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Protecting Banded Dotterel at White Rock

Updated: Oct 5, 2021

by Rebecca Jamieson, Wairarapa Pūkaha to Kawakawa Alliance

The banded dotterel is as vulnerable as the great spotted kiwi yet not as well known or protected. Thankfully, the Wairarapa’s largest population of banded dotterel at White Rock is getting a helping hand from a local protection group and an international forestry company.

Fifty-six traps have been donated from China Forestry Group NZ to the White Rock Dotterel Group set up between local farmers from White Rock and Riversdale stations, the Aorangi Restoration Trust and Greater Wellington Regional Council.

The group was formed to project banded dotterel that nest on the lower Opouawe and Whawanui rivers and Poley Stream in the White Rock area.

Tim Ritchie (White Rock Station) and Ben Lutyens (Riversdale Station) are looking forward to their involvement in the group. Their family has been farming the area since 1844 and they believe it is important to assist in maintaining an environment where the banded dotterel can continue to safely breed.

The banded dotterel is a nationally vulnerable coastal bird species that are at risk of going extinct in the medium term. They breed mainly on gravel river beds or on the coastline during spring and summer then migrate to wetland areas and estuaries.

The national population is declining due to habitat loss, disturbance during breeding seasons and introduced predators like hedgehogs, feral cats, ferrets, stoats, weasels that eat chicks and eggs.

Recent surveys by Greater Wellington have shown that 344 banded dotterel occupy braided river habitats in the Wairarapa. The Opouawe River at White Rock, supports 23% of the breeding population of banded dotterels in the greater Wellington region.

The Opouawe River provides an ideal habitat for banded dotterel. The braided river and remoteness of the area offer protection from humans and dogs disturbing nests. Unfortunately, predators are not discouraged by the remoteness, which is why the protection group’s work is so important.

An initial trap network was installed six years ago by the Aorangi Restoration Trust on White Rock and Riversale stations. It has caught 597 predators in the last two-and-a-half years. The new traps will be installed by Joe Hansen and a team of volunteers from the Masterton Tramping Club and will be checked regularly.

Joe Hansen is a member of Aorangi Restoration with a long association with the Aorangi Forest Park and says the White Rock DotterelGroup is a very worthwhile project to get involved with.

The traps were officially handed over to the group at White Rock Station in early December by Forest360 Compliance Manager, Leigh Christensen.

Forest360 manages several forests for China Forestry Group that abut the Aorangi Forest Park near White Rock. Leigh says the donation of traps reflects both companies’ commitments to enhancing the ecological values in the local area. Each company carries Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, which encourages social and environmental improvement in and around production forests.

China Forestry’s Southern North Island Regional Manager, Scott Gordon, says “It is fantastic to support such an enthusiastic group that is gaining great outcomes from their hard work for the dotterels and the wider ecology and environment”

The White Rock Dotterel Group is seeking more funding to continue its work protecting banded dotterel at White Rock. If you are interested in supporting the group or want to get involved, please contact Bob Burgess at the Aorangi Restoration Trust > Learn more about the Aorangi Restoration Trust at

Left to right: Bob Burgess and Joe Hansen (Aorangi Restoration Trust), Deb and Tim Ritchie (White Rock Station), Ben Lutyens (Riversdale Station), Leigh Christensen (Forest 360) and Joanna McVeagh (Birds New Zealand).


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