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Rifleman “take wing” in Wellington City

Rifleman “take wing” in Wellington City

Updated 6 March 2019 12:46pm

Tītipounamu Translocation 2019

In 2005 Greater Wellington established an ecological mainland island in Wainuiomata, and started intensive predator control to protect the significant native flora and fauna here. The mainland island is part of our Key Native Ecosystem (KNE) programme.

This has been such a success that native bird numbers in the area have steadily increased, and a translocation of North Island rifleman/tītipounamu from the site to Zealandia has been arranged for March 2019. Our bird counts show a 78% increase in the number of rifleman/titipounamu in the area between 2005 and 2018. Around 60 will be moved to the sanctuary to establish a wild population there. The translocation was approved through our internal process and by the Department of Conservation (DOC).

“We’re really positive about the translocation of the tītipounamu to ZEALANDIA, we want to see the species take wing across the region," said Councillor Prue Lamason, Parks Portfolio Leader, Greater Wellington Regional Council

“We’re starting to see the impact of ZEALANDIA’s halo effect, with native birds now much more common in the capital," said Lamason.

"It’s heartening that Greater Wellington is adding to that by providing a source for species that in time will also begin to colonise the capital.”

Watch this video to hear from Zealandia on the translocation.

The story behind the translocation

About the Key Native Ecosystem (KNE) programme

We’ve selected a number of sites in our region for an extra level of protection because they contain significant native ecosystems and wildlife. As of January 2019 there are more than 50 sites in the programme. These areas are generally speaking the best examples of original (pre-human) ecosystem types in our region, and can be on private or public land. Department of Conservation (DOC) land is generally excluded from the programme.

Make-up of Wainuiomata Mainland Island

The Wainuiomata/Orongorongo KNE site is 7,364 hectares and contains the Wainuiomata/Orongorongo Water Collection Area - responsible for around a fifth of our region’s water - and the Wainuiomata Recreation Area. Yearly rainfall is high at about 2000mm-2500mm and the upper Orongorongo valley contains the only montane-alluvial wetland in the region.

Within this KNE site we established a 1200 hectare mainland island in the upper Wainuiomata catchment in 2005. It is an area of more intensive predator control because it is home to pristine native forest close to its original state – an area of regional importance. It also provides an important breeding habitat for a large range of native forest bird species.

Average bird densities have increased notably in the Wainuiomata mainland island since being established. The greatest increases have been seen in populations of kākāriki, tui and rifleman/titipounamu. Public access is severely restricted in the area.

Threatened/at-risk species

These include:

  • North Island brown kiwi
  • North Island rifleman/tītipounamu
  • Long-tailed cuckoo/koekoeā
  • Whitehead/Pōpokatea
  • Red-crowned parakeet/kākāriki
  • New Zealand falcon/kārearea
  • Ngahere gecko
  • Barking gecko
  • Kōaro
  • Dwarf galaxias
  • Redfin bully
  • Lamprey
  • Northern kōura

The site also contains part of one of the largest areas of unlogged lowland podocarp forest in the lower North Island.

Key threats

Of all the pest animals in the area, rats are likely having the greatest impact. Outside the mainland island rats are present in high numbers (usually over 75% tracking rate recorded). Inside the mainland island numbers are much lower (usually under 10%).