Neighbourhood Biology
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Public appeal for funds to purchase last tract of private land on Karekare Beach 

place: Karekare Beach neighbourhood: part of Karekare 
city: Waitakere City regional council: Auckland 

Finally, after several years of negotiations, the purchase by Auckland Regional Council of the last tract of private land on Karekare Beach has been approved. The sale secures the Gribble property, near the cave and leading to the Pohutakawa Glade, as part of the regional park, not to be developed in any way.  

But the sale is contigent on the local Ratepayers and Residents  
Association raising $20,000 towards the purchase price. For the association, moving only a thousand dollars a year in costs, this is an enormous sum. But the community of Karekare, of only a couple hundred permanent residents, have watched the growing development of the area over recent years. They feel that the purchase of the Gribble tract is vital to the protection of the beach area for all New Zealanders. 

The beach is increasingly popular with Aucklanders. Films such as "The Piano" have made it a "must see" for many overseas visitors. Famous artists, musicians and writers have found inspiration here. For all that, it remains a wilderness to itself, with surf and bush which still holds a special beauty as well as danger.  

The Karekare Ratepayers and Residents Association is holding a public appeal to raise the money for the land purchase. 

Donations, greatly appreciated, can be sent to the Association, c/o R Taylor,treasurer, 3 Karekare Beach Road, Piha R.D. Waitakere City.  

School children take on suite of local ecology projects in Blueskin Bay 

neighbourhoods: Waitati and Warrington    catchment: Blueskin Bay 
city: Dunedin      regional council: Otago 

The older children of two local primary schools in Blueskin Bay catchment are gearing up to join with the Neighbourhood Biology Team in a number of local ecology studies in the catchment.  

One of the projects is about the historical changes in the area. Using the oral histories of long time residents, the group will look at the state of local native and exotic plants and animals.  

Another project is understanding the health of the local freshwater streams in the area, as revealed by sampling the comunities of small invertebrates living there. A third project involves the local birdlife.  

For more information about these projects, contact  
Janinne Cunningham at  

Visit the SV Rainbow Warrior during its tour of New Zealand 

Greenpeace New Zealand is hosting the Rainbow Warrior in a tour of New Zealand in March and April. Details about the trip are outlined below.  

One of the key features of the tour are community meetings in each port of call, where Greenpeace staff are organizing public forums for local people about key ecological issues. They want to foster links between people who work on international/national issues and people who either work on local issues or have an interest. The public forums are an opportunity to meet, to talk, to listen to a variety of specialists, public figures, locals and the Greenpeace staff. 


Gardening Continues at Meola Reef Reserve 

place: Meola Reef Reserve    neighbourhood: part of Grey Lynn  
city: Auckland            regional council: Auckland 

At the end of January, seventeen locals came together to mulch and weed the native trees planted at the reserve adjacent to Meola Reef, an ancient volcanic formation jutting into Waitemata Harbour. Auckland City donated ten cubic metres of mulch, which is helping the young pohutakawa, caro and flax get established even in this remarkably hot weather.  

The next gardening day is planned for the end of March/early April. This is the last task before we begin the big planting day in June. The Western Bays Community Board is providing us with $5,000 of native plants for this occasion. 

Our aim is to enhance the area as a city park and also create a good habitat for shore birds. Do visit the reserve and see the improvements. 

We will announce dates of future activities on the website here and by means of flyers around Auckland. As important to our publicity is word of mouth, so tell your friends. If you have any queries or comments, please ring Mark Johnson (09) 8150 302.  

Friends of Cox's Bay focus action on local creek 

place: Cox's Creek         catchment: Cox's Bay 
city: Auckland            regional council: Auckland 

Cox's Creek is an urban freshwater way, running through inner city Auckland through mangroves into the Waitemata Harbour at Cox's Bay. The creek has had over a century of gross pollution -- first from a wool scour, a tannery and then a soap factory. Today, it continues to be grossly polluted as a result of overflows from the combined sewer and stormwater system set up in the large catchment of the creek. 

Friends of Cox's Bay was formed in 1989. We've not had much time for biology -- the creek is such a mess! We felt our first priority was getting the storm water and sewer systems separated. We see our role as one of keeping pressure on the council to do this.  

We feel we have had success in this area. As recently as 1996, the council was saying they could not achieve separation for thirty years. Now they have promised to have most of the systems in the catchment corrected by 2000-2001. Then, the problem will "only" be stormwater pollution. 

We monitor resource consent applications as there is an enormous amount of apartment construction happening in the catchment. These will put more pressure on an infrastructure which already cannot cope. In 1997, we circulated a petition calling for council to pace a moratorium on all such consents and projects until the separation is completed. A total of 
2,700 people signed the petition. 

Another of our main activities is revegetating the creek banks. Until 1989, they were a mess of wattle, privet and pampas. We hosted a well attended public planting day in late autumn 1989. These days the native plants we set in the ground are well established and racing towards maturity. 

We are regularly approached for information on the creek's problems by local school and university students doing research projects. We have around 100 local residents on a mailing list and usually put out a newsletter twice a year. A core committee of about half a dozen people meet regularly. 

Our working relationship with council officers is good. We have two permanent members on the Cox's Bay Reserve Advisory Committee. This group works with Auckland City on the management of the surrounding reserve.  

Our email contact is Nicola Legat, coordinator, on  

Shellfish harvesting ban extended at Cheltenham Beach 

place: Cheltenham Beach     neighbourhood: part of Devonport 
city: North Shore        regional council: Auckland 

Locals in a community meeting on 22 January decided to extend the harvesting ban on Cheltenham Beach. They had pushed for the current ban/rahui to be set in place in 1993 as a result of their first beach monitoring work which located a juvenile shellfish bed. Protecting this bed was very important as the numbers of tuangi (Austrovenus stutchburyii, a New Zealand clam commonly known as cockle) were very low. They fell from several hundred per square metre in the 1980s to seven per entire beach in 1991.  

In the first part of the meeting, held by Cheltenham Beach Caretakers, the results of six years of monitoring by both locals and Ministry of Fisheries were presented and compared. Both works show that tuangi are growing in size but not in numbers. No new juvenile tuangi have been seen to settle on the beach since 1992, although there are juveniles every year at the comparison beach, Gardiner's Gap, on nearby Motutapu Island. 

As the results of both the community based monitoring and the Fisheries work tell similar stories, it was agreed that it could be possible for the community to receive the funding made available for this research. Queries were raised about the reproduction of tuangi and the pollution of local waters. Locals felt these important, long standing topics should be investigated in the near future.  

Finally, it was decided that the results of the monitoring over the years will be put on the Nbio website, as well a for more information about the Caretakers, contact Georgina Greville at 09 445 3304 or Scott MacIndoe at  

Shellfish harvesting ban extended at Karekare, on Auckland's West Coast 

place: Karekare Beach    neighbourhood: part of Karekare, West Coast  
city: Waitakere        regional council: Auckland 

At the AGM of the Karekare Residents and Ratepayers Association on the first of Feb, the local community voted to extend the harvesting ban at their beach. This wild west coast surf beach has been protected by a harvesting ban/rahui since 1993 which prohibits the collection of shellfish. This was set in place due to local alarm about the dwindling numbers of shellfish, particularly mussels (Perna canaliculus, green lipped mussels) on the rocks. The harvesting ban is set in place by Ministry of Fisheries The harvesting ban is a community effort.  

Locals, led by John Edgar, with help from Ann Grace, do regular scientific monitoring of the life on the rocks. Other community members, led by the local surf club, volunteer their time to educate visitors at the beach about the ban. They use an illustrated pamphlet which features the information in many languages. 

Due to changes in legislation, continuing the ban at Karekare now requires that a fisheries regulation be established. From the scientific monitoring to date, it is not possible to predict when, if ever, the shellfish will be so abundant as to harvested in a sustainable manner. But precious information is being gathered in a situation without human pressures due to harvesting. Some of the most interesting data is about the effects of movement of sand and stormy weather on shellfish growth.  

For more information about this community initiative, contact John Edgar at  

Festivities in motion with Guardians of Pauatahanui Inlet 

place: Pauatahanui Inlet    catchment: Pauatahanui 
city: Porirua            regional council: Wellington 

The Guardians of Pauatahanui Inlet have a number of activities that we are undertaking this year. First is that the Guardians is setting up a plan for 1998, so we can keep our focus and make obvious the many opportunities volunteers can take up with us. In the wake of Wellington Regional Council's report "Porirua Harbour Sediment and Shellfish Study" (Dec.97), we are considering a campaign to alert people about what should and shouldn't go down the storm water drains. We are also planning to host a meeting  

On a more festive note, The Guardians are having a special event at the beginning on SeaWeek at the Whitby Shopping Mall on Sat 7 March at 3pm. We are launching our special education kit Pauatahanui Inlet: a living resource. The entries to the photography contest will be displayed and the prizes awarded.  

We are putting a guest list together and anyone wanting an invitation can email me,  

Please contact me if you want any other information, have some queries or would like to help. Copies of our education kit can be ordered via email as well. 

Walking dogs is going to the birds: 
a special action research project in Blueskin Bay 

place: Warrington Beach and Spit     catchment: Blueskin Bay 
city: Dunedin                 regional council: Otago 

Recently, local dog owners, led by biologist Maureen Howard, began a unique monitoring programme of the birds at Warrington Spit. They are interested in finding out whether the dogs actually are a threat to the large flocks of shore birds there. Is the disturbance of the flocks by dogs just a nuisance or is it having a greater and negative impact? And could it be that the behaviour of the general public, without dogs, are posing problems as well?  

The team is set out to investigate. They are all trained in making observations of birds while they go out walking. They will watch what happens when their dogs are on leads, off leads and also left at home. At the end, the information from this survey will be brought to a local meeting about the reserve status of the Warrington Beach and Spit. It will also be posted on this website. 

If you would like to find out more, or maybe even set up a similar survey in your neighbourhood, contact Maureen at 

Open Day at Waimahae Reserve, Motatau 

The Open Day on 7 Nov 97 at the Waimahae Reserve, Prime Holdings property in Motatau was a day to celebrate the achievements of a new crew of wildlife workers. TOPS trainees demonstrated their skill and knowledge in wildlife control, native tree identification, freshwater ecology and pest management.  

An update of the Te Kaitaikitanga o te Kuku project was presented. This included video footage of possums preying on young pigeon in the nest. John Innes, Manaaki Whenua, Landcare, said it was the seventh piece of such evidence about the predatory behaviour of possums, following on from recent revelations from work with kokako in the North Island. 

The afternoon finished with a splendid hangi and special congratulations to both Kevin Prime and Stefan Seitzer. Kevin not only holds up a vision of local management of Motatau Forest by Ngati Hine but works hard to make it a work a day reality. Stefan assists in this as a teacher and organiser. 

One of the visitors on the day asked "How can we ensure that this continues? And how can this programme be brought to our area?" In the long run, this will continue and spread to other places because of determination on the part of local people. In the short term, for more information contact Stefan Seitzer at 

Launch of Neighbourhood Biology in Blueskin Bay Catchment 

In early August, the Warrington Hall was filled with scientific field equipment, displays of wildlife and hot food as locals met with specialists at the official launch of Neighbourhood Biology in Blueskin Bay. The afternoon provided an occasion for everyone to meet and discuss the practical details of monitoring and surveys of the local ecology. Local children took part of a special natural history art activity, featuring their observations of local birds. 

This was the first event organised by the new community facilitator, Jannine Cunningham. Her position is a new one for Blueskin Bay, funded in this first year by Lotteries Heritage and Environment. She is instrumental in the behind scenes work leading up to the local water and terrestrial monitoring and survey events planned throughout 1997/98. She is also an oral historian and plans to collect oral histories about the changes in the Bay environment over time. 

Other team members who were also at the launch are specialists in a variety of fields. All are either residents or with a strong, long term interest in the Blueskin Bay area. They are: 

  • Marc Schallenberg, freshwater; 
  • Maureen Howards, birds; 
  • Joseph Doughtery, plants/trees;
  • Mike Hilton, sediments;
  • Elizabeth Slooten, environmental studies/marine mammals;
For more information about Blueskin Bay, contact Jannine Cunningham  

First freshwater stream surveys at Blueskin Bay 
Rank them above norm for Otago region. 

In late November, initial results from a survey of stream invertebrates showed that the Waitati River and Carey's Creek have conditions which favour the most sensitive of these organisms. According to the Macroinvertebrate Community Index (MCI), the current median for Otago streams is 86 on a scale ranging from 20 to 200. Our results are as follows:  
Upper Waitati  
Upper Carey's Creek. 
Lower Waitati  
Lower Carey's Ck.  
Median for Otago 
Scores are based on counting the number of species of organisms found and ranking them according to their tolerance or sensitivity to pollution on a 
scale of 1 (tolerant) -10 (sensitive). 

When the numbers of individual organisms are taken into account (calculated as the Open Ended MCI) the results were as follows: 
Upper Carey's Ck. 
Lower Carey's Ck.  
Upper Waitati R.  
Lower Waitati R.  
Median for Otago 
The OEMCI for Upper Carey's Creek was 100 points higher than the highest river surveyed in Otago by the Regional Council using identical methods. 

The sampling was carried out by locals and Steve Moore, Otago Regional Council, in an day-long event organised by Jannine Cunningham and Marc Schallenberg of the Neighbourhood Biology team in Blueskin Bay. Steve Moore was invaluable in assisting with identifications. His pictorial guide to identifying stream invertebrates(available through Steve on is highly recommended for this type of work. 

The sampling method was very simple. At each site, one person disturbed the stream bed with their feet while another person held a 1/2 mesh net just downstream to collect the dislodged invertebrates. A sample (500 millilitres) of material collected in the net was examined. All organisms were identified and counted. These samples were taken from sites in the mid and lower reaches of each stream. 

The high values in the upper reaches are largely due to the protective effect of the forest growing on the banks of the waterways. Human land use (agriculture, housing, etc.) in the lower reaches is probably responsible for the drop in MCI values in these reaches. These results point out the importance of having native trees and shrubs along the banks. A tree filled riparian zone of even five to ten metres wide can protect organisms in the streams. 

An unexpected find of the day was inanga in Carey's Creek. In the past, informal surveys carried out in Carey's Ck. were unable to locate inanga spawn. The presence of juveniles in the stream indicates we must look harder and act to protect spawning sites if and when they are found to ensure inanga continue to use the stream. 

For more information about freshwater sampling using MCI contact Marc Schallenberg: For more information about Neighbourhood Biology in Blueskin Bay, contact Jannine Cunningham: 
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