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Marunui Conservation manages a 423ha property on the southern slopes of the Brynderwyn Hills near Mangawhai. The company was founded for conservation purposes and seeks to protect, enhance and celebrate the natural, historical, visual and recreational values of the land. The entire area is covered by a QE II National Trust open space covenant which includes the requirement to protect the indigenous flora and fauna in perpetuity.
Eighteen shareholders own the land in common. The company is guided by a Constitution which includes a Management Plan. Priorities for action are set out in a Conservation Working Plan and implemented by shareholders. Contractors are used for specific tasks such as cyanide baiting and a pool of volunteers is helping with general pest control and other conservation tasks.
Topography is steep, rising to 397m at Marunui Trig and includes the outlying Pa hill at 240m asl. A deep sheltered valley lies between these two features. Apart from a small grazed paddock and a few residual grass clearings, the entire property is forested. The southern slopes of the range and valley systems contain the more mature podocarp-hardwood forest and much of the remainder is regenerating kanuka shrubland and secondary forest. Pa hill has extensive areas of gumland vegetation. There are many deep gullies, streams and some small wetland areas.
Much of Marunui’s forest is within DOC’s Schedule of Sites of Biological Interest, identified as being of high national importance. It is part of the Brynderwyn Hills Forest Complex which extends for 15km from just west of SH1 to Bream Tail in the east. The Natural Areas of Waipu Ecological District (DOC 2007) records three threatened and eleven regionally significant plant species within this wider area and ten threatened and five regionally significant fauna. In 2011 the Auckland Botanical Society identified 216 indigenous vascular plants at Marunui.
Streams are well protected from erosion and siltation by forest cover and contain a healthy population of Hochstetter’s frog, longfin eel and other representative aquatic species. Its diverse forest habitat is home to kaka, tomtit, bellbird, NZ Pigeon and fernbird as well as other more common species. Long tailed cuckoo are seen and heard during passage and shining cuckoo are present in the breeding season. Red-crowned kakariki are occasional visitors from the Hen and Chicken Islands off the Bream Bay coast.
In April 2013 fourteen Northland brown kiwi were translocated to Marunui from Motuora Island after being absent from the Brynderwyns for nearly 50 years. In 2014 another twenty two birds were released and then another seven in 2015. All came with transmitters which enabled them to be tracked and monitored. These were gradually removed, leaving just a few males with transmitters.
The birds quickly formed pairs and established territories. At least 25 nests have been monitored with most producing two chicks and it can be assumed that unmonitored nests are also productive. The other method used to determine population increase or decline is kiwi call monitoring. This is undertaken in Northland each year between set dates over 4 nights from 6pm to 8pm. Marunui has participated each year since 2014 and has recorded a steady increase in calls heard. There were 9 in 2014, 31 in 2015, 59 in 2016 and 81 in 2017. These results are very encouraging and the same listening stations are used each time.
Kiwi management: and monitoring
Organising kiwi avoidance training for dogs to protect kiwi and promote responsible dog ownership
Carrying out animal pest control with the help of volunteers
Engaging with the community to expand volunteer support
Maintaining and extending the track network to provide access for pest control
Liaising with neighbouring landowners to encourage complementary animal pest control to improve their own biodiversity and support Marunui’s efforts
Advocating for kiwi care and conservation in general through media releases and articles and by participating in RMA planning processes
Conducting walks in Marunui as part of the annual Mangawhai Walking Weekend
Enabling educational research projects, eg. seed dispersal, fungi for cancer research, stream ecology
Organising trapper training workshops to demonstrate traps, baits and techniques
QE II National Trust, Department of Conservation, Northland Kiwi Forum, Kiwis for Kiwi, NZ Landcare Trust, Northland Regional Council, Hancock Forest Management (NZ) Ltd, Te Uri O Hau Settlement Trust, Patuharakeke Te Iwi Trust Board, Ngatiwai Trust Board, Kaipara District Council, Mangawhai Tracks Charitable Trust, Auckland Botanical Society, Kiwi Coast