steep western scarp rising above the Tākaka Valley with a gentler dip to the Riwaka Valley. Tākaka Hill's unique geology and location have seen the evolution of equally unique indigenous flora and fauna that the Trust is working hard to restore and protect.
National Park Halo Predator Control Project
The Trust successfully applied to the DOC Community Conservation Fund in 2020 and the Lotteries Environment and Heritage 2020 Fund for their Predator Control Project.
This project aims to protect populations of indigenous species and reintroduced species spreading out from Abel Tasman National Park and Kahurangi National Park by controlling rats, stoats and possums on Tākaka Hill private land located between these two National Parks.
Predator control will improve Aotearoa New Zealand indigenous biodiversity by improving ecosystem health to increase the populations of the nationally vulnerable whio as they spread from ATNP into the upper reaches of the Otuwhero River, which flows through Tākaka Hill private land. In addition, other species, such as the reintroduced kākā and pāteke, will also spread out onto private land.
Trustee Norman Petereit way-pointing a DOC200 Trapinator mustelid tunnel
Trustee Norman Petereit identified a young Old Mans Beard vine growing in a mature beech forest.
Tākaka Hill Pest Plant Control Project
A comprehensive pest plant survey of private land on Tākaka Hill was undertaken by ecological restoration specialists Kaitiaki O Ngahere, funded by the 2019 DOC Community Conservation fund.
The outcome of the survey was the Tākaka Hill.
Pest Plant Management Strategy 2020-2040 and the Tākaka Hill Pest Plant Action Plan 2021-2025. Forty-eight pest plants were recorded on Tākaka Hill during the survey, with more expected to be found during control operations. Class 1 pest plants are known, or potential pest plants and either have a legal obligation for control, are at low density or are isolated. Therefore, their feasibility for eradication is considered high, and the control regime will attempt comprehensive management. Kaitiaki O Ngahere, through a grant from the Rāta Foundation, is currently undertaking comprehensive control of Class 1 pest plants on Takaka Hill.
Controlling and eradicating introduced pest plants is important in restoring and protecting habitats where native species can thrive. The photo to the left shows an Old Mans Beard seedling (Clematis vitalba), a Class 2 species in a mature Beech forest in the Riuwaka Resurgence area of Kahurangi National Park. Old Mans Beard requires intensive annual control. As a result, this vine will spread throughout the forest uncontrolled, changing the ecology and the forest canopy.
Hawke's Lookout Restoration and Protection Project
The Trust signed a Community Agreement with DOC Motueka in September 2020 to support DOC's work on Public Conservation Land on Tākaka Hill. The agreement includes planting, clearing, invasive weed control, and predator and pest animal control.
Last September, the Trust tidied the Hawke's Lookout entrance and cleared an area for native plantings, which were protected with biodegradable sleeves purchased for the Trust by Ravensdown. Ravensdown also provided PPE gear. The Network Tasman Trust provided the funds to buy the equipment needed to carry out the work.
The Trust is currently propagating rare natives from Tākaka Hill landowner properties that will be used on Hawke's Lookout and other native restoration areas on Tākaka Hill.
Trustees at one of the four working bees held each year at Hawkes Lookout on Tākaka Hill
Ngarua Lime-works Manager Mark Simkin,THBGT Project Manager Charmaine Petereit and Depot Manager Harold Helmbright
Tākaka Hill Residents Recycling Depot Project
The Trust's successful application to the Tasman District Council 2020 Community Grant resulted in the Tākaka Hill residents' community recycling depot, which opened in November 2020. Previously residents would need to take their recycling to the Mairiri Recycling Centre over 30km away.
Thanks to Ravensdown Ngarua Lime works which provided the land, earthworks, depot construction materials and ongoing recycling management, Tākaka Hill residents now only have to travel a couple of kilometres to drop off their recycling.
Working with TDC Waste Management, Waka Kotahi NZTA, and Smart Environmental Ltd, the Trust was able to ensure the depot met all the safety requirements for the safe pick up of recycling on a State Highway.
Wilding Pine Control Project
In 2020 the Trust successfully applied for a $119,750 grant for the first year of the MPI Community Partnership Wilding Pine fund to control over 8000 wilding conifers on over 4000 ha of private land, completed in May 2021 through Jobs for Nature funding made available as part of the National Wilding Conifer Control Programme, through Biosecurity New Zealand (BNZ), a business unit of the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).
In 2021 the Trust was granted $250,000 to undertake conifer control on a further 876 hectares over two years, including areas in Abel Tasman and Kahurangi National Parks. This work began in August 2021 and was completed in June 2022. Wilding Pine control for the 2022/23 season started in October 2022.
Without this support for a land-rich but low-population community working on complex sub-alpine karst country, the wilding pine control achieved over three years would have taken up to 25 years.
A Powelliphanta hochstetteri was found during a daytime survey of the Trusts monitoring plot.
A birds-eye view taken from a drone flight over dead wilding pines invading regenerating forest on Tākaka Hill
One of the Trusts biodiversity indicator species is the at
risk carnivorous Ngata nui (giant land snail) Powelliphanta hochstetteri.
This snail is named for Ferdinand Hochstetter (1829-1884), whose scientific visit to New Zealand in the 1850s is recognised as this country's launch of geological science. Hochstetter studied the Takaka Hill lands on his Nelson Provincial Government survey of the region's mineral deposits in 1859 and noted in his logbook that he had also sought out what he called 'The Great Helix,' having been shown giant snail shells by several Takaka and Riwaka settlers.
The Trust has established a 70 x 70-metre mark-recapture monitoring plot on the Tākaka Hill Walkway, where populations have evolved on the limestone/marble karst underlying the sub-alpine beech forest habitat. The karst cracks and fissures protect the snails against introduced rats, possums and pigs. However, new Zealand's native weka and climate change's impact on soil moisture threaten its survival.
Over time monitoring of P. hochstetteri will provide valuable information on how to protect this native taonga best.
Vespula (German and common wasp) control Project
The Trust has been putting out vespex bait stations and re-baiting every year since 2018 to control Vespula (German and common wasp species) stations with vespex. The beech forests of the Tākaka Hill and South Island provide a unique resource – honeydew, an essential part of a beech forest ecosystem that native bats and birds like tūī, kākā and korimako, fungi and insects rely on year-round.
The honeydew drops from the end of the anal tube of a small-scale insect that lives within the bark of beech trees. The honeydew covers the bark and ground surrounding the tree. This feeds the black sooty mould fungi that eventually grow to cover the tree's bark. The black fungi are an essential food source for many animals, including several beetles and moths. These tiny insects also provide food for birds, a complex food web all sustained by the honeydew scale insect.
Trustees Wendy Henerson and Tony Salmon along with member Jessica Henderson collecting beech seed for propagation
Tākaka Hill Cave Fauna Survey Project
Under Tākaka Hill are kilometres of caves formed over millions of years as surface water has reached sea level. The surface water dissolves cracks in the marble to form caverns and caves, some the size of multi-level buildings! Although cave-dwelling species called troglobites are within these subterranean ecosystems, we know very little about these critters. The Trust is working with Anna Stewart, Research & Conservation Coordinator for the New Zealand Speleological Society, who, with a team of scientists, hopes to find out more about what lives in NZ. Caves. In October 2022, Anna, with her team of caving photographers, surveyed, recorded and collected specimens that have gone to Te Papa and Massey University. One of the future aims is to run genetic sequencing and see how closely related the same species is between different caves within a karst area and between different karsts (if found in more than one karst area).
A native skink Oligosoma polychroma being weighed and measured
Tākaka Hill Goat Control Project
Native vegetation on Tākaka Hill has been significantly impacted by introduced mammalian herbivores and omnivores, which have radically changed the structure and composition of native forest ecosystems and impacted the regeneration of retired SNA farmland. Possums cause extensive and catastrophic forest canopy collapse while deer and goats browse the understorey and, together with rodents, compound the impact on forest ecosystems and regeneration.
In partnership with and funded by Ravensdown, the Trust has embarked on a goat control programme over three years on Tākaka Hill private land that borders the ATNP. Goats move to and from the park and private land. The Trusts contract hunter is familiar with goat routes and has the social licence to hunt on the largest private land areas that border the ATNP and KNP.
Honeydew droplets on the end of the scale insect anal tube protruding through the sooty mould covering a beech tree
Tākaka Hill Native and Endemic Plant Propagation Project
The native forest once covered most of Aotearoa, New Zealand, supporting unique biodiversity found nowhere else in the world. Today, most forests are remnants of Public Conservation Land (PCL) and private land. Some of these remnants aren't big enough to support species requiring large breeding areas. Evidence suggests the approximate minimum home range areas for native birds to survive like whio, for example, is 30,000 ha, 10,000 ha for kākā, kiwi and kea, 5000 ha for Kākāriki, 2000 ha for toutouwai and 1000 ha for kererū, tūī, fantail, tomtit and silvereye.
The Trust has an active plant propagation programme led by Trust co-founder Wendy Henderson and Trustee Suzie Peacock members who work together collecting native and endemic species on Tākaka Hill private land and lead teams of volunteers on seed-collecting trips. The seedlings are planted in the nursery for a couple of years or until they are ready to be planted. Plant propagation is part of the Trust's habitat restoration programme, which includes PCL Hawkes Lookout and private land on Ravensdown Ngarua Lime-works. The Trust's goal is to restore and connect native forest habitats to extend the home range of native species.
Hendea Tākaka (Harvestmen) found in caves on Tākaka Hill
Tākaka Hill Gecko and Skink Survey Project
The Trust's Gecko and Skink monitoring programme began in July 2022, with Artificial Cover Objects (ACOs) made by Trust volunteers placed along transects on the Tākaka Walkway and other private lands. DOC Motueka supports the gecko project with in-kind support provided by herpetologist Graham Ussher from RMA Ecology. Through our ACO transects, we will be able to determine population trends through the uptake of occupancy of 2 relatively common endemic lizards – Northern grass skink Oligosoma polychroma and Raukawa gecko Woodworthia maculata. The transects will also permit survey via a foliar visual survey (Boffa Miskell method) or nighttime survey for eyeshine of the less frequently occurring (but with several recent records from the site) of the Nelson green gecko Naultinus stellatus.
Kōtukutuku (Fuchsia excorticata) heavily browsed by goats
Tākaka Hill Walkway Forest Remnant Project
In 2021 the Trust commissioned ecologist Michael North to carry out a survey and deliver a report on the benefit of fencing the forest remnant to create a sanctuary. Viewed in isolation, the forest is highly representative of its kind, with high rarity/distinctiveness values, due to threatened species presence, calcicole vegetation and landforms, including caves with Summit Cave being included in the Tākaka Hill Walkway Karst Cave Fauna Project ) and moderate diversity/pattern values. The forest is small, but its ecological context is continuity with a large area of secondary karst vegetation that adjoins the vast regions of Kahurangi National Park.
Excluding a range of critical impacting species would help secure a refuge for snail survival. The site is small and insufficient for survival into the long term without concerns of inbreeding and running the risk of stochastic events impacting numbers. But it would provide a critical holding place and potentially ensure the survival of the two species, pending the emergence of more successful pest control techniques at a broader landscape scale over the ensuing decades.