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Fiordland Trails Trust embarks on Jobs for Nature-backed conservation and recreation program

Fiordland Trails Trust embarks on Jobs for Nature-backed conservation and recreation program
September 21, 2021

The Fiordland Trails Trust has announced the commencement of a three-year project through the New Zealand Government’s Jobs for Nature initiative that will extend and enhance the trail network in Fiordland, create employment and lead to huge conservation gains in the area.

The Fiordland Trails Trust is responsible for the Lake 2 Lake trail; a multi-use trail which runs from Te Anau to Manapouri (aside from a 4 kilometre stretch on the State Highway). It has always had ambitions to develop a trail from Te Anau to Te Anau Downs and now, thanks to funding through the Jobs for Nature programme, is able to start this work, alongside a host of other conservation-based projects within the trail network.

The $973,000 Jobs for Nature-funded project will include a significant programme of weed control, predator control and native plantings alongside the existing Lake 2 Lake trail and in the Upukerora River delta area. It will create employment for 15 full-time-equivalent staff over the term (roughly 50 part-time seasonal positions) and will enable the Trust to start legs one and two of the Te Anau to Te Anau Downs trail (a co-funded part of the project).

Fiordland Trails Trust spokesman John Greaney says the project is overwhelmingly positive for the Fiordland area, commenting “we are thrilled that, through Jobs for Nature, we can support employment in Fiordland with outcomes that will have ongoing and long-term benefit for locals and visitors.

“The extension of the trail will be brilliant. Within three years the trail is planned to extend out to Patience Bay and Sinclair Road. Effectively, this will form legs one and two of the Te Anau to Te Anau Downs trail, which is a long-term goal for the Trust.

“The weed and predator control programme, along with the planting of native species alongside the existing Lake 2 Lake trail and within the Upukerora delta area, will not only be fantastic for biodiversity in the area, but will really enhance the recreational experience.”

The overall project comprises five sub-projects, which will be managed concurrently. They include:

  • Noxious weed control (gorse and broom) across a corridor of the existing Lake 2 Lake trail and the new trail extension
  • Planting enhancement with selected natives on the Lake 2 Lake corridor, to assist with erosion control, improve the visual amenity and foster native wildlife
  • A programme of clearing exotics, replacement and enhancement with native plant species and their maintenance on the Lower Upukerora River delta
  • A predator control programme across a 345 hectare area, to protect rare, braided river bird nesting areas on the delta and riverbed
  • Restoration of the Patience Bay wetland
  • Habitat improvement for braided river birds by removing weeds from the riverbed
  • The development of interpretative panels on the trail network
  • A 6 kilometre extension of the existing trail network via part funding of legs one and two of the Te Anau to Te Anau Downs trail

The Fiordland Trails Trust has partnered with the Lower Upukerora Restoration Group (LURG) who have provided the framework for the biodiversity improvements.

LURG representative Vanessa Horwell says the biodiversity improvements focus on protecting rare and endangered braided river birds that nest on the Upukerora River and delta area, including the nationally vulnerable banded dotterel, nationally endangered black fronted tern and nationally critical black billed gull, as well as other species such as South Island oyster catcher and pied stilt.

Howell noted “the proposed predator trapping network and weed control will increase the chances of successful breeding for these river birds by providing clear areas of riverbed for nesting, and reducing predators that prey on eggs, chicks and nesting birds.

“The extensive native plantings along the Upukerora River and at the Patience Bay wetland will provide habitat and food for native birds and invertebrates, and the weed control in the riverbed will provide suitable nesting sites for river birds.”

Explaining the partnership, Greaney added “the project is a real partnership between the Department of Conservation, the Fiordland Trails Trust, the Lower Upukerora Restoration Group and the local Fiordland community, with everyone working together and collaboratively to support the initiative.”

“We are really excited about the benefits for Fiordland and look forward to keeping the community updated as work progresses.”

Work is expected to start soon on clearing exotic trees in the Upukerora River delta area to start the native planting project, and trail construction will also get underway soon.

Images: Fiordland Trails Trust.

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