By good luck and good management, hundreds of volunteers planted 17,000 trees from the TOSSI nursery before the Covid Delta variant struck, locking Auckland down for seven weeks. Planting the steep and slippery slopes of Slip Gully was a challenge and after four seasons of dedicated volunteers struggling up and down, it’s finished and we can celebrate. Now we can drive by with satisfaction and glance up that gully and watch the plants grow. This season teams of people from Fulton Hogan and AECOM helped put out the plants.

During the recent Covid lockdown, while no volunteers could assist on the Park, Auckland Council rangers committed themselves to keeping the sanctuary maintained, while volunteers stuck at home adapted and worked on other items.

Kim Grove completed the performance report and then worked on the operational plan and 2022 budget. Jackie Russell wrote newspaper articles and used her IT skills with TOSSI communications, the website and membership database. Roger Grove kindly hosted and chaired TOSSI Zoom meetings as he has more experience with Zoom meetings than me.
Karyn Hoksbergen held us all together using her secretarial skills, keeping TOSSI up to date with correspondence and everything else. Marguerite Vanderkolk edited newsletters with somewhat Covid-limited activities to report. Sally Richardson has had a welcome break from rounding up work day hosts and bird monitors. Susan Gibbings dreamed of what could have been going on in the nursery, and Justine Sanderson got stuck in Belgium! Janet Poole, our membership secretary, somehow used her magic to increase membership numbers.

Lockdown gave me time to continue writing Beyond the Beach, an historic account told with a hotchpotch of reports, anecdotes, journal entries and photos, that tells the story of the hundreds of people that have been involved at Tāwharanui more than 20 years. Mel Wilson and Sally Richardson have proven to be pest-y, thorough proof readers. The book will be launched at the 20-year celebration, planned by a subcommittee for Matariki weekend, 24 June 2022.

Lockdown also provided time for our ceaseless volunteer Roger Williams to produce some amazing concepts for a Tāwharanui pavilion, suitable as an education centre as well as a TOSSI venue for planting days and workday barbeques instead of using the woolshed. Although this concept could be presented at a zoom meeting, we have chosen to hold the presentation until we can meet in person.

After lockdown ended, visitors who were tired of being stuck at home turned up at Anchor Bay on sunny days in droves! While TOSSI volunteers cautiously returned in small groups wearing masks, using common sense and abiding by the Council’s precautionary restrictions. Nursery workers, trap line volunteers, bird and gecko monitors and fence line checkers keenly returned to get back on with the job.

Susan Gibbings with nursery planners all wearing masks and sitting two metres apart had a meeting in the cool of the new shade house extension built by Roger Williams and his team. Marguerite Vanderkolk has adapted to the new role of being Maurice’s assistant, using her farming and tractor
driving skills. The Sanctuary is missing the help of large school groups and young international Conservation Volunteers New Zealand who stayed a week at a time working at the park in previous years.

In the meantime the birds and animals have been getting on with what they do. Rabbits and pūkeko are at the top of the breeding list, while two pairs of takahē are at the bottom with no chicks so far this season. No rabbit control for almost two years is causing serious frustration among volunteers as nursery plants and forest under-stories are getting seriously demolished.

Grey-faced petrel chicks are doing well, thanks to the Council and volunteers — when permitted — managing pests in the nesting territories. Paradise shelducks were seen with numerous ducklings and pāteke with juveniles. The red billed gull colony has returned to nest on Phoenix Rock after a couple of years of going elsewhere. When it was quiet with lockdown, a pair of variable oyster catcher nested in a planter box right beside Anchor Bay Road, only to discover that after the lockdown it was a very busy road with cars creating volumes of dust which they had to adapt to.

Two pairs of pied stilts nested in the Workshop paddock drain along with a pair of tūturiwhatu (northern New Zealand dotterel) in the grass nearby. It is the first time at Tāwharanui for tūturiwhatu to nest in a paddock. Are they adapting and making changes as beach territories become even more crowded since Auckland seems to be getting closer to Tāwharanui? Also the beach sand and stones are gaining more heat which is not so comfortable for sitting on a nest for 30 days.

Thanks to ranger Maurice Puckett for shifting the rams out of the Workshop paddock so that these birds could get on with nesting. Tāwharanui is indeed a sanctuary where conservation, farming and recreation work together.

Thanks goes to the Auckland Council rangers and an excellent, adaptable TOSSI committee and volunteers, giving 9000 hours this year both up front and behind the scenes, all working together towards making Tāwharanui a success story.

Alison Stanes