Bat collaboration gets Council blessing
Waipā District Council’s Strategic Planning and Policy committee voted to continue working with the other councils, the Department of Conservation (DOC) and mana whenua on efforts to protect the long-tailed bat through the Waikato Regional Bat Strategy.
Council’s district plan policy advisor Julie Hansen, said the aim of the Waikato Regional Bat Strategy was to provide a framework for better collaboration across agencies for bat habitat protection and restoration measures in the Waikato region.
This includes sharing resources and information, aligning policies and planning, meeting new national policy and legislation requirements for bats, and resolving dilemmas and conflict outside legal and planning challenges.
“This alliance has identified the location of bats in Waipā District, their preferred habitat, threats to their habitat, and current protection,” Hansen said.
“Endorsement of the strategy will enable the territorial authorities to proceed together with ‘next steps’ identified in the Strategy, including short, medium- and longer-term initiatives.”
The strategy focuses on 5,900km2 of land across Hamilton city and Waikato and Waipā districts where the bats are known to reside.
Hansen said that at the heart of the matter is the location of the habitat of the long-tailed bat - pekapeka-tou-roa - a nationally critically-endangered taonga species, which overlaps both with future housing and development plans in the three areas, along with existing landowners managing trees on their properties.
“These issues, coupled with threats from predators, require a solution to be found for the long-tailed bats, which has previously been elusive for each district working in isolation,” Hansen said.
“Bats are not just living in areas that are protected, they are living in old shelter belts and things so there’s no protection for their habitat.”
The Alliance wanted to promote awareness of, and threats to the bats, among land owners, arborists, and people who deal with trees, she said.
“Bats are protected under the Wildlife Act so people need to be aware that there are serious penalties if they purposely or inadvertently harm the bats which may occur when trees are removed.”
Waipā District Council arborist planner Chris Brockelbank said the Waikato Regional Bat Strategy and associated Priority Actions and Initiatives include actions such as providing support to train arborists in basic bat habitat identification.
“The idea is alliance members could establish a regional bat team, pooling resources and collaborating, to provide training for arborists so ecologists don’t have to be engaged to do that initial assessment to establish if a tree could be a bat habitat and also increase public awareness about bats and potential bat habitats.”
WDC Pirongia councillor Clare St Pierre expressed her support of the idea to get arborists on board in identifying key bat roosting sites.
“If more people are trained to identify events, such as arborists, then you don't need to pay an ecologist at an expensive rate to get that information. With that build-up of data over time, it'll be easier for us to manage it and it won’t necessarily translate into a more restrictive resource consent conditions.”
To find out more about theWaikato Regional Bat Strategy visit New Zealand long-tailed bat: Native animal conservation.