TOSSI – Lockdown au naturel

In the absence of people, cars and surfboards, we envisage Tāwharanui Open Sanctuary is being overrun with curious kiwi, territorial takahē and wise wētā. During the Covid-19 lockdown, TOSSI volunteers and the general public must stay away from the park unless it’s their local, and we are quietly confident Papatūānuku (mother earth) will do her thing and all will be well.

Fortunately, in the lead up to the nationwide response to the pandemic, the volunteers had completed all potting of native seedlings and now the young plants need little more than irrigating. Native seed is regularly collected throughout the park and fortunately the industrious nursery team has all the seed required of staple plants, such as kānuka and coprosma. Some seed was sent to Auckland Botanic Gardens for germination in a greenhouse and the rest is safely in storage. Hopefully, the nursery team will get them into seed raising mix in the winter.

Auckland Council park ranger Maurice Puckett is locked down at Tāwharanui and has gallantly stepped into some TOSSI volunteer roles, for example ensuring the nursery watering happens. He is also caring for all livestock that are probably enjoying the unobstructed sea views and tranquillity.

Drought continues to be a significant issue at the regional park, causing kiwi to struggle for food and water. Before lockdown, they were frequently spotted wandering the open fields at night and sometimes day, hunting for above-ground larvae because the rock-hard earth was impenetrable for their beaks. With low rainfall, that hasn’t changed. TOSSI volunteers had started filling water stations for kiwi and in their absence, Maurice is now head water boy as well as takahē tucker topper upper.

Two kiwi in the care of Auckland Zoo’s veterinarian team were quickly released into the park as they were thriving and didn’t need to stay in care for another month. One is a kiwi chick that hatched at Tāwharanui this summer and the other is a visitor from Motuora. Unfortunately, there wasn’t time to get the Motuora kiwi back to its home island so it has a radio tag to assist with location and repatriation when conditions allow.

Usually volunteers check trap lines about once a month and this important work is on hold. However, technology has been used for some time at Tāwharanui and surveillance cameras will let Maurice know if anything dangerous is lurking around the park.

The next public tree planting day is scheduled for Sunday June 7, but TOSSI is uncertain if it will proceed. That’s the challenge for all of us – the uncertainty of what happens next. It feels like planning is a wee way off and TOSSI volunteers are practicing acceptance, flexibility and patience. We are staying in touch, tracking down noxious weeds and monitoring traps on our own properties, tending the gardens and staying away from supermarkets.

For updates see Tawharanui Open Sanctuary Society Incorporated on Facebook