I wish to nominate the Rocklands Road Weedbusters for their extraordinary achievements in working with many landowners to deal with persistent and aggressive vines on karst terrain which includes some of the most difficult hill country in Golden Bay. They have developed smart processes to deal with these vines, utilising specialist skills within the community, enthusing many landowners who had previously given up as the task was beyond their resources, and communicating effectively with landowners and agencies.
What are they doing and how did they start?
Golden Bay has been cleaning up the pest vines that thrive in its micro-climate since the Tasman-Nelson Regional Pest Management Strategy (RPMS) was changed in 2007 to include Banana Passion Vine (BPV) as a progressive control plant in Golden Bay. There have been many initiatives around the Bay, but the area that was the worst affected was not expected to be tackled, as the RPMS focus was on containing the outer areas first. This area is located along the Eastern limestone escarpment of Golden Bay on steep terrain characterised by outcrops and canyons. A group of local landowners, living in the middle of this weed city in Clifton, had already done a lot of work. They wanted to find a way to stop the endless spread of weed seeds carried in by birds from distant properties. This was producing an endless supply of seedlings that needed attention every year and it was very wearying as there appeared to be no end on sight. This was when the RPMS review took place and Golden Bay was given a chance to show that it could make a difference with such a well established and invasive pest vine. Fortunately, the local QEII regional representative visited Chris and Silvia Rowse's covenant and when they expressed their concerns about pest vines getting into it, he encouraged them to apply to the Biodiversity Condition Fund for help. Out of this, the Rocklands Road Weedbusters group was formed.
In 2010, they applied for funding help from the Biodiversity Condition Fund to help clean up 14 properties along the upper side of Rocklands Road over 3 years and received over $63,000 plus $4,000 from Tasman District Council. The project's administration and reporting is done by volunteers and the funds are handled by the volunteer treasurer from the local Forest and Bird branch. This project has nearly finished its 2nd year and is on target with its aims to eliminate all the mature pest vines on the properties and leave very few seedlings. Some 7,800 vines in the 1st year and 2,800 in the 2nd year were removed, primarily Banana Passion Vine with some Old Man's Beard and a few others. GPS tracking records the routes the weed team use and GPS way points have been established for the key plants. Sheep counters were used to keep an accurate tally. “Best Practice Guidelines” have been written to give to landowners so that they are confident that the weed control team will respect their personal wishes about what is done on their property. The project was a joint winner award in the Community and Neighbourhood category of the Nelson-TDC Environment 2010 Awards.
In 2011, they applied for funding from the Biodiversity Condition Fund to clean up a further 31 properties along the lower side of Rocklands Road and from Birds Rd to Rameka Creek. This is a large area along 6 km of the escarpment. It is a very challenging terrain and several large properties have required a lot of input to help the weed team achieve access and not get lost! Tracks have been established where no one has entered for decades. Some of the routes are amazing with deep canyons and sink holes. They are then walked with a GPS unit and a map created. They have received the full funding applied for of $184,973 over 3 years.
This project is now well underway and the first 4-monthly report has been completed. Five properties have had their first sweep and about 5,000 vines have been cut or pulled. This included 4000+ BPV's, 840 Old Man's Beards, 83 Wonga Wonga (some over 2000m2 in area), plus honeysuckle, very large scented jasmine (over 2500m2 in area) and a few others.
Unfortunately, the weed problem does not stop there and food sources 2-5 km away are easy re-seeding food sources for the larger birds – especially the native pigeons. In 2011, they started to gather together the property owners of Pohara and analysed the properties that need help there. Seven pods were established with 1-2 local people leading them. Pod leaders knew many of their neighbours and could go door knocking to gather data. They have already collated much of the data onto spreadsheets, looked at 160+ properties and established that there are about 75 properties needing help. It is important to realise that the Biodiversity Funding will only match the contributions of the land owners and ancillary voluntary help. This is a key aspect of the process to activate as many landowners as possible and with their efforts, the funding can happen. We have also allowed for developing an on-going maintenance plan for the landowners when the funded work is finished. TDC Biosecurity staff will help to keep the impetus up after that. They wish to apply for Biodiversity funding towards the end of 2012.