On Bream Head/ Te Whara our main pests that are targeted are Rats, both Ships Rats (Rattus rattus) and Norwegian Rats (Rattus norvegicus) introduced by Europeans. There is a third rat, the Kiore (Rattus exulans) introduced by early Polynesian settlers but Ship Rats and Norwegian Rats are the main targets. Mustelids, mainly stoats, are highly destructive predators and very difficult to trap. Intense monitoring and trapping of stoats has allowed Grey Faced Petrels (Oi) to successfully fledge from the reserve. Mice, possums and feral cats make up the rest of our “rogues gallery”. Possums are currently being intensely targeted on the Heads Peninsular.
The main methods of eliminating such pests are live capture with humane dispatch, leg traps with humane dispatch, kill traps of various types, such as DOC200 and DOC 250 plus toxins of various types. The Trust has a policy of using the most humane methods for trapping and killing pests. Live capture methods are inefficient as the traps need to be checked very often to reduce suffering to trapped animals. Kill traps are very humane as they generally kill the animal quickly. Similarly, toxins that we use are designed to minimise suffering and kill quickly. Species specific toxins are being developed to minimise harm to other creatures.
The largest numbers of predators that we deal with on Bream Head/ Te Whara are rats and mice but the most lethal and the most difficult to trap and kill are the mustelids, mainly the stoat. Feral cats are equally as lethal hunters but these are controlled on the reserve.
We have a wide suite of devices and toxins but the major challenge is to combat most predators' natural wariness to engage with these devices and toxins. Stoats are notoriously trap shy. There is a lot of research going into monitoring predator behaviour with detection devices such as thermal cameras and trail cameras to better understand how to attract and kill them. Artificial intelligence coupled with thermal imaging for example can instruct a toxin dispenser to offer a dose to what is identified as a predator, such as a stoat.
Predator Free 2050 Limited is a Crown-owned, charitable company established to help deliver the New Zealand government’s ambitious goal of eradicating possums, stoats and rats throughout NZ/Aotearoa by 2050. PF2050Ltd are currently funding six large landscape projects, enabling predator control to eradication projects over 254,000 ha over five years. PF2050 Ltd to contribute $23.2m towards total project costs of $89.7m, a leverage ratio of 2.86:1. PF2050Ltd are also contributing $1m per annum towards breakthrough science guided by our Research Strategy.Predator Free 2050 Limited provides co-funding for large, co-ordinated landscape projects, alongside regional and city councils, community groups, government agencies, iwi and private funders.
This is where the Bream Head Conservation Trust enters the picture as we have already been extremely proactive in terms of realising the aims of the predator free New Zealand concept in our rohe. In addition to the extensive pest control work that has been done over the last 14 years, we also recognise that advances in technology are critical to maintain pests at very low numbers and reduce the costs of doing this.
BHCT have been working alongside the Northland Regional Council’s Predator Free Whangarei project for approximately two years now. Our team have been part of the project right from the start with direct involvement in the initial funding application to PF2050Ltd, the development of a plan for PFW possum eradication, advice on the operational advisory group and the strategic advisory group, as well as hands on delivery of contracts to install the first detection and predator removal equipment at Whangarei Heads. The Trust aims to continue to work alongside the predator free movement going forward in order to increase our capability to meet our strategic vision to restore Bream Head/Te Whara’s ecological values to pre human times.
Bream Head/Te Whara is an ideal place for the start of such a project, as the infrastructure is already in place, we have a proven track record of good conservation management, and we have a driven and passionate community who support the project. We have also already embraced new technology ourselves, as trials with remote reporting nodes, trail cameras and automated pest detection devices are underway or planned.
It is an interesting time for conservation management in New Zealand. The social license for ecological restoration and the benefits to our health and wellbeing are beginning to get the recognition and support it deserves. Therefore, the Bream Head/Te Whara Conservation Trust fully supports the aspirational goals of realising a predator free New Zealand and we are looking forward to our continued mahi alongside partners on the journey to reach this goal.
Local students Kahu Ross-Hoskins and Daniel Davis researched and put together this informative introduction to the Bream Head area, home to the Bream Head Reserve.
Bream Head, a dramatic and picturesque natural landscape, is appreciated for its powerful beauty by people today and likely by those that came before. This area of prominent peaks and expansive views however also lent itself as a place of observation and defence. Early Maori traversed the ridge line joining the eastern end at Ocean Beach to the west at Urquhart Bay; the pa and terrace features along this route testament to the desirability of the location. Today one can walk the same ways as those of the past along what is now a section of the nationwide Te Araroa Trail.
Located as it is at the entrance to the Whangarei harbour, in close proximity to marine resources and providing sheltered coves with easy access to coastal sea routes and off shore islands, Bream Head naturally attracted people to its shores to gather food and to settle. The unique importance of this area can still be appreciated today as we explore and observe the history that remains. To the west at Urquhart Bay an entire archaeological landscape consisting of a number of Pa sites, terraces, garden areas, and numerous midden blanket the surface attesting to the intense and possibly continuous occupation of the land. Archaic remains show that the special qualities of this area were appreciated from the earliest times.
Overlaying these rich cultural remains later European use of the land is still visible in the concrete blocks and structures that were built during the Second World War. On the ridge above Ocean Beach, beyond the lighthouse and set now in regenerating bush are the remains of a radar station built to house and accommodate a small staff and a then innovative new technology, known in New Zealand as R.D.F. “Radio Direction Finding”. Approximately 5km to the west, at the entrance to the harbour itself the Gun Battery and Observation Post were constructed. Much effort was taken to disguise the nature of the buildings at the site, which lead to a number of innovative and unique solutions. The accommodation and armoury building was designed to appear as a typical farmhouse, clearly with surrounding outbuildings and structures. The Observation Post itself was built into a cut back rock outcrop, providing both defence and disguise. Inside it contains perhaps the best surviving example of a contemporary landscape mural used for sighting of the gun.
Today what remains to be seen of this brief period of our history, forms a stark contrast to the natural surroundings of the area. Though in reality these are now a part of the landscape in which they sit and represent a continuity with the past, defining how people have utilised the natural advantages of the land, adapting them to suit changing needs and differing cultures.
Many unique species are thriving at Bream Head. Find out more about the different species you may discover at Bream Head Scenic Reserve
In 2013, the Bream Head rangers made the discovery of a lifetime, high in the cloud forest of Bream Head, amongst rocks and tangled vines, Pete and Cathy Mitchell stumbled upon a skink completely new to science.
Ben Barr and Northtec conservation student Ayla Wiles studied this coffee-coloured marvel and have revealed it is distinct, but closely related to a skink in the lower North Island. We also know it is very curious and loves sunbathing and climbing trees, but it can only be found in an area less than a hectare due to introduced pests… in other words, it is very cool but without management it is doomed to extinction.
The work of the rangers up the hill appears to be making a huge difference already. The skinks are surviving, breeding and becoming more abundant, but we’ll need to stay vigilant. Keep a close eye out next time you are up Bream Head and you might be able to spot one of these fascinating creatures.
In the summer of 2014, we also found two other lizard species that hadn’t been seen in Bream Head before: the Moko skink and Forest gecko. We now know of nine species of lizard in the Whangarei Heads area, which is basically unheard of for the mainland. Make no mistake my friends, Whangarei Heads is the lizard capital of mainland New Zealand.
With sustained and intensive pest control at Bream Head the ecosystem is flourishing; birds are being reintroduced that have been absent from mainland Northland for over a century and some species that were only occasional visitors from the Hen and Chicken offshore islands are now breeding within the Reserve. As of 2021 the kiwi population has increased substantially and no further releases are planned. North Island Robins/toutouwai were reintroduced in 2016 and Whiteheads/Popokatea in 2017. Grey faced petrels/Oi have self-introduced but their survival is dependent on continued intensive predator control in their nesting areas.
Bream Head Conservation Trust has established a planting programme which has seen the planting of over 37,000 trees and plants between 2002 and 2015. Together with pest control, the planting programme has been responsible for the growing health of its forests and profusion of birds in the last decade.
Bream Head Scenic Reserve is home to an incredible diversity of nationally and regionally significant plants including threatened species and species not seen anywhere outside Whangarei Heads.
"In 2020 Adam Willets, project manager, discovered this “At Risk-Relict’ plant while he was checking traps and bait stations at the eastern tip of the reserve. Carmichaelia williamsi – (Williams Broom) – was previously mainly found on offshore islands from the Poor Knights to the East Cape. The flowers, fruits and seeds are palatable to rats. Carmaichaelia williamsi is principally bird-pollinated."
For Lots of great conservation information visit the Department of Conservation website here
Bream Head Education Resource helps schools and community groups see Bream Head Scenic Reserve as an integral and important part of their environment, and become part of the Reserve’s restoration action. The Resource also links to the New Zealand Curriculum, Te Marautanga o Aotearoa (Maori Curriculum), Education for Sustainability Guidelines and the Ministry of Education Guidelines for Environmental Education in New Zealand Schools.
Bream Head Te Whara has recently featured on LEARNZ, a resource to allow NZ schools to have a virtual fieldtrip. Adam, along with four students from Whangarei Heads joined LEARNZ teacher Andrew Sylvester for the day on the reserve as they explored BHSR as part of their Te Araroa series. You can view the short educational clips on the full page, click the button below.
The teaching programme features introductory PowerPoint presentations, New Zealand Curriculum links, teaching and learning activities, activity sheets, a suggested Inquiry Learning process programme, Bream Head photographs, an online resource bank, a Te Reo Maori glossary, information links and community action ideas. This is a valuable classroom resource whether or not your school or group has made a visit to Bream Head Reserve.
Refining NZ, Northland Regional Council and the Educational sub-committee of the Trust have been instrumental in developing and implementing this resource.