Media Release

Solid Energy support for DoC's blue duck recovery effort on West Coast doubled to $100,000

6 March 2008

Solid Energy has doubled its support for the Department of Conservation's (DoC) programme to turn around the fortunes of endangered whio (blue duck) on the West Coast.

Since 2002, when staff in DoC's West Coast Conservancy decided more direct action was needed to ensure the survival of remnant whio populations, Solid Energy has been the primary supporter of an extensive predator trapping programme in Kahurangi National Park's Oparara Valley. In that time the number of breeding whio pairs in the protected area has doubled.

The additional funding announced today will assist DoC to continue an established whio protection project in the headwaters of the Styx River, east of Hokitika. The Department will also consider whether the removal of eggs for controlled incubation and rearing of ducklings would benefit the recovery effort.

In its most recent report on the Oparara whio, DoC describes Solid Energy's support as vital. It involves more than 400 tunnel traps placed every 100m in a 42km ring. Between 2002 and 2007, approximately 500 stoats and 1900 rats were caught. In New Zealand's threat category listing, whio are "nationally endangered", meaning conservation action is crucial to their survival.

Mark Pizey, Solid Energy's National Environmental Manager, says support for the recovery programme is consistent with the Solid Energy's environmental policy to undertake non-mining activities as part of achieving a company goal of delivering a positive net effect on the environment.

"Solid Energy is very proud to be associated with this Department of Conservation programme. With protection from predators such as stoats, the Styx headwater area behind Hokitika is potentially another bastion in which whio can start to rebuild their numbers," Mr Pizey says. "If in the future New Zealand can solve the problem of these introduced predators, it will be from protected refuges like the Oparara and Styx that these birds will repopulate our rivers."