UN boss declares war on bird predators


Former prime minister Helen Clark is lending her profile to battle for birds near Queenstown.

The administrator of the UN’s Development Programme – and the world body’s third-highest-ranked leader – was flown to the Routeburn area yesterday in her new role as patron of the Routeburn Dart Wildlife Trust.

Speaking to the ODT after spending the day in the mountains, she says it was “great to go back up there and see what the trust is trying to do with the habitat for birds”.

Clark was flown to the Harris Basin to be shown stoat traplines designed to protect the endangered rock wren.

She then walked into the north branch of the Routeburn Valley before meeting trustees near Glenorchy.

Clark says she strongly endorses the trust’s aim to “bring back the birdsong” by creating a pest-free “island sanctuary” for threatened birds, such as mohua (yellowhead), whio (blue duck) and rock wren (tuke).

“The New Zealand bush is so beautiful and lovely for people to walk in but these parks are pretty quiet because of the predator problem,” Miss Clark said.

The decline of native bird populations is “like a slow train wreck”.

“It’s high noon for a lot of these species but hopefully, with the extensive pest management that’s being done, they can get more success.”

She has accepted the invitation to be the trust’s patron because of her fondness for the region and her contact with some of its members in their fight against the Dart Passage tunnel proposal.

The Routeburn and Hollyford valleys are vulnerable because they are close to Queenstown and the threat of “inappropriate development”, Clark says.

“If we’re complacent, we’ll see things happen in these parks, like the loss of species and inappropriate development.

“So someone needs to take a stand and good on the Glenorchy people for doing that.”

In her role as patron, she offers credibility to the group’s cause and will use her social media profile to raise its profile.

Formed in 2014, the trust is working with the Department of Conservation and Air New Zealand to boost predator control in the Routeburn and Dart valleys and their tributaries.

Trustee Amanda Hasselman says Clark offered the trust “profile, profile, profile”.

“We are a young trust with a lot of work ahead of us.”

The Routeburn Dart Wildlife Trust already had more than 1000 traps in the Routeburn Valley and has applied to Air New Zealand for funding to extend its trapping into the Hollyford Valley. A decision on the application is expected within the next few weeks.

Otago Daily Times