Help protect tara iti
NZ fairy tern
The tara iti (New Zealand fairy tern) is Aotearoa's rarest endemic bird, with just 39 of these birds and only 16 breeding pairs left in the world.
The tara iti lives on beaches between Auckland and Whangarei and its habitat is under grave threat.
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.
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.
“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”.
McCallum Bros Limited has 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.
Auckland Council is now taking submissions about this resource consent application until 10 December 2021.
Proposed and current consent areas
Key points you can use in your submission:
The tara iti (Fairy Tern) lives at Pakiri and there are only 16 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.
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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You can find more evidence in submissions made in response to applications for sand extraction made by Kaipara Limited below.
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.