CI Conservation Board Meeting – 27th August 2020

The Chatham Island Conservation Board met for their August 2020 meeting at the Kaingāroa, Playgroup, buildings. Attending the meeting were Board members Judy Kamo (Chair), Susan Thorpe, Mana Cracknell, Amanda Seymour, Di Gregory-Hunt (by phone), and Trescia Lawson. Representing the Department of Conservation was Tryphena Cracknell Operations Manager. Also, in attendance was Jilleen Chandler, Conservation Board Support Officer, Kerri Moir (ECAN) and Michelle Anderson.  Apologies were received for Peter de Lange who was unable to attend the meeting due to the Level 3 status allotted Tamaki Makarau / Auckland because of the second COVID-19 outbreak.

The board meeting convened at Kaingāroa in part of examine the serious plight of the Chatham Island endemic scurvy grass Lepidium rekohuense which came close to extinction in February 2019. Tryphena delivered the departmental report and talked to points raised by the Board. Kerri Mori provided updates on the control of banana passionfruit (Passiflora tripartita var. mollissima), old man’s beard (Clematis vitalba) willow (Salix spp.), and animal pest control, including black swan (Cygnus atratus) culling.

Despite inclement weather the board were then taken by Bridget Gibb to see Lepidium rekohuense. The management for this species requires frequent visits to clear sea cast shells, seaweed and driftwood from plants, and the application of derris dust to control ongoing predation from a native moth Epyaxa rosearia. That moth, is so far only known from the Chatham’s from Kaingāroa though it is common in Aotearoa / New Zealand. Therefore, to ensure its survival, only half of the Lepidium population is treated. Treatment is necessary however, because without it the moth caterpillars completely destroy the plants. The serious decline of the scurvy grass happened sometime between 2008 and 2017, prior to which the managed population had reached nearly 600 plants. It is as yet unclear why the decline happened but – touch wood – it would seem that a near extinction may have been averted.

The next meeting is scheduled for September 29 at Te One School, Te One, starting at 9.30 am. There will be a session open to the public (Public Forum) between 11.00 and 11.30 am, for people to raise issues and ask questions. All Board minutes are available on the Department of Conservation website at: https://www.doc.govt.nz/about-us/statutory-and-advisory-bodies/conservation-boards/chatham-islands/

Associate Professor (Botany, Ecology, Plant Conservation, Biosystematics) at Unitec in Auckland and a former Department of Conservation scientist. Peter has been visiting the Chatham Islands since 1996 and is a current member of the Chatham Islands Conservation Board.