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 Manaaki Whenua – 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 Manaaki Whenua – 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 34,000ha of Te Papakura o Taranaki, previously called 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 re-invasion from pests.

How long will the project last?

Taranaki Mounga is expected to run for at least 20 years with three phases. After a successful first 18 months of the project, after meeting key milestones to the satisfaction of founders and sponsors, we are now into phase two the the Project.

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 have been taken in its first few years?

Taranaki Mounga has achieved a lot in its first four years.

  • The stoat trapping network was increased from 7,500ha to 17,000ha of the national park, to increase protection for whio and kiwi
  • In autumn 2019, 60 titpounamu/rifleman were translocated from the mounga to Rotokare Scenic Reserve. This is the first transfer of birds from the park and Rotokare now hosts members of NZ’s four remaining endemic song-bird families
  • Since autumn 2017, over 100 toutouwai/North Island robin have been re-introduced in the national park. Since then there have been sightings around the park, one at Pukeiti, around 15km from its release site
  • A 1000ha ground-based rat control block has been established. This has kept predator numbers to a low level to enable toutouwai/North Island robin and whio/blue duck to be released into this area
  • A pest monitoring programme around the entire mounga and Kaitake Range is in place and gathering baseline data on numbers of pests
  • An aerial 1080 predator control programme was completed  in 2019 by Taranaki Mounga to reduce possum, rat and stoat numbers. More information can be found here
  • A feasibility study and plan for the complete eradication of goats is underway. After a period of intensive goat hunting, a 30 hour aerial thermal imaging project was completed in the the sub-alpine area of the park. No goats were detected in this trial. Work continues to eradicate the final remaining goats.
  • Plans are now in place around eradicating key weed species from the mounga (e.g. climbing asparagus, gunnera)
  • Investigations are underway for potential translocations of kākā, kakariki, and seabirds back onto the mounga
  • A baseline survey on bat distribution and abundance is underway
  • Planning for a seabird colony enclosure, seabird translocation and island pest management has begun
  • Community groups and organisations are actively involved in predator control and biodiversity activities around the mounga. This includes Kaitake Ranges Conservation Trust, START Taranaki, Francis Douglas Memorial College, Tiki Toa, New Horizons Aotearoa, Taranaki Kiwi Trust and their volunteers.
  • Continue to work closely with Towards Predator-Free Taranaki and Taranaki Regional Council to support its success outside of our project area.

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, kākā and two bat species.  Others like whio/blue duck, Western North Island brown kiwi were also depleted.

Since autumn 2017, over 100 North Island robin/toutouwai have been re-introduced in the national park. In 2018, 15 whio were released along three rivers. In addition, new whio dogs, Tai and Marti, located 69 ducklings and 59 fledglings on eight monitored rivers. More than 20 Western North Island brown kiwi were released on the mounga between 2018/19..

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.

Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research will undertake research on the mounga and we will work with local conservation groups on specific projects.  We have been working closely with Rotokare Scenic Reserve Trust with our toutouwai/North Island robin monitoring, and the Taranaki Kiwi Trust who are 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.

An aerial 1080 predator control programme was undertaken in 2019 by Taranaki Mounga to reduce possum, rat and stoat numbers. More information can be found here

Aerial 1080 is the most effective pest control method over large areas and difficult 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.

Taranaki Mounga takes health and safety very seriously and rigorous standard operating procedures will be used for the use of 1080 and other toxins. The Project 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 re-invasion is minimised, through excellent perimeter protection, 1080 use might even be phased out or used rarely.

How will you stop the pests coming back?

Te Papakura o Taranaki, previously called Egmont 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).

In May 2018, the Taranaki region received funding from Predator Free 20150 Ltd. Taranaki Taku Tūranga – Our Place, Towards a Predator-Free Taranaki, is led by the Taranaki Regional Council which aims to install intensive, multi-species predator control over 700,000ha of the Taranaki Region.

Taranaki Mounga continue to work closely with Taranaki Regional Council and rural landowners through an extensive, long-running riparian enhancement programme on farms across the Taranaki Ring Plain.  The Project work closely with the Council, community groups and landowners to create a halo around the national park. The park will be buffered from pest re-invasion by this halo and perimeter protection around its edge.

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

You can follow us on Facebook and Instagram to see updates on our Project. In addition we 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) and Towards Predator-Free Taranaki 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?

Taranaki Mounga utilises DOC’s volunteer programme, which 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?

A programme called Tiki Toa is a collaboration between Tui Ora, DOC, iwi, Ngāti Ruanui Tahua and the Health Promotion Agency. All worked together to co-design a youth wellness project under the banner of Oranga Mounga Oranga Tangata – Healthy Nature, Healthy People.  This programme creates 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. In its third year, this programme is tailored to students between 10 – 13 from Devon Intermediate and Te Pi’ipi’inga.