Putting the wind up ‘wicked’ birds

Just after sunrise every day, millions of sparrows, starlings and pigeons leave their roosting spot at Lake Rotopiko near Ōhaupō having created carnage.

World Rotary president Gordon McInally, left, with National Wetland Trust co chair Don Scarlet on the pontoon installed over Rotopiko peat lake in the reserve. Photo: Mary Anne Gill.

National Wetland Trust co chair Don Scarlet explained to Rotary International president Gordon McInally and his wife Heather how important the partnership between Te Awamutu Rotary Club, Ngāti Apakura, Waipā District Council and the Conservation Department is to eradicate the “wicked” birds.

“All they do is to come here and roost, and sleep. Before that they undertake the final bodily function, which is to excrete and sadly that brings a lot of nutrients into this pristine, very low nutrient peat lake environment.

“That’s our wicked problem and we are still on a journey to mitigate that.”

Tia Ormsby van Selm from Ngāti Apakura guides Rotary International president Gordon McInally through the Rotopiko Reserve. Photo: Mary Anne Gill.

Waipā’s wetland maintenance contractor Murray Davies explained the latest plan to control the birds involved pruning off the bottom foliage to allow the wind and sun in.

“They leave 100mls thick in the bottom of the forest every might. It’s filthy and disgusting.

“We’ve got to find a way to make it uncomfortable for them to come back and roost.”

Birds hate the wind, he said.

Gordon – formerly a dentist in Edinburgh, Scotland – is the first world president to visit New Zealand and the couple’s five day trip included four Waipā visits.

The first was at Hamilton Airport where they saw a Life Flight plane, a partnership between Rotary District 9940 and the Life Flight Trust, which runs three nationwide Air Ambulance planes.

They attended district governor Bill Robinson’s Rotary Club in Cambridge, Lake Rotopiko wetlands and Urban Miners in Cambridge which runs an e-waste reuse, repair and recycling service for the Waipā district.

World Rotary president Gordon McInally, centre, with district governor Bill Robinson check out the Urban Miners recycling operation in Cambridge. Photo: Mary Anne Gill.

So impressed with the Urban Miners recycling operation, the McInallys intend taking the concept back to their home in Yetholm in the Scottish Borders.

“This is fantastic. We take anything like this equipment, we just take it to our local dump, and I don’t think we pay attention to where it goes when we go to the dump,” said Heather.

“We’re going to go back and try and find out a bit more about what happens to the waste – the computers, microwaves etc. We just take it down to the local tip, it goes in a separate corner, but I realise we have no idea what happens to it.”

Yetholm’s population is only 600 people but Kelso, the nearest town, has 8000 people.

Earlier Gordon spoke about the Rotopiko partnership.

Rotary International president Gordon McInally visits Waikato


“We cannot do things working in isolation and working alone and it’s only when we truly come together as one that we can achieve great things such as you are achieving here,” he said before unveiling a macrocarpa bench made by Te Awamutu Rotary Club president Gill Johnston’s husband Allan.

“As one, we are better. This is the most beautiful spot,” he said.

“We recognise and understand the importance of wetlands in terms of our environment and the sustainability of our environment.”

He apologised on behalf of his forebears for introducing starlings, sparrows and pigeons.

“Hopefully you will find a solution to that this year and this very special place will be preserved and will play its part in the harmony of the environment. Thank you for allowing us to be on your land.”

Te Awamutu Rotary Club president Gill Johnston sits on the macrocarpa bench her husband Allan made which was unveiled by world president Gordon McInally in Rotopiko. Photo: Mary Anne Gill.

Rotary International president Gordon McInally and wife Heather visit Waikato and see Urban Miners in Cambridge. Photo: Mary Anne Gill

Urban Miners hard at work. Photo: Mary Anne Gill.

Urban Miners hard at work. Photo: Mary Anne Gill

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