Save Point England

Northern New Zealand dotterel, Point England August 2016

Stop the Point England Development Enabling Bill

The development will destroy the primary roosting habitat of 50-90% of the remaining wild shorebirds in the Tāmaki Estuary. The development proposed in this Bill covers 50% of the endangered New Zealand dotterel nesting ground.

This intensive housing development will bring cats and dogs and people into the nesting ground, evicting the birds. Let's have a better development proposal. See below to find out more about the Point England bird roost.

Updates

13 April. The Select Committee have come back with a contradictory report that takes no responsibility for the imapacts their advice will have on the environment. Teardown of the key page here. And here is an Open letter to MPs regarding the failures of the report.

12 April. Further evidence to support the petition and the associated speech to the Select Committee.

20 February. All the sumissions can be found here. This is the link to the submission from the Point England Bird Sanctuary.

19 Feburary. 1,848 people signed our petition to stop the Point England Development Bill until an independent environmental impact assessment has been completed and presented to the Local Government and Environment Committee with a better development proposal. 3,393 people signed a second petition created by Tsz Ho to save the reserve.

 

Tāmaki Estuary low tide

Will the Tāmaki Estuary no longer have shore birds?

With fantastic support form Auckland Council we have been looking after the endangered New Zealand Dotterel that nest in the paddock for several years now.

It’s been hard work, but the dog walkers in particular have been awesome, and we have had some real highs like the fledging of our first dotterel chick and regular visits from one of New Zealand most critically endangered birds the shore plover.

The paddocks have cows which keep the grass short, but the birds do not come for the grass. Migratory birds like bar-tailed godwits fly from the other side of the world to feed in the expansive mud flats of the Tamaki Estuary. When the tide comes in all the wading birds seek refuge above the high tide line. But if you look on Google you will see there are no roosting areas along the margins of the Tamaki. There is some green but it comes with trees, dogs or rugby balls. So the majority of the white-faced herons, royal spoonbill, South Island oystercatchers, variable oystercatchers, New Zealand dotterel, banded dotterel and pied stilts all make there way to the paddocks. For most of the year there are small ponds in the paddock so when a harrier flies over and sends hundreds of birds into the air its like you're in a David Attenborough documentary.

Now there is a bill to turn 11.7ha of the 48ha reserve into 300 houses, the bill does not mention any wildlife whatsoever.

Here is a map of the area which shows where nationally vulnerable dotterel have nested in the past (this will now be houses).

When the houses, people dogs and cats come, where will the Tamaki birds go? For those of you who know Tahuna Torea (north of Point England) its a beautiful place but its not suitable habitat for wading birds. Dotterel have never bred there and with the mangroves, trees and people it is no longer the resting place of Torea (Oystercatcher). That job has been Point England's for decades.

So with this last development will the Tamaki Estuary no longer have shore birds?

The birds of the Tāmaki Estuary are already suffering enough, they won’t survive this blow”
– Terri Marchant, Tāmaki Estuary Protection Society

Te Tauoma – Point England concept plan

Images have been released of the Point England concept plan.

Although it looks lovely and everyone will welcome the Omaru creek enhancements (that Watercare have been working on) and the walkway upgrades (that Auckland Council have been working on) there are some major problems:

  1. 50% of the existing dotterel nesting ground will be replaced with houses (see the map below).
  2. Northern New Zealand dotterel don’t use wetlands or go near trees, they need open space. However the proposed wetland will be great for the pukeko and spur-winged plover which predate the dotterel.
  3. The houses and pathways will bring people, dogs and more than 500 cats into the area destroying the bird roost. The Tamaki Estuary will loose 50-90% of its remaining shorebirds (mostly South Island pied oyster catchers).

We need an independent ecological impact assessment and a better plan before the bill is passed.

Northern New Zealand dotterel chick, Point England November 2013.

It’s not what we have now, but we want for the future

Relative to the big bird roosts around New Zealand the roost site at Point England is small. But the majority of birds are at risk or threatened with extinction.

Data extracted from Point England bird observations 2013-2016.pdf

Point England bird (undated) totals 2013-2016

A running total of the maximum number of a given species counted.

These quotes from The House Above the Sea by Ronald Lockley (1980) tell of a time when the Tāmaki Estuary was able to sustain much larger flocks of birds.

Pg 180 “The regiments of SIPO are sometimes a thousand strong.

and I found this one rather poignant:

Pg 217-218 “To this refuge [ Godwit Island, Tahuna Torea ] now flock hundreds of godwits, knots, torea, stilts, terns, many whitefaced and some reef herons, kingfishers and other birds deposed from the sandspit by strolling humans at high tide. At times the pale mud of Kuaka Island is completely covered with waders. Birds soon learn where they are safe, even where parties of bird-watchers assemble to gape at them across the twenty meters of rippling tide. They are, anyway, full-fed and sleepy and it is too much trouble to move.

‘Of course, ‘ said one pessimistic friend, ‘all that heaped-up mud is bound to slump to its former level. Already it is eroding around the tide-line. What do you propose to do about that?’

‘We, or our bird-loving posterity, will build it up again, of course!’

We never did.

These quotes from Keith Woodley, Miranda Naturalists’ Trust News Issue 85 explain the importance of having an undisturbed roost site local to a given feeding area.

A study on the Tagus estuary in Portugal, an important site for Dunlin, looked at bird densities in relation to roost proximity. It found the overall density of birds on suitable mudflat foraging grounds declined with the distance to the nearest roost. … If suitable roosts are lost or degraded, and alternative sites are too far away from feeding areas, the overall carrying capacity of the site will decrease. Why? It is all to do with energy budgets. A shorebird needs energy to meet its daily maintenance needs, and the further it needs to fly to find a suitable high tide roost, the higher its energy expenditure.”
Sleep for a shorebird is a physiological necessity: it is also the most energy-efficient activity there is.”

"Excessive or prolonged disturbance has severe implications. Models indicate that a relatively small increase in disturbance levels can result in a substantial increase in energy expenditure. Energetic costs to roosting birds may eventually exceed energy requirements for maintenance, moult and pre- migratory fueling. ‘The capacity of shorebirds to compensate for such increases will vary according to the feeding and roosting options available at a site, but it is very likely that circumstances can develop where roost costs could drive the energy budget into deficit.’

The outcome may well be diminished survival or birds abandoning a site completely. Shorebird population dynamics are complex and affected by various factors so it is very difficult to isolate key variables determining population levels and thus quantifying the precise impact of disturbance. Nevertheless, studies in Britain, the Netherlands and in the United States have all linked declines in shorebird populations to disturbance.

Thinking like a bird

This map of observed flocks at Point England overlaid on top of the proposed development shows how the birds were not considered. An ecological impact assessment should explain why the South Island pied oystercatcher prefer not to roost on the headland. The Northern New Zealand dotterel flock observations are in a dip in the land, which probably creates some shelter while remaining exposed (so the flock can still see approaching predators).

Threats

If the development goes ahead the Northern New Zealand dotterel (NNZD) may decide to try and nest in the reduced area and the South Island pied osystercatcher (SIPO) and pied stilts may try and roost in the remaining open space. Here are some of the threats they will face:

  • NNZD are conservation dependent, which means they need predator management where they roost and breed or they will go extinct. The development plan will bring 300 houses, the average New Zealand household has 1.8 cats. 540 projected cats will have direct access via the pathways to the endangered birds. "Cats hunt at night, preying on dotterels that are incubating nests. Unfledged chicks are easy prey for cats."DOC.
  • Point England is a very popular spot for dog walkers. It is zoned as 'off-leash' which is awesome for the dogs who have a great time. The dogs (for the most part) are kept out of the paddock by the cattle fence. No fence is proposed in the plan. Not all dogs chase birds but many will chase the SIPO away. They are also a threat to NNZD "Dogs are known to kill chicks. Uncontrolled dogs running through nesting areas can crush eggs and disturb adults as they are incubating eggs."DOC
  • With the reduction in playing field area and increase in local population (by this and other developments) there will be increased recreational pressure on the remaining area the birds might roost and nest in. Potential activities include: golf practice, frisbee, casual ball play, walking, drone flying, kite flying, picnicking and much more. All these disturbances will send the SIPO & stilts elsewhere and kill NNZD eggs and chicks either by directly crushing them or disturbing adults. "When adults are disturbed while incubating and leave the nest, the eggs are at risk of overheating. When young chicks are disturbed, they can die from exhaustion as they cannot eat in time, or get to their feeding grounds at the water’s edge." – DOC
  • Whether it's part of the development plan or not, lighting the proposed paths is inevitable and important for safety. However: “Evidence from Roebuck Bay is that shorebirds avoid sites where they are exposed to artificial lighting such as streetlights or traffic. Possibly such lighting makes roosting shorebirds too easily detected by predators, or otherwise makes them perceive night-roosts to be too dangerous for sleeping.” – Keith Woodley, Miranda Naturalists’ Trust News Issue 85
  • This plan both increases demand for parking by:
    1. Increasing the local population
    2. Increasing the utility of the site as a public destination
    3. Adding a boat ramp which requires double length parks
    Yet at the same time it reduces the current parking area, which is currently at capacity at peak times. It is likely we will see increased parking in the reserve area. Cars can currently be seen parked on the grass in the weekends and small motorbikes often ride on the paths. Vehicle disturbance is a problem for roosting birds, nests and chicks.

Two 'Nationally Critical' shore plover at Point England

Ramsar status

Believe it or not this bird roost just 20 minutes from the heart of New Zealand’s largest city is eligible for internationally recognised high ecological importance. The Ramsar Convention which was set up in 1971 for the conservation of global biological diversity has nine criteria. Point England meets two of those criteria:

Criterion 2: A wetland should be considered internationally important if it supports vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered species or threatened ecological communities.”

Shore plover are one of the most endangered shorebirds in the world. There are only 175 shore plover left and they occasionally use Point England as a roost site. They are in New Zealand’s highest threat classification ‘Nationally Critical’.

”Criterion 6: A wetland should be considered internationally important if it regularly supports 1% of the individuals in a population of one species or subspecies of waterbird.”

There are an estimated 2,200 Northern New Zealand dotterel. There have been multiple counts of the post breeding flock that exceed 22 individuals at Point England including one of 27 in July 2016.

Point England Reserve (Aerial Footage) from Brad Stent

Media

Bird Sanctuary: Open letter to Green party MPs

Labour: National and Maori Party to carve up playgrounds

Waatea News: Point England land grab step too far

NZ Herald: Pt England reserve housing development opposed by Labour as 'land grab'

Bird Sanctuary: Press Release March 2017: Petition to save reserve presented

Maori TV: Nick Smith slams Auckland Council opposition to proposed Pt England development

RMLA: Development Enabling Bill undermines RMA and Reserves Act, says local Board

Berry Simons: Aucklanders locked out of Government move to get rid of reserves

NZ First: Protest Grow As National Rushes To Chop Up Parkland

RadioNZ: Local board fights Pt England development

Stuff: Hui held over Point England Reserve housing development

Newshub: Endangered dotterels face eviction with new housing development

Stuff: Pt England Reserve development will be 'dire' for endangered birds

RadioNZ: Pt England residents angry over iwi house plan

RadioNZ: Auckland residents oppose iwi housing plan

Forest & Bird: Proposed housing development in Point England will evict wildlife

Stuff: Point England Reserve developers Ngati Paoa respond to public concerns

Maori TV: Locals plead with Ngāti Paoa to stop development

NZ Herald: Fears East Auckland housing development could endanger wildlife

 

Save Our Reserves

A new group has formed following the dangerous precedent set at Point England. Save Our Reserves is championing reserves across New Zealand to keep them safe from development.