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Help protect tara iti
NZ fairy tern

The tara iti (New Zealand fairy tern) is Aotearoa's rarest endemic bird, with approximately 37 of these birds left in the world. There are only 10 breeding pairs in the whole country, with 6 pairs at Mangawhai and 1 at Pakiri.

The tara iti lives on beaches between Auckland and Whangarei and its habitat is under grave threat. 78% of the breeding population of the entire species gathers food along this stretch of coast.

Tara iti updates

On day 296 of 2022 the first tara iti nest of the breeding season was detected at Papakānui, where a couple of tara iti have laid a two egg nest, on or around the 20th of October. At 19 years old the male tara iti who holds this territory is well experienced in this area, and with nesting and breeding.

At Waipū there are two new partnered pairs of tara iti who are both vying for the same patch of shells so Charlotte from the Department of Conservation has prepped another shell patch so there is plenty of room for both couples.

At Mangawhai, there are plenty of pair bonding behaviours being observed, territories being defended, and areas being prepared for breeding season. DoC rangers are encouraging the use of walkways around the already breeding red-billed gulls and Caspian terns. 

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Male at Papakānui showing why he is such a good catch - Photo Shelley Ogle

Fish going down a treat at Waipū - Photo Charlotte Donald

The encroachment of human activity on their nesting grounds is a major threat to these birds. Beach narrowing, due to loss of sand, forces the terns to nest closer to the sea, putting their eggs at risk during storms. 

What needs to be done

The Endangered Species Foundation identified tara iti, the New Zealand Fairy Tern in its Top Ten Most Endangered Species List. Tara iti is listed as “nationally critical” which is the highest threat ranking for any endangered species. It is New Zealand’s rarest endemic breeding bird with a current population of fewer than 40 birds. Once widespread around North Island coasts, its current breeding sites are Waipu, Mangawhai, Te Arai, Pakiri and Papakanui Spit. 

Recently the Endangered Species Foundation added to urgent calls, asking the Auckland Council to end sand mining at Pakiri, to protect the critically endangered tara iti. Hearings have recently been held by the Auckland City Council to renew the resource consent for sand mining by Kaipara Ltd, who want to take another 2 million cubic metres of sand from the beach over the next 20 years.

You can see a great video and article on what is happening here.

“We are calling on the Auckland City Council to make the right decision and stop sand mining in this area,” says Stu. “The fate of the tara iti is closely linked to the fate of our beaches and all the species that depend on them”.

Key issues:

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  • The tara iti (Fairy Tern) lives at Pakiri and there are only 9 breeding pairs left in the world. This is New Zealand’s rarest endemic bird and its habitat is under grave threat. Tara iti is listed as “nationally critical” which is the highest threat ranking for any endangered species. 
     

  • Once widespread around North Island coasts, the current breeding sites of tara iti are now just Waipu, Mangawhai, Te Arai, Pakiri and Papakanui Spit. The encroachment of human activity on their nesting grounds is a major threat to these birds. Beach narrowing due to loss of sand forces the terns to nest closer to the sea, putting their eggs at risk during storms.
     

  • There are also substantial White-fronted Tern and Red-billed Gull colonies on the Mangawhai sandspit. The proposed mine site is an area of water that is probably used quite heavily by these birds for feeding while they are nesting and limited in their feeding range.
     

  • McCallum Bros Limited has also applied for resource consents to extract sand from an area of 6.6km2 along 10.4km of the Pakiri Beach shoreline. The proposed extraction volumes include an annual average of up to 125,000m3/year over any consecutive 5 year period. A 35 year consent is sought.
     

  • Sandmining in this rohe / area, does not consider the kaitiakitanga values of tāngata whenua, whānau and hapū and the communities most directly impacted by the activity. It is a direct breach of the duty of active protection of taonga (treasures) including the restoration of mauri (life-force). The proposed activity impacts adversely on marine environment, cultural values, customary activities and way of life.

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Proposed and current consent areas
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What you can do

How You Ca Help
1. Sign the petition to stop sand mining at Mangawhai Pakiri.

You can sign this petition, calling on the NZ Government and Auckland Council, to stop the renewal, and granting of new sand mining consents in the Mangawhai - Pakiri Embayment.

 
2. Help protect tara iti nesting sites and habitats

 

  • Always keep your dog on a leash if you are on Pakiri, Te Arai, Mangawhai or Waipu beaches

  • Stay far away from nesting sites

  • Support protections for the areas where NZ Fairy Terns catch their food (small fish)

3. Become a volunteer

If you live in the area, volunteers are needed to help save the New Zealand fairy tern (Tara-iti). Each summer dedicated volunteers help DOC by keeping an eye on these tiny, plucky birds.

There are currently fewer than 40 birds and you can help by watching out for them during the nesting season. It is very rewarding to observe courtship, sitting on eggs and the hatching of the bumble bee sized chicks and eventually watching them learning to fly.

If you become a volunteer, introductory workshops are held where you meet other volunteers.

Please contact:

4. Buy some yummy hot chocolate!

Sip on what we think is the world's most delicious hot chocolate, and support efforts to protect endangered species and their habitats at the same time!

Every time you buy Bennetto's hot chocolate with a tara iti, NZ Fairy Tern on the front, 10% of profits are donated to the Endangered Species Foundation to help profile endangered species and what needs to be done to protect their habitats.

"We have used the front of our packaging to build awareness around New Zealand's most vulnerable birds, " says Lucy Bennetto, Founder. "We always have small education pieces on the insides of all our chocolate wrappers and with this box we have written about the Fairy Tern and the Dotterel to help people understand more about these endangered birds, where they live and how to protect them."  

More information

You can find more evidence in submissions made in response to applications for sand extraction at Pakiri.

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Endangered Species Foundation submission in response to McCallum Bros application to mine sand at Pakiri. 

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Submission in response to the resource consent application to extract sand offshore at Pakiri.
Expert evidence on birds by Ian Southey

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Statement of evidence by Olivia Haddon for Te Whānau o Pakiri

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Review of the s42A report regarding an application by Kaipara Ltd to extract sand offshore from Pakiri Beach. Oral submission.

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Ongoing work to save the tara iti

An intensive conservation programme is underway to protect the NZ fairy tern and has successfully increased the population from an all-time low in 1983 of up to four breeding pairs. 

 

The Endangered Species Foundation has also been working with WWF-NZ, the International Centre for Birds of Prey, Exeter University, and Auckland University to develop high quality, 3D-printed fairy tern eggs. These highly realistic dummy eggs were trialed successfully, and are now employed in the NZ fairy tern recovery programme. The dummy eggs replace wild eggs removed for artificial incubation. The dummies must be life-like to ensure parents remain on the nest to care for the chicks that are returned. This critical intervention reduces the loss of viable eggs to predation or storm events. 

The same techniques were recently applied to the kakapo recovery programme, where 3D-printed smart eggs replace fertile eggs removed for incubation. These smart eggs begin to make noise as the time approaches for the real chicks to arrive. 

You can find more information from the Department of Conservation and what is being done on the ground to protect the tara iti here.

We Need Your Support Today!

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