POHUTUKAWA TRUST NEW ZEALAND
To rehabilitate the native flora and
fauna of Kawau Island
To promote the conservation of
indigenous species in New Zealand
HISTORY OF POHUTUKAWA TRUST NEW ZEALAND
Manual Section 6)
Pohutukawa Trust New Zealand (the Trust) was founded in 1992 as a
community project by private landowners of Kawau Island for the
purpose of restoring the Islandís ecology and returning the land to a
state of sustainable land use. The project was initiated by concerned
landowners in the community to meet their goals and balance the
Department of Conservationís focus on restoration and conservation of
historic heritage sites on the public land on the
Island. At the time,
the Departmentís stated assessment was that compared with other areas
Kawau does not stack up. The Island was considered to be important
historically rather than botanically. Management plans for the
Historic Reserve included retention of wallabies on the Island with an
undertaking to build escape-proof fences to contain the animals,
thereby making the Pohutukawa Trust objectives possible. The
objectives depend upon humanely removing the browsing feral animals
possum and wallaby, and the landowners considered the feral wallabies
to be the most serious problem.
integrity of the Kawau Island ecology had collapsed due primarily to
the presence of browsing and predator animal pests. It was said that
the ecological changes caused by these animals cannot now be reversed,
but the landowners did not accept this view.
Intense browsing by the Australian marsupials possum and four species
of wallaby introduced by Sir George Grey in 1868-69 has had a
devastating impact on the Islandís flora, the consequence being
destroyed habitat and food supply of indigenous birds and
invertebrates, and erosion and loss of the skeletal soils to the
surrounding marine environment where marine organisms are then
smothered by the high sediment load. The
residence time of stormwater on the Island is short because nearly all
of the palatable water-holding understorey has been browsed out of
existence. Without the usual leaf litter cushion the browsing animals
compacted the land surface in many places, causing a loss of surface
permeability to absorb water. There is also insufficient organic
content remaining in the soil to provide moisture retention and
structure, and the ion exchange necessary to sustain good soil
fertility. Stream habitats are also compromised by a wide flow range
and high sediment load.
species unpalatable to the browsing animals have invaded areas of the
land which would otherwise be bare, and in many places the ground is
bare. About 15% of the land area is invaded by wilding pinus species,
the legacy of Sir George Greyís plantings in the 1860ís and seed since
carried from west to east by the prevailing westerly wind. The wilding
pines are a serious weed on the Island.
Sustainable land use became impossible and planting limited to inside
netting fence exclosures.
Predator animals including rats, stoats, and feral cats were also
identified. The stoats first invaded the Island in 1988 - 1989 and are
spreading quickly. They arrived by swimming the 1.5 kilometres from
the mainland at Tawharanui.
balance the conservation interests in the historic resources of the
Island a group of private landowners saw potential to rehabilitate the
native flora and fauna and a need to return the Island to a state of
sustainable land use for the longer term future of the community,
including small scale horticulture and domestic gardens.
this background the private landowners who own 90% of the land area
commenced a major restoration project. Pohutukawa Trust New Zealand is
responsible for the project.
Kawau project had beginnings long ago in 1938, when a young Auckland
builder Albert E, Follas of Takapuna sailed his yacht Waiapu
from Auckland to Kawau for his summer holidays. The departure could be
described as somewhat ďstormyĒ because Albert had left his young wife
Mais behind and spent a portion of the money they had saved for
essential needs and a family on new sails for his boat. Sailing
through the Rosario Channel to the south of Kawau a large patch of
dead pohutukawa trees was observed on the Kawau coast at Bostaquet
Follas was very concerned about this and passed the observations on to
the University of Auckland when he returned. He continued to visit
Kawau for a further 53 years, making his
last visit in 1990. Not until the early 1950ís when Bert Follas
and Ray Weaver met at Kawau was the cause of the declining pohutukawa
unravelled. Weaver had an interest in minerals on Kawau at the time
and he had also noted stands of dead pohutukawa with similar concerns
and photographed some of them. By then the number of dead trees had
increased considerably in a sequence spreading up the south-eastern
quadrant of the Island. Weaver and Follas shared their concerns from
that time and became lifelong friends until Albert died in September
2000. Confirmation of the cause came during studies where comparison
was made between land at Bostaquet Bay on Kawau and on close by
Challenger Island. The difference was that surprisingly, possums and
wallabies had not established on adjacent Challenger Island, which is
very close to Kawau, and there was no sign of the tree and vegetation
damage there. Further examination revealed dark marks up the butress
roots of the Bostaquet Bay pohutukawa, defining the route that possums
were taking, and it was not long before animals were seen taking these
routes up the trees in the evening. The cause had been positively
Weaver was studying the Kawau geology during the 1950ís and was in
contact with the Commissioner of Crown Lands.
He wrote the following letter to the Commissioner (transcribed
from a carbon copy):
181 Church Street
The Commissioner of Crown Lands
Auckland District Office
O Box 2206
Attention Mr Basil King.
Dear Mr King,
Thank you for your letter of 15th April. I enclose a Postal
Note for one shilling as
The photographs I sent you showing dead
trees at Bostaquet Bay Kawau Island cost
2.12.6, and I assumed that the shilling would not be required.
have determined beyond doubt that the trees were killed by opossums on
the Island, not a disease as you suggested. Wallabies destroy almost
all of the seedlings,
and now the opossums
have started to attack the larger trees, mostly the pohutukawa, so far as I have seen at the moment.
What is happening on Kawau Island is a serious problem and there is a
lot to learn I think, for New Zealand, before the problems become more
Could you please pass the comments and photographs on as a starting
point so that those able to do so can investigate the serious problem
There was no interest from Government agencies in following-up the
concerns and observations reported in the letter and over the next two
decades large numbers of pohutukawa both on the coastal fringe and in
the interior of the Island were destroyed in an advancing pattern from
south to north. Concurrently with the destruction of the native flora
bird numbers plummeted quickly from 1960 onwards. Studies of the
possum and wallaby problem and possible solutions continued and an
awareness was developing in the Kawau community.
1985 there was a good understanding of the problem on Kawau and Weaver
instigated an approach to the New Zealand Forest Service to seek
response from the New Zealand Forest Service, dated 14 November 1985
contains the following key conclusions:
ďThe pohutukawa die-back
is not as simply attributed to possums as many people believe.
I can offer no easy
solution. Certainly the Forest Service could only consider possum and
wallaby control on Crown lands of Kawau Island, mainly the Hauraki
Gulf Maritime Park Board land. We rate Kawau very low on our scale of
priority for protection of ecological values.
Kawau Island has no
particular significance for its botany nor for its native wildlife
values: its landscape is highly modified by both human exploitation
and introduced animals over the past 150 years or more.
There is no easy or
lasting solution to the marsupial problems on Kawau Island or anywhere
else. Effective control is horribly expensive. I believe in the end we
must face the facts: we are witnessing well adapted introduced animals
occupying their ecological niche in a new country. On Kawau the
spectacular modifications caused by these animals attaining their
niche are almost complete. So protection of some representative
natural values, such as bush gullies or even individual trees is the
only practical course of action: it is hopeless to contemplate
more extreme measures in the Kawau Island situation."
Forest Service also reported to the Rodney County Council of the time,
and on 19
December 1985 the Council adopted recommendations from the Service
That the ecological
changes on Kawau Island caused by possums and wallabies cannot now be
front page of the New Zealand Herald on Friday 20 December 1985
followed on and carried the main article stating that:
If no major pest control
work was carried out the pohutukawa would disappear from Kawau by
basic technology well developed by then from pioneering local work,
and following the negative response in the letter of November 1985
from the Forest Service, a proposal was made to take community action,
and a meeting of landowners was arranged. The meeting took place on 12
April 1986 at the Kawau Island Yacht Club. A paper was presented
outlining the problems and the first stage of the community plan was
introduced to reverse the decline of pohutukawa and restore the
ecology. The newly developed Timms Kill Traps were introduced and a
distribution network was set up on the Island with the traps stocked
by William C (Bill) Schumacher J. P. of Hokimai Bay. This was
one of the first large scale uses of Timms
Traps for a project such as this and approximately 250 units were
distributed and brought into action. The traps decisively saved all
remaining pohutukawa trees by removal of almost 10,000 possums over a
5 year period. Meanwhile two visits were made
to the island sanctuary Hauturu (Little Barrier) to gain
inspiration and insight into what the landowners might be able to
achieve on Kawau Island if the browsing marsupials and other predators
were removed. The project became a 1990 Commission Official Project
(No 2818) in the year the pohutukawa bloomed again after more than 20
years of decline.
1990 a poster exercise was organised for
Correspondence School children of the District to further raise
awareness. Distinctively labelled pots of watercolour poster paint in
the three primary colours were distributed to the children and the
picture of a Tui on Pohutukawa in bloom which was drawn for the label,
became the logo of the Pohutukawa Trust New Zealand.
Seeds were harvested from the 1990 flowering
and used to produce eco-sourced plants for revegetation on the nearby
island Tiritiri Matangi, as well as for planting 800 new pohutukawa
trees on Kawau. Saving the pohutukawa was seen by the landowners as
the essential first step in the restoration strategy. The Trust was
founded to build on this community success and to move on to the next
and essential phase of humane wallaby removal. The overarching purpose
of the Trust was to provide ongoing leadership and a structure to
continue indefinitely through the processes of fundraising, animal and
weed pest removal, revegetation in some areas, reintroduction of lost
species of native birds, and a return to sustainable land use in an
integrated process of restoration of the flora and fauna. Each of
these phases were seen as strategic interdependent steps in the
process of restoration of the ecosystems, and not an end in
key task was to raise awareness of the problems and to develop
confidence among supporters that it was possible to remedy them in
spite of the persistent official advice to the contrary. Significant
technology was developing, support was growing, success and progress
was being demonstrated and fundraising by donation commenced to secure
a long term future and direction with formation of a legal entity.
Pohutukawa Trust New Zealand was incorporated in 1992, and launched by
the first Mayor of Rodney District Sir Gordon Mason O.B.E. J.P. at a
meeting of the Rodney District Council on 26 March 1992.
vision, technology and resources have been developed and funded by
Kawau Island landowners and landowner supporters. The Foundation
Members of the Board are E R(Ray) Weaver, W C(Bill) Schumacher, H
M(Helen) Smith, R K(Ken) McCormack, and C E(Colin) Spanhake.
Bronze plaques were made displaying the logo
to promote the Trust.
1995 a survey of members was conducted to determine the Trustís
priority direction, and to commence a general inventory of the main
native plants known and weed species present.
survey indicated that 98% of members supported the humane removal of
wallabies as a priority.
May 1996 the Trust had raised (mostly from the Kawau Island community)
all finance for operations plus the sum of $18,500 in the bank.
Members of the Board Colin Spanhake and Bill Schumacher observed the
return of rare brown teal Pateke to the Island at Hokimai Bay
in 1992. The return of brown teal is believed to be in direct response
to the Trustís possum control operations. There have also been
observations of increasing kereru, kaka, tui, bellbird and kiwi
numbers. and many pohutukawa and other seedlings have emerged that had
not been seen for many decades.
Foundation members of the Board Colin Spanhake and Bill Schumacher
died in 2004.
Trust's current assets (31 March 2005) have been grown to $86,700,
which is approximately half the amont required to complete the
essential animal pest eradication phase of the project.
Pohutukawa Trust New Zealand
24 Umere Crescent
Copyright 1951-2005 E.R. Weaver
Trust New Zealand
Kawau Island Settlement
Kawau Island History
The Big Picture