Biology Conservation Trip – Tawharanui Regional Park

Written by Alexander Lochore-Ward, Member of the Indonesia Biology Conservation trip 2016/L3 Biology student

On 5th and 6th March the Westlake Boys Conservation group visited Tawharanui to help TOSSI (The Tawharanui Open Sanctuary Society) with its conservation work in the Tawharanui Regional Park.  The group gained a business sponsorship which supported their fundraising opportunity for the Indonesia Biology Conservation trip in July this year.

First on the list was a slip on a farm track which needed repairing due to some weathering.  A culvert needed to be put in which involved digging a three metre trench, placing in a heavy pipe and then covering it.  Using pick axes, spades and shovels for four hours, five boys and Dr Holden laboured away under the shade of the bush, overseen by the TOSSI Engineer Rodger. Taking turns, the group were also tasked with laying gravel to upgrade a track and some new steps, with Miss El-Labany.  Once lunch came around the gravel was laid and the trench almost finished so three boys went out to prune the edges of the tracks along the ecology trail.  This included small flax to large overhanging rotted trees.  It took over an hour to clear the track and a group of three endangered Takahe provided an escort at day’s end. With the day’s work done, the group enjoyed a well-deserved swim and BBQ including sausages, salad and a pavlova coated with whipped cream and blueberries surrounded by many family groups in the campground.

Tawharanui 2The following morning the usual volunteers for TOSSI gathered around the wool-shed and the Westlake group followed suit, accompanied by Miss El-Labany. They applied gravel to another path to protect it from weathering and moved on to cutting back the flax blocking the path down to Maori Bay which overlooks Kawau Island, and a rocky headland – a popular spot for walkers and fishermen. Lunchtime came around fast and by 12:30pm another barbecue was enjoyed. After one last swim the boys went home having learnt about the beauty of the parkland as well as how they can help to preserve it.

Tawharanui 1Tawharanui Regional Park and open sanctuary is a blend of conservation, recreation and sustainable farming. The sanctuary used to be a farm but was brought by the Auckland Regional Council in the 1970s to protect the outstanding landscape and create a park for families to enjoy. Safely within the 2.5km predator proof fence you will see and hear the calls of many of our endangered bird species from our national bird the Kiwi or the Takahe to saddle-backs and robins.

But none of this would be possible if it weren’t for TOSSI. Formed in 2002, TOSSI’s projects include forest and wetland restoration and the re-introduction of threatened species, after nearly 15 years of work they have helped Auckland Council to introduce twelve different bird species while keeping the sanctuary pest and predator free since 2007.  TOSSI’s goal is to “create an open sanctuary where visitors can freely experience a representative range of ecological communities.”

Westlake Boys will be going out again to undertake further work in the park later on this year and would love to have more volunteers from school to help with this valuable work. The group will also be helping to plant native trees and participating in kiwi monitoring projects over the winter. If you are interested in getting involved with some conservation work at Tawharanui Regional Park, please see Miss El-Labany.