Community category winners in the 2020 Taranaki Regional Council Environmental Awards.
Category sponsor: Methanex(external link)
Waitara Taiao - for outstanding advocacy and voluntary effort to protect and restore native biodiversity and te taiao o Waitara.
Waitara Taiao shows how much can be achieved when a community develops and owns a conservation project. From small beginnings under local couple Tama and Gina Blackburn and their son Epiha, it’s grown into an effective and valuable predator control operation involving people throughout the town and its surrounds. At last count, Waitara Taiao members were running 187 traps that within a couple of years had seen the removal of 358 predators, mainly rats and possums. They’ve also carried out restoration planting in reserves and along the Waitara River. Waitara Taiao is actively supported by iwi, schools, businesses, whanau and the Scout Group in the town. It’s an especially popular cause among young people, with some quickly becoming highly skilled trappers!
Dave Watson - for outstanding voluntary effort to protect and restore native biodiversity through pest animal control.
Many users of the Huatoki and Te Hēnui streamside tracks in urban New Plymouth will have met Dave Watson already. He’s the guy who checks, clears and resets all the rat traps, accompanied by his springer spaniel Toby. He volunteered for the job last year to support Towards Predator-Free Taranaki. Since then, he’s overseen the elimination of hundreds of predators and led effective community ownership of the 80 or so TRC traps, even filling in gaps with his own rat and possum traps when he sees a need. As predator numbers decrease, native species are thriving. This is confirmed in formal surveys as well as anecdotal evidence. Dave is also an enthusiastic ambassador for the project, spreading the word among track users.
John David Dodunski - for outstanding effort to protect and restore native biodiversity - and in particular New Zealand's native orchids - through pest plant control.
Wandering willie has no chance up against John Dodunski, New Plymouth’s defender of fragile native orchids. He’s made outstanding progress controlling the invasive South American pest plant, whose proper name is Tradescantia. It’s a major threat to native orchid species, which John has spent a lifetime studying and observing. He’s made a sustained effort to control Tradescantia over a large area within the Te Hēnui catchment in urban New Plymouth, making habitats safer for orchids and other native species. Hand-pulling is John’s only option, and all this hard work has gone largely unnoticed until now. Not surprisingly, John is a strong supporter of biological control of Tradescantia with fungus and beetle species. The technique is used by TRC in this region.