Environment – When is a fence not a fence?

For the past 11 years, the pest-proof fence constructed between Army Bay and Okoromai Bay has provided the means to exclude invasive mammalian predators from Shakespear Regional Park. Of course, the fence is ‘leaky’ as predators can get around the ends, especially at low tide, and this is where the remainder of the exclusion operation comes into play. Volunteers and park staff operate an extensive network of traps and detection devices to cope with the ‘leaks’.

The results are both obvious and more subtle. The obvious change is in the growing number of forest birds of different species which, despite occasional setbacks, are flourishing within the fenced area. Less obvious, but equally valuable, are the increases in burrow-nesting seabirds, reptiles and invertebrates. 

The bush is also slowly changing. Each year thousands of native trees are planted. In just a few decades these will mature sufficiently to provide a significant increase in high-quality forest cover. And the absence of possums and lack of grazing under the trees means that the older established parts of the bush are slowly increasing in complexity and improving in their ability to support a wide range of other wildlife.

I recently visited the Bushy Park Tarapuruhi fenced sanctuary near Whanganui. The bush there is hundreds of years old and full of magnificent tall trees dripping with epiphytes. It’s an inspiring place and supports a very high density of native plants and animals. Shakespear is also a wonderful place and, if you needed justification for all the efforts put into its enhancement, Bushy Park provides it.

Returning to the Shakespear fence, it is carefully designed and constructed to keep pests out. But what it doesn’t do is keep the native wildlife inside the Park. It’s an inwards-only fence. The wildlife inside can, and regularly does, venture outside. Sadly, when they do, they are exploring a much more dangerous place for them. But the good news is that the Pest Free Hibiscus Coast team are working hard to remove as many of the threats outside the fence as possible. They need more help though, so do join in if you can.

For some of our native birds, the flow up the peninsula begins on Tiritiri Matangi. Those that are strong flyers like tūī and kererū can easily move to the park and beyond. And for those less mobile but living in the park, they can hop the fence and begin to explore further afield. There are already records of kakariki, bellbird/korimako, saddleback/tīeke and hihi outside the fence and along the peninsula. No doubt they will soon be followed by whitehead/pōpokatea and maybe someday soon you’ll hear the high-pitched whistle of a kiwi from a patch of bush near you.