November 30, 2011
The re-opening of Shakespear Open Sanctuary on December 1 heralds a new era for the hard working SOSSI volunteers, park staff and Hibiscus Coast residents.
The Sanctuary’s pest-free status will see an increase in the number and diversity of native wildlife within the park, and along the peninsula over time, and draw even more than the half a million visitors that currently come to the park annually.
It will require constant vigilance and the commitment of everyone involved, including visitors, to maintain.
Volunteers have been active behind the scenes in the five months since the Sanctuary closed so that pests could be eliminated.
They patrolled the shore and 1.7km fenceline – a task that SOSSI chair Allan Parker says often saw 60 people doing four-hour walks starting at 7am.
Volunteers also checked trap lines, prepared interpretative material for visitors, built a palisade at the entrance to Waterfall Gully and grew native plants.
Prior to the opening, the pace picked up and the sense of excitement grew.
Auckland Council’s Open Sanctuary coordinator Matt Maitland says it’s “so far, so good” when it comes to eliminating pests.
Volunteers and rangers remain watchful, especially where rabbits, hedgehogs and mice are concerned as they are among the most stubborn to remove.
A network of 500 traps for mustelids and rodents has been laid, with no catches in three months. Skinks are now the ones leaving their inky footprints in the 500 tracking tunnels.
Matt says there will be a ‘wait and see’ approach, likely to take several years, to allow birds and other animals to self-introduce before any new species, such as kiwi and saddlebacks, are introduced.
He says the 500ha park will take time to return to a natural system of checks and balances. The change is being documented, with bird and reptile counts and night spotting for geckos. A Massey University study is also likely to document the recovery of the forest and bird populations.
“We have all been very focused on the fence, but this is just the beginning,” Matt says. “This is one of NZ’s most accessible pest free sanctuaries. We hope that people come and see what is different and observe the incremental changes over time.”
The Sanctuary gates open on December 1, and a range of activities celebrating the opening take place on December 4, starting 11am. SOSSI volunteers will be at the old woolshed with information, guided walks, fundraising, a barbecue and more.
YMCA Shakespear Lodge also re-opens December 1 and has an Open Day on December 4, from 12 noon onwards. This also marks the belated 101st birthday of the Shakespear Homestead. There will be activities such as sailing, archery and kayaking to try. Info: ph 424 7111 or www.ymcaauckland.org.nz