HUTT CITY COUNCIL
Komiti Kaupapa Taiao
Climate Change and Sustainability
Meeting to be held in the Council Chambers, 2nd Floor, 30 Laings Road, Lower Hutt on
Thursday 22 July 2021 commencing at 2.00pm.
SUPPLEMENTARY ORDER PAPER
10. INFORMATION ITEM
Updates on Council's Biodiversity Action (21/1065)
Report No. CCASC2021/3/95 by the Ecology/Horticulture Advisor 2
“That the recommendations contained in the report be endorsed”
01 July 2021
Report no: CCASC2021/3/95
Updates on Council's Biodiversity Action
Purpose of Report
1. The purpose of this report is to provide detail and updates about the biodiversity strategies and actions undertaken by Council’s Parks and Reserves workstreams.
2. The Parks and Reserves team will commence the development of a Biodiversity Strategy as reported in the officer’s report to the Communities Committee meeting on 14 July 2021.
3. The work activities described in this informational report are undertaken alongside other Parks and Reserves work programmes and project work as reported in the officer’s report to the Communities Committee meeting on 14 July 2021.
That the Committee:
(1) notes the work currently underway relating to biodiversity; and
(2) notes that work on a Biodiversity Strategy is commencing this month.
Strategic Context for Biodiversity Action
4. Council’s Parks and Reserves team is responsible for protecting and promoting biodiversity and is guided by policy and internal strategies. Our guidance comes from the following documents:
a. Reserves Strategic Directions 2016
b. Urban Forest Plan 2010
c. Environmental Sustainability Strategy 2015-2045 (ESS) and associated Environmental Sustainability Strategy Implementation Plan. Focus Area: Biodiversity (Which will be superseded by the ‘Hapori Ora’ Plan)
d. Reserves Management Plans
5. The Reserves Strategic Directions is focussed on five key aims:
a. Protect and Enhance
b. Sustainable Practices
c. Connected Reserves
d. Quality Programmes and Facilities
e. Engagement, participation, and collaboration.
6. The Urban Forest Plan is concerned with three areas, each with a set of outcomes:
a. Natural areas
b. Urban Parks
c. Street Trees
7. Environmental Sustainability Strategy (ESS), Focus Area Biodiversity, attempts to address the following issues:
a. Protection of Species/Habitat
b. Invasive Species
c. Coherence and connectivity
8. Parks and Reserves have approximately 13 Reserve Management Plans some of which are site-specific (eg: ‘Jubilee Park and Percy Scenic Reserve management Plan’) and others apply to multiple sites (eg, ‘Bush Reserve management Plan’ or ‘Esplanade and Foreshore Reserve Management Plan’). These plans are continually under review by the Parks and Reserves team and their renewal cycles are not coordinated.
9. Work on a Biodiversity Strategy is commencing this month. This will provide guidance for, and co-ordinate, work across Council relating to biodiversity.
10. The Biodiversity strategy will contextualise the wide-ranging work programs we already undertake in the Parks and Reserves division and provide frameworks for measuring and improving our performance. It would also allow us to prioritise our efforts to maximise biodiversity gains.
Biodiversity Workstreams and Programmes
11. There are a number of programmes and activities undertaken by Council’s Parks and Reserves team that specifically target biodiversity and there are a range of programmes that include biodiversity considerations within their operation. Community groups and external organisations are supported by Council with supply of plants and materials and/or funding support.
12. Council-led programmes that specifically target biodiversity are:
a. Indigenous Biodiversity Fund
b. Predator Free Hutt Valley
c. Pest Plant Programme
d. Pest Tree Strategy
e. Boundary Weed Clearance and Revegetation Sites
f. Beach Weed Programme
g. Site-led Pest animal control (possums, deer)
h. Percy Scenic Reserve Conservation Collection
13. Council-led programmes that are not primarily targeting biodiversity but have a direct effect on Biodiversity:
a. Annual Winter Planting Programme
b. Community Planting Support Funding
c. Resource consent assessments and notices.
d. Reserves Financial Contributions
e. Little Blue Penguin Haven
f. Carbon Forest Registration
14. External programmes that are supported by Council that have a direct effect on Biodiversity:
a. Key Native Ecosystems (KNEs)
b. The Kiwi Project by Remutaka Forest Conservation Trust
c. Mainland Island Restoration Operation (MIRO)
e. A range of community groups and ‘Friends of…’ groups
15. Other workstreams are being investigated that would provide better outcomes for biodiversity
16. There are other responsive and ad-hoc projects and activities with biodiversity opportunities and they are considered on a case-by-case basis within the strategic context of the Reserves Strategic Directions, the Urban Forest Plan, the Environmental Sustainability Strategy and Reserve Management Plans.
Progress and Outcomes for Key Biodiversity Workstreams
17. The Indigenous Biodiversity Fund is in its second year of operation and has been developed internally and with consultation with community.
18. The fund is currently $200,000 per year and is open for landowners whose properties meet certain criteria for existing biodiversity values. Applicants can submit for either a Tier 1 (Up to $1000) or Tier 2 (Up to $20,000) for biodiversity support
19. In the 2020/2021 financial year we received approximately 113 applications. Of the applications 86% were for Tier 1 and 14% were for Tier 2. The average spend for Tier 1 grants is $881 and the average for Tier 2 is $13,053.
20. A number of consumables and supplies were bulk-purchased and supplied (such as herbicide gels, rat trap tunnels and possum traps), and approximately 3630 plants were supplied to landowners. Uptake on the established pick-up days was generally good.
21. The scheme experienced problems due to COVID-19 restrictions occurring during the time when applications were due to open, and continued uncertainty during prime planting season. As a result, planned resource pick-up days were delayed by eight months to coincide with the seasons (especially important for plants).
22. There are a lot of learnings that have come out of the way it was intended to operate and the unexpected administrative load that would occur. Officers are continuing to engage with a group of representatives from various community groups who have been instrumental in solving some of these problems along the way.
23. Set-up of one of the plant pick-up days where applicants could pick-up up-to 200 plants each for their properties under a Tier 1 grant:
24. The Predator Free Hutt Valley (PFHV) project is spearheaded by Council’s Reserves Community ranger who coordinates the efforts of neighbourhood-led groups to get the best outcomes for removing invasive predators from Te Awa Kairangi which includes both Lower Hutt and Upper Hutt (Te Awa Kairangi ki Uta). Council supports this work primarily by supplying traps to volunteer groups and enables training for people who are eager to learn.
25. The PFHV website is run by Hutt City Council and reports more than 24,000 pest animals killed and nearly 5000 traps deployed (https://www.pfhv.org.nz/) in the whole valley since approximately 2018. One of the challenges in this work is unifying the data and reporting information. Some groups who do this work are committed to using reporting systems that are not connected to Trap NZ’s systems.
26. There are 16 Lower Hutt Groups under this umbrella and it is part of the Predator Free 2050 nationwide initiative. The work that Hutt City Council hires contractors to complete is additional to the Predator Free Hutt Valley initiative.
27. Map of the coverage of Predator Free Hutt Valley (PFHV) Groups:
28. The Pest Plant Programme is a long-running workstream that has been a key part of protecting indigenous forest from invasive plants for at least the last 20 years. It has been adaptive to the worst pest plant species and continues to be exceptional within the region for the level of control and monitoring applied to sites with the worst infestations.
29. The programme offers free weed control of five species of weed for private property and on reserve land. Members of the public are invited to make contact and report their pest plant and our contractors will come in and control it. The pest plants currently on the list are old man’s beard ($30,000 p/a), banana passionfruit ($30,000 p/a), cathedral bells ($5,000 p/a), climbing asparagus ($14,000 p/a), and pampas ($5,000 p/a). This is in addition to the work carried out by our contractors on Council land.
30. 1585 sites were control in 2019/2020 financial year. Currently awaiting contractor report for the 2020/2021 financial year.
31. Funding allocations for the pest plant programme from the last 18 years has remained reasonably steady with changes in response to threat level:
32. The Lower Hutt City Authority is unique in the region in that under the Regional Pest Management Plan (A GWRC Policy under the Biosecurity Act), three of the worst weed species can be controlled wherever they occur on public or private land. These are Old Man’s Beard, Banana Passionfruit and Cathedral Bells. Although, to date, we have not had to enforce their control, being authorised to control them under the Biosecurity Act has been beneficial in compliance.
33. One of the difficulties with the pest plant programme is the knowledge that there will never be a point at which there are no pest plants. In some cases, such as with Bomarea, we have successfully controlled it for several years but there are still a few remnant sites where it is present. While we would love to keep controlling it, other pest plants have started to become more imminent threats to biodiversity, and we need to respond to the newer threats within the limited budgets.
There are a number of areas within the Lower Hutt territory that are administered by other agencies such as KiwiRail and Waka Kotahi which have a high proportion of pest plants on them. These weeds become a seed source for pest plants.
34. The Pest Tree Strategy is currently in draft, yet to be finalised, but the workstream resulting from this has been underway for a number of years. The pest trees with the greatest negative impact on biodiversity by a long stretch, are Pine trees – this pattern is also obvious nationwide. Because of this, almost all our current work has targeted Pine trees.
35. The Pest Tree Strategy workstream has been very active on the slopes surrounding Stokes Valley and as such, the control of pest trees has been persistent and concentrating on stands of trees that have the best Cost-Benefit ratio. In the past few years there has been approximately $20,000 per year spent.
36. The strategy involves working systematically from the North of the Lower Hutt Territory and proceeding South using the ‘drill and fill’ method where trees are poisoned in place, so long as they are far enough away from boundaries or tracks. The trees will initially lose the bulk of their biomass with leaf fall, then the lateral branches fall down as they rot. During this time natural regeneration of the native understory will occur, with adventive native species establishing first.
37. After the stands have been controlled throughout the territory, the next phase will involve removing trees that are not able to be controlled by drill and fill. This phase will have a very high cost to low benefit ratio. It is unknown how many years it will take for the drill and fill phase to complete.
38. The Pine control on the slopes of Stokes Valley in the 2019/2020 financial year:
39. Recent aerial photography shows areas of recent control of pine trees:
40. A one-off project to get rid of a stand of Sycamores (also very high on the draft pest tree strategy biodiversity risk matrix) on Hine Road in Wainuiomata occurred in the 2020/2021 financial year.
41. There are a number of challenges with the Pest Tree Strategy which include the scale (and costs) of the work, the persistence of pest trees on private property adjacent to reserves, and site safety on steep slopes or areas around walking tracks.
42. Boundary Weed Clearance occurs on the interface between private and public land. Weed species are removed and revegetation planting occurs to prevent weeds dominating again. There are other dedicated Revegetation Sites within reserves that increases native bush cover and reduce weed invasions.
43. In 2020/2021 there were 31 sites that were prepared and planted under this programme. We responded to approximately 20 requests from members of the public to have their boundaries cleared. The total number of native plants planted under this programme was 3100.
44. Boundary Weed Clearance and Revegetation Planting in 2020/2021 (Stars=Revegetation, Blue markers=active HCC maintained, red/yellow=homeowner-maintained):
45. The Beach Weed Programme is a specific programme to enhance biodiversity on beaches and rocky shorelines. It comes under the management of beach weeds. The species controlled on this site are gorse, tree lucerne, horned poppy, boneseed and other key weed species. We are currently awaiting a contractor report for the 2020/2021 works.
46. Greater Wellington Regional Council undertakes pest plant and animal work for their Key Native Ecosystems (KNE) work under a cost-sharing arrangement with Council. KNEs are a Greater Wellington Regional Council initiative that manages important sites on public and private land under arrangement with landowners. The MOU arrangement is assessed and discussed annually and renewed on a three year cycle. The annual contribution for KNE work is $18,350.
47. Site-led and responsive pest animal control occurs in reserves throughout Lower Hutt and comprises a bait station network, rabbit control, and deer control. The hunting work occurs in the optimum season and where reports of pests in reserves are high. In the 2020/2021 financial year there were a total 57 red deer removed from reserves in Lower Hutt. Council has engaged Greater Wellington Regional Council biosecurity staff to manage this programme and ensure site safety. Greater Wellington Regional Council subcontracted Trap and Trigger to undertake some of this work.
48. The locations and numbers of deer that were shot are:
· Page Grove Reserve (Shooting range/race track) – 14 deer
· Old Wainuiomata Landfill – 6 deer
· Taita cemetery – 5 deer
· Norrie Grove Reserve – 3 deer
· Open Polytech – 1 deer
· Wainuiomata Hill Road – 1 deer
· East Stokes Valley – 14 deer, 1 goat, 1 pig
· Haywards Scenic Reserve/Parkway – 6 deer
· Taitā/West Stokes Valley – 5 deer
· Hine Road – 2 deer
49. This financial year officers will continue with the deer control arrangement but assess whether other areas should be targeted.
50. The Pest Animal arrangement with Greater Wellington Regional Council is reviewed alongside the KNE work and is approximately $55,150 per annum.
51. The Percy Scenic Reserve Conservation Collection is a nationally significant collection and is a key part of conservation outreach, research, and propagation. Many rare and endangered plants from the region, the country and offshore islands are in the collection and tour groups are often given the opportunity to see plants that they would rarely see in the wild. Researchers from a range of research institutions regularly use the collection for study (Te Papa Tongarewa, LandCare, Waikato University). Plants propagated from the collection are sometimes planted back into the wild such as at the foreshore, or as features in street or reserve gardens.
52. The two new alpine cold-houses are an innovative facility that optimises conditions for their growth. Organisations such as Otari-Wilton’s Bush look to our collection management as an example of what could be achieved.
53. Scientist and Botany Curator from Te Papa Tongarewa, Heidi Meudt who is undertaking research on plants in the Percy Scenic Reserve Conservation Collection:
54. If there is interest among Councillors, Parks and Gardens would like to invite you to join us on a tour of the potted collection.
55. Every year Council undertakes a Winter Planting Programme to make garden improvements that contribute moderately to indigenous biodiversity in our public parks. While this work is not targeting biodiversity, opportunities for continuity of habitats and addition of rare plants into our gardens contribute to increased awareness and cultivation trends.
56. Community Planting Support is coordinated by the Reserves Community Ranger who attended approximately 28 planting days in the 2020/2021 financial year. There are likely to be three times that many planting days that are not attended by Council’s Ranger, but that have their plants supplied by Council. The total number of eco-sourced native plants supplied is approximately 9,446. Council’s Ranger coordinates approximately 100 volunteers a year within community groups, with about 500 ad-hoc or one-off volunteers for projects. Often these planting events are organised community groups and “Friends of…” groups, with Council providing support and plants.
57. During Resource Consent Assessments officers refer application plans to the Ecology/Horticulture Advisor for advice on permittable indigenous forest removal. Assessments are done closely aligning to the Ecological Impact Assessment Guidelines which is an industry best-practice methodology guideline produced by the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand Inc. Opportunities are sought to preserve biodiversity values and mitigate unavoidable losses.
58. Assessments Carbon Forest Registration have been undertaken and, as a result, some areas have been registered under the MfE Emissions Trading Scheme (approximately 130 hectares). The indirect benefits for biodiversity are that forests are established and further protected by this registration. In addition some of the carbon credits generated are made available for funding further biodiversity work.
59. There are some other external groups that are supported either financially or with resources to promote sanctuaries for bird populations. These include The Kiwi Project by Remutaka Forest Conservation Trust ($5000 p/a) and the Little Blue Penguin Haven in East Harbour.
60. Kaitiakitanga undertaken by Iwi and local Marae. – requesting permission for Tikanga Māori principles to manage indigenous vegetation and materials in a sustainable way. This is an opportunity to take instruction and build trust with Mana Whenua and to enable iwi to decide what they would like to manage and how it should be done. An example of a workstream being investigated is Pā Harakeke, and working with people with local knowledge about how and where to plant.
61. Maintenance and Service Contract Procurement Processes – Include requirements for eco-sourced plant material, low-emission machinery and transport, recycled and reusable materials and consumables.
62. Development of a Biodiversity Strategy and/or Action Plan – coordinate all the workstreams and build performance indicators for each activity. This has been a subset of the environmental strategy in the past but there are benefits in taking a more focussed and coordinated approach to the delivery of this outcome by elevating and targeting work through the development of a stand-alone strategy.
63. Monitoring – Increase monitoring capability. Performance indicators and measurables should be defined in a biodiversity strategy. Discussions have taken place between Council officers and Greater Wellington Regional Council environmental science regarding commissioning a monitoring programme. These discussions are very preliminary and have not taken into account resources to undertake the monitoring work. These measures would be part of the Biodiversity Strategy performance indicators
64. Reserves Financial Contributions are currently being investigated as a way to facilitate additional Biodiversity benefits and Carbon sequestration. It may be that a Carbon Forest Plan is established to formalise funding and pathways to registration of indigenous forests for ETS credits. This would involve accessing the internal Carbon Acceleration Fund to accelerate natural revegetation and restoration processes.
65. There are no options as this is an information report.
Climate Change Impact and Considerations
66. The matters addressed in this report have been considered in accordance with the process set out in Council’s Climate Change Considerations Guide.
67. Protecting and promoting biodiversity and planting additional trees contributes to climate change mitigation.
68. No external consultation occurred during the compilation of this informational report
69. There are no legal considerations in this informational report.
70. There are no financial considerations in this informational report.
There are no appendices for this report.
Author: Jonathan Frericks
Approved By: Andrea Blackshaw