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Braided River Partnerships Project

Mission Statement

To halt the decline in braided river bird species by enabling stakeholders, whose interests and activities involve braided rivers, to assist in their protection.

Aim

To improve the success of colony-nesting river birds protected in key sites, using commercial river users to locate colonies and undertake protection work by trapping pest mammals, improving habitats, and raising awareness and support of the Project through social education and advocacy.

Background

BRaid has identified potential groups of commercial braided river users, such as jet boat tour operators, commercial rafting and canoeing companies, fishing and tour guides, and irrigation developers, who as part of their normal activities, utilise braided rivers and their nearby environments. To date, these people and organisations have little awareness of the unique but endangered indigenous native birds that breed in their operating areas. They generally take the environmental integrity of their areas of operations for granted, largely unaware that in the course of their commercial activities there are opportunities to assist and help protect nesting birds and their habitats.

Rationale

Braided rivers are rare globally, but not so in New Zealand, where Canterbury contains 59% of the country’s braided river area. Their dynamic, ever-changing character has led to the development of a unique ecosystem. On the plains, away from the coast, only the braided rivers still have indigenous components largely as they were thousands of years ago.

The most obvious component of these native ecosystems is the birds, many populations of which are at risk because of recreational activity, introduced predators and weed species, and engineering works in the rivers. These taonga species, which form a fundamental part of the cultural identity and heritage of Ngāi Tahu, include, amongst others, the tarāpuka/black-billed gull (nationally critical), tarapirohe/black-fronted tern (nationally endangered), ngutu pare/wrybill (nationally vulnerable), and turiwhatu/banded dotterel (nationally vulnerable). Unless action is taken soon to reverse these trends, the next stop for some species could well be extinction.

In recognition of their importance and value, braided rivers are the only ecosystem in the ten broadly targeted areas to have its own set of targets in the Canterbury Water Management Strategy (CWMS http://ecan.govt.nz/get-involved/canterburywater/targets/Pages/targets-summary.aspx). One of the CWMS targets under ‘Natural Character of Braided Rivers’ is to implement actions to correct the decline in useable braided river bird habitat.

Braided rivers are also recognised as a special place in its own right in the draft Canterbury Conservation Management Strategy 2014-2024 (CCMS), which is expected to be adopted by December 2015.  In line with Policy 2.2.2 (a)-(f) , the Braided River Partnerships Project aims to help reverse the declining bird populations by engaging with commercial stakeholders whose day-to-day activities involve the use of braided rivers.

The project will have the assistance of DOC via its Braided River Technical Group to ensure current best practice and that the benefits to tarapirohe, tarāpuka and ngutu pare are maximised, and Environment Canterbury’s Braided River Regional Initiative (BRRI), which supports achieving the Targets of CWMS.

Collaboration and Sustainability

The Project seeks to collaborate with

  • Local iwi to identify and promote the cultural value and significance of birds and rivers
  • ECan’s BRRI and DOC’s TAG to ensure best practices for river bird management
  • Commercial river users so that they recognise that protecting river bird sites is integral to the sustainability of their organisations, resulting in the improved success of colony nesting river birds protected in key sites. 
  • The community and land owners so they become invested in the wellbeing of their unique rivers and river birds

BRaid would like to thank the Department of Conservation for seed funding this Project through their Community Conservation Partnership Fund

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