Seabird re-establishment and habitat restoration, Long Point-Irahuka

Long Point-Irahuka is part of a complex of headlands on the Catlins coast, approximately 15 km south of Owaka.  The association of headlands, rocky platforms, and patches of coastal shrubland support an important population of yellow-eyed penguins (Megadyptes antipodes) as well as remnant sooty shearwater (Puffinus griseus) colonies. The area has significant potential for the restoration and introduction of other seabird species.

The Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust has been actively monitoring the yellow-eyed penguins around Long Point-Irahuka since 2007.  It hosted a ‘brain-storming session’ at the location in February 2008, comprising Department of Conservation, Landcare Research, and Otago and Lincoln University experts and ecologists, and Trust employees.  This helped to synthesise a vision document for the Long Point-Irahuka Restoration Project, and a management plan was produced in 2012.

Wildland Consultants first helped the Trust in 2006, when the Trust was investigating the possible purchase of parts of the coastal headlands.  Wildlands produced an assessment of the ecological values of the c.800 ha farm property.  Subsequently, the Trust and the Crown (via the Nature Heritage Fund) each purchased two blocks of land at Long Point-Irahuka in 2009.  Management of the two Crown-owned blocks is vested with the Trust.

In 2014, Wildlands was commissioned by the Trust to map vegetation types, existing fauna habitats, a potential track network linking key ecological and physical features (including the proposed research base), and LIDAR and soil data (to aid the identification of key seabird habitat features) at Long Point and Cosgrove Creek, map ecological linkages in the Long Point-Irahuka area, and identify and prioritise potential sites for seabird restoration and/or translocation at Long Point-Irahuka. Mapping was undertaken using ESRI ArcMap 10.1 GIS software and shape files were supplied to the Trust, along with a report describing potential facilities and seabird management areas, listing suitable seabird species for management, and providing revegetation guidelines.