Thursday, 29 October 2015 12:55

Fonterra, DOC supporting godwits and red knots

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As part of their Living Water partnership, Fonterra and DOC are supporting an international partnership to secure a safe flight path for NZ's bird of the year.

Yesterday Conservation Minister Maggie Barry and Chinese ambassador Wang Lutong were at Pukorokoro-Miranda on the Firth of Thames to see first-hand the birds they're working to protect.

Bar-tailed godwits and red knots have returned to Pūkorokoro-Miranda to spend the summer, having flown 12,000 km from their breeding grounds in Alaska and Siberia respectively.

Recognised under the Ramsar Convention as an internationally significant wetland, Pūkorokoro Miranda has a chenier plain, consisting of shell banks. This rare coastal feature provides a seasonal home for about 40 species of shorebirds.

Pūkorokoro Miranda is one of five Living Water catchments that are spread throughout the country and located in significant dairying regions. Fonterra and DOC are working with dairy farmers, iwi and conservation groups to improve the health of these catchments.

Living Water has been supporting the Pūkorokoro-Miranda Naturalists' Trust who run the shore bird centre near Miranda - and Ngāti Paoa, in the work they're doing to secure a safe flight path for these birds.

"Around 5000 godwits spend their summers at Pūkorokoro-Miranda. They fly non-stop from Siberia, covering the 12,000km in eight to nine days," says DOC director-general Lou Sanson.

"In March the godwits fly back to Siberia. On this journey they stop in China to refuel. DOC and the Pūkorokoro-Miranda Naturalists' Trust are working with authorities in China on protecting the Chinese sites, where godwits and red knots feed during their annual flights to their breeding grounds in Alaska and Siberia."

Chair of the Pūkorokoro-Miranda Naturalists' Trust, Gillian Vaughan, says the trust began visiting the Yalu Jiang National Nature Reserve in China in 1999, establishing a sister-site partnership with the reserve in 2004.

"The Chinese shores of the Yellow Sea include some key sites that allow species like the bar-tailed godwit and red knot to complete their incredible migratory journeys. Protecting and enhancing areas like the Caofadien coast and Yalu Jiang National Nature Reserve will be a key to preserving New Zealand's biodiversity."

"Shorebirds link our countries together and its essential New Zealand continues to work with China and other countries connected by these birds."

Fonterra director of social responsibility, Carolyn Mortland, says Fonterra is proud to be involved in conservation work to ensure this treasured bird can continue their epic flights as part of their life cycle.

"This area, and the birds that nest here, are of international significance and we're doing what we can to protect and enhance its future. Any time we remove or change the size of one piece of the puzzle that makes up our ecosystem we run the risk of changing the picture – our farmers understand this and the importance of protecting our biodiversity for future generations," says Mortland.

Ngāti Paoa spokesperson Gary Thompson says the iwi has a strong connection to kuaka or godwits.

"Our ancestors have watched this special bird come and go from Pūkorokoro on its incredible flights all the way to Alaska and back for generations.

"We're pleased to be working with DOC, Fonterra and the Pūkorokoro-Miranda Naturalists' Trust to protect this taonga. We want to ensure kuaka continue to make their amazing journey for generations to come."


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