In 1809, the American sealing captain Eber Bunker charted the south coast of Fiordland and gave the name of “Preservation Harbour” to what is now known as “Preservation Inlet”.
Coal Island, known as “Te Puka-Hereka” to early Maori, was called “Preservation Island” by early European visitors. In 1851, Captain Lort Stokes of the Archeron survey gave the island its European name by which we now know it.
Although Coal was found on the island in the early 1800’s it was not of sufficient quantity or quality to sustain further development.
In the late 1800’s the discovery of gold on the island brought the inevitable “rush”. One of the largest gold nuggets ever discovered in New Zealand was found on the beach at Moonlight Point, reportedly weighing-in at 16 ounces.
Kakapo were reported to be present on the island during the late 1800’s.
Flora and Fauna
Coal Island has a healthy cover of native forest, predominantly rimu, kamahi, miro and rata. A variety of habitats exist on the island with a small lake of approximately 3 Ha, 4 permanent streams, extensive forest and coastal areas. The climate is generally cool, wet and windy.
Threatened native species possibly present include the NZ falcon, South Island kaka, long-tailed cuckoo, kereru, yellow-crowned parakeet, Fiordland crested penguin, white-fronted tern, long-finned eel, giant kokopu, short-jawed kokopu and beech mistletoes.
Common native bird species seen on the island include the tui, bellbird, fantail, brown creeper, tomtit, rifleman and little shag.
South West NZ Endangered Species Charitable Trust - Te Puka Hereka
2004;Te Puka Hereka (The Tied Anchor) - more commonly known as Coal Island - formation of the trust in 2004. The brainchild of Wayne Pratt,
2005: Track cutting was carried out in 2005 by a team of Tuatapere bushmen under the guidance of Wayne Pratt and Johan Groters. A total of 15km of track was cut and two of the 3 three tracks on the island are named after Wayne and Johan.
2005: A survey of the island's vegetation was carried out (Geoff Rogers and Brian Rance ) to identify and catalogue rare and endangered native plant species.
2005: Pest eradication got underway with 150 stoat traps installed around the three island tracks, on the mainland shoreline and the 'stepping stone' islands. That same year volunteers carried out several “prefeeds' to determine the level of interest by stoats and which baits attracted them.
The traps were set and checked and reset three times at monthly intervals. In all, 35 stoats were caught.
2005: A bird count by a team from The University of Otago in the spring of 2005 helped to establish a baseline from which to assess recovery in future years.
2005: The trust was honoured to host a visit to the island by the then Minister for Conservation, the Hon. Chris Carter in June 2005.
2006: Coal island was declared (hopefully) stoat free. The traps continued to be but no more stoats were caught Stoats continued to be caught on the mainland and those traps, along with those on the island, continue to be monitored and reset by volunteers.
2006: In January 2006 the trust erected a bivvy on the island at Moonlight Point
2006: A team of professional hunters carried out a red deer survey and culled 24 animals over eight days. Later that year the same team culled a further 21 animals and private hunters accounted for 15 more. Interestingly, a year later a further 17 were culled making a total of 77 deer removed from the island. The deer were seriously detrimental to the island’s flora and the regeneration since their removal has been outstanding.
2004-2007: $58,000 was raised from private donations and supporting agencies such as WWF and the Lotteries Commission.
This funding enable the trust to make considerable progress.
During this period work carried out included:
- The trust website – www.tepukahereka.org.nz – was developed
- An archeological survey of the island was carried out
- A business plan was developed
- Pests and predators identified - red deer, stoats and mice. Coal Island had no rats.
2007: June 2007 the trust received welcome news – confirmation of funding for a mouse eradication programme. The Lotteries Commission provided $155,000, with an additional $36,000 provided by the Community Trust of Southland, and $5,000 from DoC.
2007: no mice have been detected on the island by our monitoring. We have had an amazing success and need to guard our 'mouse-free' status carefully.The trust continues to monitor for mice as part of our quarterly stoat trap check.
2007-2009: During the next two years discussions were held about the introduction and reintroduction of endangered species. Birdlife naturally occurring on the island were already showing signs of resurgence.
2009: A new line of 31 traps was installed in June 2009 on the mainland track leading uphill from the oil store, known as the Painted Trail. With the coastline track this now provided a double line of defence against reinvasion by stoats. Both rats and stoats are regularly caught in the mainland traps
2009: In July 2009 Kisbee Lodge caretakers, trustee Don Goodhue and his wife Josie, built and installed 40 traps on the Morning Star track from the lodge to Te Oneroa, creating a further line of defence.
2009: seven tokoeka (Haast kiwi) released on to the island. The decision was made because there was no available sanctuary for tokoeka in their natural range in South Westland. An initial seven birds were released in December 2009. These were monitored and found to be thriving,
2010: The need for ongoing vigilance was highlighted in February 2010 when the volunteer team caught six stoats on the island. Volunteer went in again in March and found two mores stoats on the eastern line. The May volunteer group also found stoats while checking traps.
And then, just as suddenly it stopped. No further stoat were found on the island, indicating our multiple mainland trap lines were them. There was speculation that the incursion could have been caused by one or two pregnant females reaching the island.
2011: Another 10 tokoeka -Haast kiwi, being released in the spring of 2011.
2015: The island remained free of stoats until February 2015, when two were caught in traps on the Otago Retreat track. Just as in 2010, 2015 was a double beech masting season. Mast seeding is the production of unusually high quantities of seed that occurs in beech trees in some years, leading big increases in populations of seed consumers (mice and rats) and, consequently, predator populations (stoats, feral cats). DoC reported similar increases with their island projects to the north.
2015: In June 2015, 69 South Island robins were caught on Anchor Island in Dusky Sound and released on Coal Island. This exciting addition to the island's birdlife is quite significant because it is believed the island’s robin population were wiped out by predators 100 years ago.
2015: 80 Mohua where relocated onto Coal Island in October. These birds were caught from DoC islands in the area.
The trust's work continues with the regular volunteer trap-checking and rebaiting trips, including the annual winter visit aboard the DoC’s Southern Winds vessel. This trip allows extra work to be carried out, such as replacing or adding new traps and recutting trap-line tracks. It is surprising how quickly the tracks disappear without the deer to keep them open.
Where to from here?
Two huts for management purpose is the plan for the future. This will enable people to stay on the Island to carry out studies and trap checks.
In the mean time the Department of Conservation has offered their vessel "Southern Winds" for the trust trips and our volunteers be combined with the work they are doing on their predator free island. The Trust is very grateful for DOC asistance.
There is little doubt that the survival of this country's vulnerable and threatened unique wildlife will depend for the forseeable future on constant and robust human intervention.
This project is one of many, both private and state funded, that is helping to 'hold the line'. Ours was a daunting and difficult task because of it's isolation, difficulty and expense of access and because of this the further difficulty in getting support from the general public for something most will probably never get the privilege of seeing.
Nevertheless, we are succeeding with technical help from DoC staff, the generous use of the 'Southern Winds', the continued support of volunteers and donations from many sources.
Written by Iam Buick edited by Joyce Kolk to form a abbreivated time line