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Opinion piece by Roger Beattie
19 November 05
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we are on about
April 1994 my wife and I opened the 20-hectare Kowhai Vale
Predator Proof reserve on Banks
Peninsula. This was the
largest predator proof reserve on mainland New Zealand. Around the
reserve is a 2.2km long, 2 metre high predator-proof fence.
focus of the reserve has been the reintroduction of the
eastern buff weka. This
weka was present in Canterbury
until about the early 1920s but has now disappeared.
There are substantial numbers on the Chathams
where it was taken as a game bird in 1905. On the
weka are hunted as game. The
Department of Conservations also kills weka in nature reserves
on the Chathams
because they are a non-indigenous species.
hold of buff weka from the Chathams
required two lots of permits:
to retain in captivity absolutely protected wildlife
to transfer weka from the Chathams
early February 1994 we applied for the authorisations. The permits came through in early April 1994. The authority to retain in captivity had an indefinite
authority to transfer was valid for three months from 5 April
brought out 8 birds in April 1994 directly the permits came
were all released into a holding area in the reserve.
winter we had a series of problems including slips, rock falls
and cattle damage that either allowed weka to escape or stoats
to get in and kill them.
late October 1994 we requested another transfer permit to
bring out 10 more weka.
This permit came through about a month later on
November the 29th. We thought this was a bit slow. If only we knew what was to come.
brakes go on
September 1998 we applied for a new transfer permit to bring
out another 10 birds. At
the time we were hopeful of getting the extra weka within a
month or so.
some reason the Department now put the brakes on. Someone somewhere didn’t like what we were doing.
On the 4 November 1998 the Department wrote back saying
that any transfer needed the support of the Chatham Island
Conservation Board and from
forget that the weka were all the time at risk of being hunted
as game by Chatham Islanders or killed by DOC).
advised that it was going to be difficult to get the Chathams
Conservation Board to consider the application.
Papers had already been distributed for the next
meeting. 15 copies
of a proposal would be need for distribution following the
Department’s translocation guidelines (10 page guideline
attached Gen5/14336) with such useful items as:
of how the transfer will affect the viability of the
differences or other measures of variation between
the new species is likely to have on food items (bugs)
of an Animal Ethics Committee
and research related to the transfer
strange thing was that although we had a legal permit to hold
weka we couldn’t exercise it. The Department could hold out on a transfer permit to
block our access to weka.
tape piles up
November 1998 I wrote to the then Minister (Nick Smith) asking
him to cut through the red tape and pointing out that weka
were being killed on the
while we were being asked to conform to bureaucratic procedure
and lengthy consultation requirements.
January 1999 the Minister replied saying amongst other things
that “The Conservation Act 1987 requires the department to
give effect to principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.
Consultation with local iwi regarding species
transfers, such as that requested with local
iwi regarding the weka transfer is one mechanism by which the
department meets these requirements.” He had been trapped by his bureaucrats.
late February 1999 at some cost we went through the charade of
putting an application for transfer of protected wildlife as
per the Departmental guidelines.
much happened. We
were initially informed by DOC in late March 1999 that the
next Chatham Islands Conservation Board meeting would be in
early May 1999. Later
we were told it was on the agenda for June 1999.
Head Office gets precious
early September 1999 we asked DOC what was going on, as we had
had no further information.
mid-September DOC replied saying “progress is being made
with the buff weka proposal although there is still some
disagreement among Weka Recovery Group members over whether
the proposal meets recovery plan objectives.”
approval from local iwi and the Chatham Island Conservation
Board was just the first hoop we had to get through. Now DOC Head Office was raising objections.
forwarded a communication specifying the nature of these Head
Office concerns and requesting our response.
The concerns were:
the 20 ha area was too small
there was no need for the buff weka to be held in
there was no advocacy message & it was unclear who
would have access
the birds should be discouraged from breeding unless there
was a release site for progeny
Mid September and early October 1999 we wrote back to DOC
responding to the worries held by some members of the Weka
months of sending communications back and forth followed. Basically DOC Head Office didn’t want to give us our
transfer permit. At
one stage a couple of local DOC guys turned up in the office
and said they would get it sorted shortly. Nothing happened. Eventually
in mid 2000 I got Ken Shirley to ask some questions in
got me a call directly back from the new Minister Chris
Carter. I think he
was surprised to learn his Department had killed 400 weka that
year on the
. The Minister
promised me I would get a permit within a week.
- of a kind
June 2000 we were finally granted a transfer permit – but
with a sting in the tail. A condition in the new permit required that prior to
any transfer occurring a meeting is held in conjunction with
the Department of Conservation and Onuku Runanga. The Department was now using me to satisfy their treaty
details of that meeting and subsequent developments is another
finally got the birds transferred on my terms in mid August
2000 – almost exactly two years after we had applied for the
have made progress improving our management of weka.
We now trap inside and outside our reserves all the
time. We have
improved the design and strength of our predator-proof fences.
We have had at least 5 lots of weka chicks hatch in the
last 12 months in three reserves giving a total of 11 chicks
have spent more time and effort fighting bureaucrats than
believe DOC would rather have native species die out than be
saved privately. DOC
has a vested interest in endangered species.
& N Beattie Partnership
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