What is Taranaki Mounga?

Taranaki Mounga is an ambitious conservation project to secure the mountain, ranges and islands of Taranaki from pests, restore and revitalise wildlife, and transform the ecological resilience of the project area to a state reflecting the Mounga’s importance long into the future. It is a collaborative partnership between DOC, Iwi of Taranaki, NEXT Foundation and founding sponsors Shell New Zealand, TSB Community Trust, Jasmine Social Investments and Landcare Research.

Why Mounga and not Maunga?

In the dialect of Taranaki iwi, mountain is more often pronounced Mounga, rather than Maunga, and was certainly the more known historic dialect – both pronounciations and spelling refer to the mountain.

Who is funding the project?

A consortium of the NEXT Foundation, Department of Conservation, iwi and founding sponsors Shell New Zealand, TSB Community Trust, Jasmine Social Investments and Landcare Research are collaboratively resourcing this $24 million landscape-scale restoration project across the volcanic peaks and islands of Taranaki.  All the partners are working together towards common goals for the good of Taranaki Mounga.

What do you hope to achieve?

Taranaki Mounga will transform the project area into a place full of birds and other wildlife, where threatened and vulnerable species are widely distributed in the Park and resilient to climatic and other disturbances, and ecosystem processes are functioning and not under threat. This will be achieved through innovative pest management.

How big is the project area?

The project extends from the Ngā Motu / Sugar Loaf islands by New Plymouth to the peaks of Kaitake, Pouakai and Taranaki and over the 34,000 ha of Egmont National Park.  Over time Taranaki Mounga will work with groups including the Taranaki Regional Council, farmers and environmental groups like the Taranaki Biodiversity Trust to create a halo around the mountain to protect the perimeter of the park against reinvasion from pests.

How long will the project last?

Taranaki Mounga is expected to run for at least 20 years with three phases:  Founders and sponsors have agreed and confirmed levels of funding for the next 18 months, and have agreed in principle for 10 and 20 years beyond that, subject to a review of achievements after the first 18 months.

What happens after 20 years?

In 20 years we expect to see considerable ecological, social and cultural change for the better on the Mounga.  However there will be ongoing maintenance and work required to ensure the outcomes are maintained and this will be covered by the Tomorrow Accord.

The Tomorrow Accord commits the New Zealand Government to maintain long term results for parts of the conservation estate where philanthropic investment has delivered significant, measurable enhancement of the ecological prospects of those ecosystems.  Taranaki Mounga is a qualifying project under the Tomorrow Accord which has been signed between NEXT and the Government.

What specific actions will you be taking in the first few years?

Taranaki Mounga has an ambitious list of actions for its first few years.

  • Extending the existing stoat trapping network by 2,000 ha to encompass 11,000 ha of the national park, to increase protection for whio and kiwi
  • An aerial 1080 predator control programme undertaken in 2016 by DOC to reduce possum, rat and stoat numbers
  • Returning North Island robin/tōutōuwai to the national park in autumn 2017
  • Install a 1000ha ground-based rat control block to re-introduce the robins (and eventually other bird species) into the park
  • Put in place pest monitoring around the entire mounga to gather baseline data on numbers of pests
  • Undertake a feasibility study and plan for the complete eradication of goats from the national park
  • Put plans in place around eradicating key weed species from the mounga (e.g. climbing asparagus, Gunnera)
  • Investigate potential translocations of kaka, kakariki, and seabirds back onto the mounga
  • Complete a baseline survey on bat distribution and abundance
  • Undertake planning for a seabird colony enclosure, seabird translocation and island pest management

Why are you only eradicating goats, and not deer and pigs as well?

Taranaki Mounga is highly unusual as there are no deer, pigs, chamois or feral stock on the mountain.  By eradicating feral goats from the mountain we will become New Zealand’s first ungulate (hooved animal) free national park.

What species will you bring back?

A number of vulnerable native species have already been lost from the Mounga.  Notably, black petrels and an unknown variety of other seabirds, kākāriki, robin/tōutōuwai and kākā.  Others like blue duck/whio, Western North Island brown kiwi, and two bat species have been depleted.

Once we are confident predator control has brought down predator numbers to a sufficient level we will bring back robin/tōutōuwai, kākā, kākāriki and black petrals.  We will also look to boost populations of birds like blue duck/whio and North Island brown kiwi.

Planning to protect and enhance species like the endemic shrub Melicytus drucei and poorly-known invertebrates such as Tara taranaki, the world’s largest landhopper found only on the Mounga, will also be undertaken.

Who will undertake the restoration work?

Initially, DOC will be contracted to undertake the restoration work and we will also gather advice from experts in particular fields, around the country.

Landcare Research will undertake research on the mounga and we will work with local conservation groups on specific projects.  We plan to work with the Rotokare Scenic Reserve Trust in regard to returning robin/tōutōuwai to both our areas, and the Taranaki Kiwi Trust is already doing great work with kiwi in Taranaki.

Will anything change as iwi complete Treaty of Waitangi settlements?

The eight iwi of Taranaki will continue in their role as kaitiaki and tangata whenua of the Mounga and they have an iwi representative on the Taranaki Mounga Board.  Taranaki Mounga will work independently of any treaty settlement negotiations.

Will the project use 1080?

To reduce introduced predator numbers to levels where birds on the Mounga will be able to thrive in their natural environment we must undertake large scale predator control.

Aerial 1080 is the most effective pest control method over large areas and dificult terrain. A 2011 Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment report into the use of 1080 found it was the most effective tool to protect our native wildlife.

1080 is a simple toxic compound found naturally in more than 40 plants worldwide, including tea and native puha.  Cinnamon and green dye are added to 1080 pellets to discourage birds.

1080 is water soluble and breaks down rapidly to harmless substances.  It is also biodegradable and does not accumulate in soil, plants, water or animals.  During the last Mt Taranaki pest control operation in 2010, iwi requested monitoring of kuku (saltwater mussels) and kākahi (freshwater mussels). No 1080 was found in any of the mussels.

Taranaki Mounga takes health and safety very seriously and DOC has rigorous standard operating procedures for the use of 1080 and other toxins. DOC will intensively monitor water, predator numbers, and whio before, during and after the application of 1080.

It is likely the total quantity of 1080 used in successive operations will decrease over time. If pest reinvasion is minimised, through excellent perimeter protection, 1080 use might even be phased out or used rarely.

How will you stop the pests coming back?

The national park is unique as it is surrounded by a large plain of farm land.  Taranaki Mounga will develop effective ways of pest control in the national park, and beyond to an ecological corridor between the Mounga and the Moana (mountain to sea).

The Taranaki Regional Council and rural land-owners already have an extensive, long-running riparian enhancement programme on farms across the Taranaki Ring Plain.  DOC will work with these, and other groups, to create a halo around the national park. The park will be buffered from pest reinvasion by this halo and perimeter protection around its edge.

How will you keep the community informed of progress of the Project”?

We plan to update our website and Facebook page regularly and will produce regular newsletters to inform the community about the work of Taranaki Mounga.  You can sign up to receive the newsletter here.

Does “He Kawa Ora – Back to Life” mean the Mounga has been not alive until now?

Taranaki iwi have an ancient karakia (prayer) that talks about bringing one back to a state of life, from darkness into light and this concept is central to Taranaki Mounga.  DOC and other conservation groups, including Wild for Taranaki (the identity of the Taranaki Biodiversity Trust) have been doing some incredible predator control and other restoration work in the national park over many years and without their endeavours the job ahead of Taranaki Mounga would be a lot harder.

This project will continue the evolution – transforming the mounga, and reinvigorating and restoring its ecology through a large scale restoration project.

How do I get involved?

Initially, Taranaki Mounga will work through DOC’s volunteer programme,you can find more information about the programme here.  As the project develops there will be opportunities to volunteer on specific projects either through Taranaki Mounga or local conservation groups.

What is Healthy Nature, Healthy People?

In conjunction with Taranaki Mounga DOC will trial Oranga Mounga Oranga Tangata – Healthy Nature, Healthy People.  It will create opportunities for health, environmental education benefits as well as skill development as a result of the close connection with nature and the Taranaki Mounga project.