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Building up our backyard natives

Two Kereru perched in a Kowhai tree near Mikimiki Rd, Masterton. PHOTO/JILL ROSE

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One of Chris Peterson’s New Year’s resolutions is to be able to look out the window of his Masterton home and see a cheeky kaka or an engorged kereru weighing down a tree branch.

Spurred on by a newspaper article about how Wellington City had committed to bringing kiwi to city suburbs, Peterson wants to see an increase in the region’s native birdlife in urban centres and residential areas.

“Kiwis may be a bit of a stretch,” he said.

“But I think there would be widespread support to increase our native birdlife and for people to be able to see kereru and kaka and morepork in their backyards.”

The region was once well known for the sound of native birdsong ringing through now urban areas in Masterton.

“One of the interpretations of Whakaoriri – Masterton’s te reo name – was something to do with the birdsong.”

He said native birdlife had declined in the region because of habitat loss and predators

“You need about five to 10 per cent of biodiversity to make it sustainable and we only have about one to two per cent now. We can never get it all back, but we need a bit more balance.

“A trap every third house could really make a significant dent in the problem.”

Many Wellington people credit the success and increase of native bird life throughout the city to Zealandia – a 225-hectare fenced native wildlife reserve in Karori.

Peterson praised the foresight of previous town planners in creating green spaces such as Queen Elizabeth Park but said he wanted to see more done.

“We wouldn’t be the most beautiful town that we are without treasures such as Queen Elizabeth Park. And it shows the foresight of those early settlers but is very Eurocentric.”

The P2P Pukaha to Palliser project would be a great way to help achieve this goal he said, looking to a wider landscape-scale restoration of local and indigenous biodiversity.

Peterson said P2P will likely result in the formation of a new trust dedicated to increasing biodiversity across the region from Pukaha down to Palliser and the South Wairarapa.

It will be guided by a forum of some 20 representatives of those restoration groups across Wairarapa, helping to co-ordinate, report and fund biodiversity projects.

The idea also ties in nicely with the Government’s goal of being predator free by 2050 and its billion-tree project.

DOC biodiversity ranger James Harbord said any initiative to increase biodiversity in the region would be supported.

“The more self-sustainable the region the better.”

He said being able to see native birds outside your window was an important part of feeling connected to nature.

“The more exposure to native wildlife in the urban centres, the greater the connection.”


  1. A quick browse of the site and two articles stand out for misunderstanding the criteria for the “Most Beautiful Town” award, which had nothing to do with actual physical beauty! Hence our win?

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