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Waimea Inlet community bands together to protect at risk bird

Hawea Austin and Keryn McDermott help out at a tree-planting day as part of the Battle for the Banded Rail project.

The Waimea Inlet community is making massive progress in its mission to restore the habitat of an at-risk bird.

Battle for the Banded Rail, a community environmental project, has started weekly tree-plantings around the Waimea estuary over winter.

It's all part of a goal to see the banded rail (moho pereru) return to the estuary in greater numbers.

Hawea Austin and Keryn McDermott help out during a tree-planting day.

* A not so restful resting place

* Banded rail population in Delaware Bay

Battle for the Banded Rail co-ordinator Kathryn Brownlie said involving the community in the restoration of the estuarine habitat has been essential to the project's success.

"The community is starting to take ownership of their estuary."


People from the Mapua community muck in at Research Orchard Road Reserve.

Banded rail were common in the area 30 years ago, but were now an at-risk and declining species. 

"The Waimea estuary has changed dramatically over the last 200 years and the type of habitat favoured by banded rail has been declining as agriculture, development and population pressure have impacted on the fragile rush land and estuary margins."

The project, which started in 2014, has been working to restore eight sites, including Hoddy Estuary Park and Research Orchard Road Reserve.

Banded rail used to be common around the Waimea estuary 30 years ago.

In that time, about 11,000 plants have been planted along the Waimea estuary by community volunteers.

Predator trapping is carried out year round, with 52 volunteers checking each trap at least once a month. 

There are a total of 564 traps making up around 50 kilometres of trap lines along the estuary margin from Mapua to Pearl Creek and about 1km inland as a buffer.

Brownlie said 880 predators have been killed in the last 12 months, of which 70 per cent were rats.

She said that the planting and weeding days have become as much a social occasion as an opportunity to improve the local environment. 

What is the banded rail?

The banded rail (moho pererū) are similar to a weka, but not as large. They are usually quite shy but may become very tame and bold.

Banded rails have declined significantly since humans began draining wetlands. They are a potential indicator of wetland health because they are dependent on the presence of high quality and ecologically diverse habitats and rich food supplies.

Their main threats are habitat clearance, coastal development and predators.