March 2012

22/02/2012

Shorebirds on Omaha Spit

We are now at the end of the breeding season for the Northern New Zealand dotterel and the variable oystercatcher (VOC) at Omaha Spit. Those that regularly visit the spit will notice that the number of dotterels grouped together at high tide has increased dramatically in the last few weeks. During the breeding season from late July until early January we have 10 - 15 breeding pairs of NZ dotterels at Omaha, and a few non-breeding birds as well, making the overall population less than 40. From late January to March the NZ dotterel numbers increase as those that have bred on the sandy beaches and bays nearby return to Omaha for the winter. Over 100 dotterels have been counted in the annual March survey of the flock at Omaha for the past two years.

Pest proof fence

Resource Consent to build a pest proof fence across the Spit has been granted.

Omaha Shorebird Protection Trust is delighted with the decision. It is hoped construction will start in June, depending on building consents and contracts.

The 400 metre long fence will run from the mean high tide mark on the Whangateau Harbour side, across the Spit to the first groyne. Two sets of double gates will be erected, allowing continued easy pedestrian access along the beach and through the subdivision.

The 1.8 metre high fence, with a cap along the top and skirt underground, will be a modern version of the Tawharanui pest proof fence. Its objective will be to keep shorebirds, including the threatened New Zealand dotterel and the variable oystercatcher, safe from predators such as rats, stoats, weasels, hedgehogs and cats.

The project will cost about $150,000 and is being funded by the Trust, which was established in December 2009. The local community and funding organisations have contributed towards the cost. "The fence will emphasise that the spit is a special place and we hope this, in turn, will encourage more people to take care of it," says Trust chair David Stone.

In his decision on the Resource Consent, Commissioner Ian Munro said visual and construction-related effects associated with the fence had been appropriately avoided, remedied or mitigated, and were overall outweighed by the benefits that would eventuate. As the Commissioner states, the fence will reflect the long term commitment to enhance the safety and integrity of an internationally significant area of habitat, and will promote the sustainable management of a sensitive area and its fauna.

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