Runaway takahē exiled to Motutapu

Walter the takahē went on a walkabout.

A pair of Tawharanui takahē have been exiled to Motutapu after escaping the open sanctuary and giving rangers the runaround for days.

The word was put out to nearby residents to keep an eye out for what might look like two portly pukeko both wearing leg bands.

Tawharanui ranger Matt Maitland says he picked up on some intel during a conversation at the local pub that the takahē had been seen on a lawn near Baddeleys Beach.

The birds walked an estimated 20 kilometres after leaving the sanctuary, before finally being found on Gin Point Farm, near Buckleton Beach.

Matt says at this time of year, takahē have a tendency to wander because of a drive to breed and nest further away from rivals.

As the Tawharanui sanctuary fence goes only to the tide mark, it is likely the birds timed their escape with a low tide.

Because the couple are recidivist escapees they have been transported to Motutapu Island where they are now free to wander.

Meanwhile, planning ecologist Karen Pegrume, of Kaipara Flats, says the takahē taking residence at Gin Point Farm validates the hard work that residential developers have done in restoring wetlands.

A consortium of 16 planning consultancy firms has been battling Auckland Council in the courts for some years over the right to subdivide rural land into residential lots where wetland restoration is undertaken.

Karen says rules originally set out by Rodney District Council allowed for farmland to be restored into wetlands and converted into residential lots, which provided capital for farmers as well as vital habitat for native birds.

“We have created networks of fantastic wetlands and the takahē had no interest in leaving them. Less than one per cent of Rodney’s wetlands are intact, but as we are restoring them birds such as bitterns can’t get back in quick enough.”

Council sought to change these rules in the Unitary Plan in July 2018, but the Environment Court ruled in favour of the planning consultants and the rules stayed.

In June, Council took the matter to the High Court, which ruled in favour of Council on some, but not all points.

Myles Goodwin, of Cato Bolam Consultants, says the new ruling retains the right to gain new titles on restored wetland, but Council is still restricting existing wetlands to a single title.

“This is not practical because the maintenance of a wetland is too expensive for one property, due to the cost of covenanting, fencing and surveying. The fences cost $24 a metre across several kilometres.”

He says the residential planners are likely to return to the Environment Court to challenge Council on this point.

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