December 2022 Newsletter

December 2022 Newsletter

There were 2 volunteer trips to Motuihe during December, 1 midweek and 1 Sunday. 52 volunteers were involved and 18 Trust leaders. In addition there were 2 monitoring trips involving 14 volunteers which included 1 child. Over November and December 8 trips were cancelled due to weather or boat issues.

The next volunteer trips are:
Sunday trips:
January 8 and 22, February 12 and 26, March 12 and 26.
Contact Fiona on
Mid week trips:
(to be announced)
Contact Simon on

Baby Tuatara near woolshed
On Sunday 11 December the monitoring group saw this baby Tuatara (you can see by the size of the grass how small it is) just outside the old glasshouse. Julie told us that this means there is a nest very near the woolshed. It is amazing that this tiny creature was not stepped on or run over by the tractor.  (photo Chris Challinor)

Deaf society videos
The Society for the Deaf sent me these 2 videos of very happy people on Motuihe. They were going through their archives. The first shows very happy children in 1950.The navy help them with a jeep to carry gear. A group of kids get a ride on a trolly running along the wharf railway line. It looks like the wharf is full length. There is no sound track.

The second video is adults in 1956, similarly having a very happy day on Motuihe. 

Welcome to our new summer contractors
Caleb McDonald (above) is from Tauranga and has just completed an Environmental Management degree. He is looking forward to a career in conservation. 

Gregg Bradshaw has completed a conservation course and the Department of Conservation suggested he apply for the Motuihe summer contractor position to gain experience in the field. He is from Whangarei. 

Motuihe Trust                                
Chairperson’s Report (SUMMARY)

For Year ended 30 June 2022
It is a pleasure to report that the Trust and volunteers, and  Te Motu-a-Ihenga have had a very productive and busy year.  Volunteers have responded with determination and enthusiasm to catch up from disruptions over the past couple of years.
The growth in trees and the expanding number of birds, tuataras and geckos has been wonderful to experience.
Foundation North
Foundation North funded the major portion of the significant budget items during the year including clearing invasive non-native trees and general operational conservation activities. The Motuihe Trust is extremely grateful for the long term and significant financial support from Foundation North which amounted to $80,000 this year.

Jill Soufflot took over the accounts administration reins from Lois Badham. Lois is and has been an integral part of Motuihe since inception. Thank you Lois for your contributions particularly through the difficult covid years.

Transport Services to Motuihe Island
The Department of Conservation advised that the wharf was reopened to the public in early 2021. DOC have since advised Nov 2021 and again in Nov 2022 that DOC will not replace the existing wharf when it reaches the end of its useful life, expected in 2-4 years.
When the wharf was reopened volunteers utilised the transport services of Redboats, DreamWeaver, Sea Shuttles water taxi, and private Outboard Boating Club members

Walking Tracks
There is a counter on the Tieke track. Numbers using the track will determine infrastructure funding by DOC.

Volunteer activities
Volunteers have been engaged in nursery operations, tree planting, kiwi monitoring, gecko monitoring, track maintenance and development, operating the kiosk and a host of other activities required to manage volunteers.
We are indebted to Julie Thomson and her Operations Group for running these successful volunteer trips to Motuihe. Fiona Alexander organised the weekend trips and provided all volunteers with a monthly report on Motuihe activities. Simon Sheen organised the large enthusiastic groups of midweek trips.

Weed Control
Weed control has been a big part of the volunteer programme with mothplant and rhamnus plants being reduced to almost manageable numbers during the year, but a noticeable increase in numbers of large woolly nightshade and gorse. Foundation North and DOC have funded the paid contractor weed programme. The Lottery Grants Board have recently awarded Motuihe Trust funding for paid weed contractors for 2023.

Our activities during 2021/22 were largely funded by grants from three organisations:
  • Foundation North
  • Westhaven Rotary Club
  • DoC Community Fund
  • Private Donations (One of $30k)
The Trust is heavily dependent on the support from Foundation North to be able to continue its work in restoring Motuihe Island.  We would be unable to operate at anywhere near the present level of activity without their ongoing support, for which we express our thanks. Westhaven Rotary Club funded the purchase of additional trailcam cameras for monitoring kiwi activity, and have backed this up by assisting with checking the cameras and reviewing the footage.

Relationships with Iwi
The Trust continues to develop our long-standing relationships with iwi of Te Motu-a-Ihenga; Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki, Ngāti Paoa, and Marutūāhu who are kaitiaki of the motu.  While this has been hampered by the lockdowns, the Trust has engaged with them during 2021 and 2022.

Strategic Plan for the next three years, primarily
  1. Demonstrably improved diversity of native flora and fauna on land, shore, and reefs.
  2. Largely free of problem weeds, Free of animal pests.
  3. Citizen Science programmes monitoring precious species. Conservation advocacy
And the initial objectives for 2022 and 2023 are: Volunteer engagement, Engage with mana whenua, develop a communications strategy, maintain weed control, increase citizen science projects, broaden requests to funding souces, flora enrichment and planting in key areas, consider appointing communication and operations manager.

Operations Group Report for July 2021 to July 2022
This group has seen major changes in composition with the retirement at the end of 2021 of key managers in this hardworking group. 2022 = Julie Thomson (chair), Fiona Alexander, Jill Bishop, Bella Burgess, Jackie Rutherford, Emma Salmon, Simon Sheen, Wes Wana plus support from John Laurence and Stuart Macintosh.

Midweek Volunteer Group Trip report
Eventually 8 trips took place with over 360 volunteers. The programme is based on attracting work placed teams looking to utilise their volunteer days' allocation and is greatly helped by Kirsty and the Dreamweaver ferry team.
Appreciation for the regular leaders include Jill and Phil in the nursery and the heroic weeding crews including Colin, Dave, Graeme, Frances, Graham and so many more.
Simon Sheen
NURSERY ACTIVITIES for the period 1 July 2021 to 30 June 2022
At the commencement of the planting season we once again had the luxury of larger midweek groups. Directed by John Laurence and Stuart McIntosh the planting focused on getting canopy species in the ground. If appropriate, the plants were placed out in the field the trip before. 1800 canopy trees were infill planted between the Rangers house and the Woolshed.
At the time of writing (23rd November 2022)  the planting has finished and, although it was tight in the end, enough trees were found. The plastic house is all but completed along with a new misting unit, the plants have been gathered according to their species and the fertilising is paying dividends. The target over summer is to have 5000 trees ready for the next planting season.
Phil Francis
Sunday Motuihe Volunteer trips report for the 2021/22 AGM
1 July 2021 to 30 June 2022
There were 10 Sunday trips during this time.
During Aug, Sept, Oct, Nov of 2021 there were no trips due to the Auckland Covid 19 lock down.
260 adult volunteers were involved plus 24 scouts.
3 trips were cancelled due to Covid and 5 due to weather.
The activities carried out are: Tree planting during the planting season, Weeding, Track Maintenance, Nursery work.  All these trips were made using Red Boat ferries. We really appreciate the Red Boats service without them we could not run our Sunday programme.
I would also like to thank the small group of leaders who come out Sunday after Sunday and lead groups of volunteers.
Fiona Alexander
Citizen Science (Biodiversity monitoring) Report for July 2021 to July 2022
Little Spotted Kiwi Survey Team
There was good coverage of our 7 listening sites over 4 nights in the depths of winter. The increasing rate of calls/hour from 2017 – 2022 suggests that our kiwi population is slowly but steadily increasing. On July 2 2022 our rather secretive birds gave their most vocal performance, with 39 total calls over 6 sites, 26 male calls and 13 female calls.
Camera Grid Team
A generous donation by Westhaven Rotary of 8 new Bushnell trail cameras(plus SD cards and rechargeable batteries) has supercharged this team. Julie, Jackie, Joce and Emma have been inspired to train another 11 volunteers in the protocols for this monitoring programme. By early 2022 we were managing to complete full grid card swaps and data management every 3 months for 16 cameras.
Camera targets:     Kiwi burrows and/or tuatara or Little Blue penguin burrows   (13 cameras)
                                 Fluttering shearwater nest sites               (1 camera +2 awaiting placement)
                                 Wetapunga release sites                          (2 cameras)
Camera revelations:
  • Our kiwis are fat and healthy and breeding. The cameras can distinguish at least 22 different kiwi at 12 different burrow sites. 55% of these birds are banded (founder adults) while 45% are unbanded. The ratio of M:F in the banded birds seen is 6:7. (One dead unbanded kiwi was found by Ranger Patrick on 23 Jan 2022 in the mostly dry creek bed in Snapper Bay.
  • Fluttering shearwater site (Billy goat point). Dec 2021- Shearwater activity recorded at 5 of 10 nesting boxes. 1 fluffy chick in A8, and birds still sitting on eggs in A6, A9 and A10.
Reckless behaviour of one of our kiwis in front of shearwater nest boxes-above very steep cliff.
  • Tuatara – many large and healthy looking tuatara around camera sites adjacent to Tieke track. Interesting kiwi / tuatara interactions near burrows.
    A huge thank you to all our monitoring team members for your dedication to training and the hours of your time that you commit to this rewarding work on Motuihe.
Julie Thomson
Conservation Advocacy
During the year the main efforts were in operating the Information Kiosk during the summer and by maintaining an active and informative website. Stuart and Denise managed the Kiosk and Fiona Alexander managed the website.
A huge thank you to everyone who helped make a difference.
The Motuihe Trust came into existence on 12 October 2000. Much has been accomplished and the fruits of the conservation programme are now becoming visible for all to experience.
Looking ahead it is proposed that more volunteers are given opportunities to lead a range of conservation initiatives on Motuihe which are of particular interest to them. It is hoped that they will be led and managed by an operations manager.
John Laurence
7 December 2022
AGM of the Motuihe Trust 7 December 2022
The trustees confirmed were:
John Laurence (Chair)
Michael Wood (Secretary)
Jill Soufflot (Treasurer)
Matt Baber
Matt Ewen
Jon Hind
Stuart MacIntosh
Max Smitheram
Julie Thomson
Peter Whitmore
The accounts were approved. John reported that our finances are in a very healthy state and if DoC decided to repair the volunteer house we could make a contribution to the cost. However, DoC have decided not to do repairs at this time.

General Meeting
Apparently it would cost between 5 and 7 million dollars to replace the wharf.
Two summer weeding contractors appointed Caleb and Gregg.
The Trust is in the process of appointing a paid Operations Manager. The recruitment is being handled by a commercial employment agency. 20 have applied and 1 will be interviewed.
John felt that the future direction of the Trust activities would be in specific projects led by enthusiastic project leaders passionate about one aspect of the island eg Dotterals or wetlands etc.
20th December there will be an Iwi trip to the island combined with the Tuatara baseball team who wish to plant a tree and to see a Tuatara.
The Motuihe Trust wishes all our supporters and volunteers every best wish for the festive season.

Midweek Report
The midweek volunteer programme had another highly successful year, which would have been a record year had it not been for weather and mechanical cancellations. Around 700 volunteers came out on 16 trips and would have swollen to over 1,000 volunteers had we not had a bad run of weather in November/December.  So much was achieved, so many people had a wonderful experience on the island and the scene is set for another excellent year in 2023.  
The biggest 'thank you' must, of course, go to the supervisor/leaders. Some hardy perennials; Jill, Phil, Colin, David, Graeme, John, Mike, Jeanette some new faces: Kath, Geoff, Doris, Dina and, happily, a welcome return to form; Graham, Lois, Liz, Peter, Frances and so many others who came out and added to the success.
The Dreamweaver team of Kirsty and skipper Paul have made the programme possible despite the weather, variable numbers and schedule changes - great supporters. 
We've also been greatly helped by Callum and his old outfit; Salesforce, who gifted us use of their online booking/contact/information platform. Not to mention another US$500 donation.
Our midweek programme taps into the huge demand amongst work teams keen to take advantage of their volunteer days.  Our offering has become a key part of many volunteer programmes and for some (think Inzide) is their Big Day Out.  We've managed to meld conservation, island advocacy and great fun to produce a unique experience.  We should all be very proud of what we've built and I am looking forward to more memorable days to come.
Thank you so much to everyone involved, if you get as much as I do from these days then we're all very much the better for our commitment to a great cause.
Sincerely, Simon

Trip Reports
Dreamweaver Friday 2 December

After a record 4 weather cancellations on the trot a record 61 volunteers set off on the Dreamweaver in a 'decent' SW.  Teams from BNZ, Spark, Auck University, Westpac and BDO were met by 10 supervisors who arrived on the DoC boat. 
Phil, Jill and Kath led a nursery session bagging 180 Pohutukawa, weeding the shade house and shifting flax from 'C' to the toilet block. Lois and John had track clearers opening up some well overgrown routes with Colin, Peter B, Graeme, Callum, Geoff (welcome), Simon and Liz led the remainder of the volunteers weeding woolies, ably assisted by our two summer weeders. Not a drop of rain fell and there was time for seed collecting, a beach clean and the odd swimmer. A bumpy boarding at high tide but all got back safe and sound.  Really good day.
Simon Sheen

Red Boats Sunday 11 December
20 intrepid volunteers set out in the rain which didn't stop until we got back on to the Red Boat ferry in the afternoon! However, much was achieved in the nursery with 200 clematis pricked out and 91 kowhai. Lois, Wes, Karin and Peter bravely went out and did some track clearing. Allen and Phil made good progress with the irrigation system in the refurbished plastic house which now has trays of plants inside it. A good day despite the weather. Thanks everyone.
Fiona Alexander

Volunteers in the nursery keeping out of the rain (photo Jill Bishop)

Camera Grid Survey overnight Friday 9 – Saturday 10 December
Annual Gecko Survey overnight Saturday 10 – Sunday 11 December

The weather, Covid and other pre-Christmas dramas took a hit on 7 of our experienced monitoring team members. Our first-timers in both teams had to step up and they did a great job. They constantly adapted to changed plans in order to dodge the rain and they were quick to learn all the protocols.
On Friday, two teams covered all of the13 trail cameras spread from the headland, to bald knob. All the SD cards were swapped and most batteries were replaced with fully charged ones. Initial scans of the SD cards showed healthy kiwis(1 male has an injured leg), penguins, shearwaters, tieke and whiteheads. The kiwi chicks were approaching the size of their parents and there were no signs of any mammal incursions. The cameras had not captured any tuataras, (more likely Feb – June), but the eagle-eyes of Chris, Martin and Cage spotted a very young tuatara on Saturday morning, just cruising across the grass in front of the woolshed. We also saw 3 adult tuataras on or near Tieke track during our Saturday night walk.
Early on Saturday, 6 of us from the camera team were joined by another 8 keen gecko crew thanks to the speedy Sea Shuttle. Both grids were baited with banana in the trakka tunnels, a total of 92 stations, and then all these stations were visited again on Sunday for collection of all the data. By Sunday afternoon our data bag was full of trakka cards and some rather damp recording sheets. The drying out and collation of our data is ongoing but verbal reports from the team suggest that the Raukawa geckos are thriving and slowly expanding their distribution. The Duvaucels are doing well and rapidly expanding their distribution. We managed to see and photograph just two Pacific geckos.
We appreciated the valuable support and good company provided by our summer contractor, Caleb, throughout the weekend. His new arrangement of the BBQ area with couches from the accommodation house meant that our gecko team did not have to put up tents in the heavy rain.
Our monitoring teams are blessed with youth (youngest is 7yrs), experience (70+yrs), passion for ecological restoration and excellent photographers which made for a great weekend. We are very thankful for the Foundation North Funds which make our monitoring programmes possible.
 Julie Thomson

Can you count the numbers of Raukawa gecko adults versus juveniles in this ACO?
 (Photo: Miriam Walker)

3 of our teams at the Raukawa Grid.                                               
(Photo: Chris Challinor)

Duvaucel gecko prints on trakka tunnel ink card.  (Photo: Chris Challinor)

Dreamweaver trip Friday 16 December

Caleb's group (photo Lois Badham)

Lucky last for the year as 30 PwCers, 8 from WSP and 4 from Vero set out on a wet and drizzly Dreamweaver trip. Blue sky appeared over the island and we ended up with a happy productive day: Colin and Graeme weeded at the southern end with John taking a tractor load to track clear the 'southern coastal' track. Lois, Jill, Kath and Simon joined the summer rangers to clear between Snapper and Calypso bays, then weed back from the paths. The track to Billy Goat Point also got considerably widened. Phil directed operations in the nursery bagging up 30+ pohutukawa, 20 various canopy---end of lines and splitting/bagging 50 knobby club rush (Facinia nodosa).  A Tieke track walk yielded a Tuatara and young Ruru - what a treat! Just enough time for a beach clean as the mist closed in again. Back safely for another good day.
Simon Sheen