Conservation link brings MPs to Aongatete Forest 

An impressively large nocturnal spider grabs the attention of MP Jan Tinetti and Vaughan Kilburn during a night walk in Aongatete Forest. The walk was part of the Breakfast With The Bird fundraiser event held in the forest every year.

Conservation link brings MPs to forest

A link to New Zealand’s most famous conservationist brought two Members of Parliament to Aongatete Forest last week.

Don Merton, who is credited with saving the black robin, kakapo and many other New Zealand species, is the father-in-law of Labour list MP Jan Tinetti. Jan and her colleague Angie Warren-Clark, both from Tauranga, were only too happy to oblige when invited up to the forest for Breakfast With The Birds.

“Because of Don our family has always had an interest in the environment – it has been a major focus in our lives,” says Jan.

“Before he passed Don had a strong interest in Trusts like Aongatete. He was doing a lot of work around the Tauranga region.”

Up at sparrows – and other birds

Breakfast With The Birds is the Aongatete Forest Project’s annual fundraiser, and about 80 people attended the event last Friday, which included night bush walks, a dinner, and then the chance to stay overnight at Aongatete Lodge to hear the dawn chorus.

Jan says it’s good to see first-hand the environmental work that is going on in the community, and she is keen to go out and promote the work of groups like the Aongatete Forest Project.

“Already I’m thinking about people who live in close proximity to here that I’ll be able to go and have a conversation with about this project.

“I always say that in any aspect of change that it’s got to start from the community.

“Grassroots groups are hugely important. Small trusts raising awareness and building support over time.”

MPs for aspirations for predator-free

Angie is on the Environment Select Committee at Parliament and chairs the Labour caucus committee on the environment as well. Angie is also to keen to know what’s happening in the Bay of Plenty.

“Essentially I’ve been hearing all sorts of amazing things about the work that is done out here in the forest to control predators.”

Angie says Predator Free 2050 is a great aspiration for New Zealand, and thinks groups like the Aongatete Forest Project have a major part to play.

She also believes there will be some quite complex science in the future that will be part of the solution, and says the Environment Select Committee is already being presented with this kind of work.

Both MPs think some brave decisions will have to be made to make predator free New Zealand a reality.

“And we now have a Government that will make those decisions,” says Jan.

Jan has traps in her backyard, and reiterates that if just one in five households did the same it would make a huge difference to New Zealand’s predator population.

In its small way, her family is continuing the great work of Don Merton. And she says that’s something every New Zealander can do.

What’s on in Autumn…?

Aongatete Forest Project featured in Bay Waka issue 11