A pest eradication program targeting wallabies, pigs and goats has been revealed as the first step in restoring native vegetation to a piece of historic bushland near Waimate.
The group, Friends of Studholme Bush Scenic Reserve (FOSBSR), will launch the eradication program, approved by the Department of Conservation (DOC), from April 5.
The group’s chairman, Andrew Oliver, said his aim was to restore the three square kilometer reserve in the Waimate Gorge to a robust functioning forest ecosystem and the initial aim would be to reduce pest numbers there.
“The eradication program will reduce the number of pests in the reserve, allowing us to start planting native trees,” Oliver said.
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Oliver said two professional hunters could be on the reserve every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, day and night from April 5 to eliminate grazing pests.
The group, launched in 2021, is also in the process of becoming a formalized charity to start raising funds for an eight kilometer predator fence around the reserve to prevent grazing animals from entering the reserve.
“Without fencing there can be no forest because we would basically be feeding the wallabies with whatever we plant.
“By becoming a charitable society, we will be able to seek and distribute funds for perimeter fencing and ongoing conservation management resources in accordance with our community agreement with the DOC.”
FOSBSR signed the community agreement with DOC in January 2020 which allows the group to propagate and plant suitable natives in the reserve.
“This is a generational project to put the native forest ecosystem back into action. It’s about restoring this forest for our community and future generations.
Oliver said the project, in the long term, can help bring native birds back to the area, and native trees can also contribute to global warming because they take longer to grow and absorb more carbon.
He said they plan to get the Predator Fence, which is estimated to cost $300,000, by the end of this year through fundraising and that Matthews’ filming schedule would allow the group to start planting native trees in about 18 months.
“Studholme Bush Scenic Reserve is a highly visible piece of land at the start of the Waimate Gorge. This 281 hectare reserve is much more than the forested slopes we see when crossing the gorge.
“It is a reserve loved by many, both for its recreational opportunities, remnants of native forest and the stunning views it offers of the Canterbury Plains and North Otago.”
Oliver said Studholme Bush was once part of around 9,000 ha of native podocarp forest that covered the Hunter Hills.
“These forests have existed here for at least 12,000 years since the end of the last ice age. Some plant species within it have an unchanged lineage that goes back much further to the ancient landmass of Gondwana.
“New Zealand’s tallest tree species are still found here, the Kahikatea is virtually the same tree as it was 120 million years ago when dinosaurs spread its seeds.”
He added that Studholme Bush was named after Michael Studholme, the first European settler to arrive in the area in 1848. The bush was extensively logged in the 1860s to provide timber for the homes of new settlers.
In 1878 a huge fire swept through the district and some native remains remained in the ravines. Studholme Bush was donated to the public by the Gama Foundation in 2008 and then handed over to DOC for management in 2009. In 2010 another fire raged through the reserve burning 154ha.