Talking about the Enhancing the Halo project on Newstalk ZB

Gareth Morgan got some claws out when he launched the ‘Cats To Go’ campaign earlier this year. Now he’s turning his attention to another element of keeping nature safe in the ‘Enhancing the Halo’ campaign. Gareth Morgan joins us. Gareth, good morning.

Gareth: Good morning Justin.

Justin: So, describe Enhancing the Halo. How does it work?

Gareth: Well, it’s a very much a Wellington project. That’s really our initiative. It’s about just endorsing and reaffirming that Wellington is the natural capital. We’re not actual dying, Justin. But in terms of giving more meaning to that label, ‘The Natural Capital,’ the halo really is all about providing links between our biodiversity or wildlife hot spots around the city. And we have a number of them that are actually on the map that’s on the website, halo.org.nz. But the hot spots are things like Otari-Wilton Bush and Khandallah Park. They are dotted all around and when you go into those areas you will find not just tui. You will find kereru, bellbirds, and so on. So what the halo really is about, and enhancing that halo, is that we if we sort of link arms across all our properties and plant the right plants in our properties – like cabbage trees and k?whai [sounds like 0:01:38.0] trees and so on. And if we trap predators, rats especially, then we can actually form the strongest defence line in the country against mammalian pests.

Justin: So I’m thinking of a picture. I’m thinking of a picture, Gareth, like a stone dropped in a pond and if the ripples go right out and eventually cover the entire lake.

Gareth: Yeah, and the lake being the city. So, I mean, what city folk tend to think – they tend to think that the whole nature preservation thing is an issue for the provinces or the national parks or the rural areas. And then they say there isn’t or it’s only minimal, the wildlife in the city. But it doesn’t have to be like that. The reason it is minimal is because we abrogate our responsibility. And we don’t actually take care to make sure we have the right plants. We get rid of the plants that are pests and we get rid of predators and so on. So we actually have it within us to make Wellington a total halo.
And of course the most expensive biodiversity hotspot we have in New Zealand, that you and I and everybody else have put millions of dollars into, is Zealandia. Now, you know, the success in Zealandia should not be measured, in my view, on how many overseas tourists come to it or how many weddings they have at that function hall they’ve built. The success of Zealandia should be measured by whether you have got saddlebacks and bellbirds in your backyard – in other words, the halo.

Justin: In essence, the kind of birdlife you’re talking about shouldn’t be safe just in Zealandia. It should be able to come over the fence, get outside, move closer, move to other places, and be pretty much equally safe and equally welcome.

Gareth: Absolutely. I mean, think of the hot spots as the incubator. But at the moment as soon as these smaller birds fly out of prison they get slaughtered. So, you know, we’re sort of pouring all this money into this thing and it’s sort of self-defeating. And most New Zealanders have never heard the dawn chorus. They actually think it’s the tui. Well I can tell you now, the tui is just the advance guard. And we need the smaller birds here…they are far more, you know. And to get a full chorus going.

Justin: So Gareth, is it mostly a matter of planting the right things?
Planting the right trees, shrubs, and whatever?

Gareth: I think that’s a huge part of it, planting the right things, and getting rid of the wrong things. But also, predator control is really important. And you mentioned earlier the cats thing. Look, I’ve got nothing against cats. What I’ve got a huge thing against is wandering cats creating havoc around the neighborhood and slaughtering wildlife.

Justin: I don’t know if you read the story the other day at Mt. Bruce. They have been doing a trapping, catching and trapping, thing over there at the conservation land there. And in the course of I think the last year they have picked up 40, four-oh, cats.

Gareth: Yeah, that doesn’t surprise me at all. They’re the number one pest now around urban areas in particular. And I’m talking about wandering cats, and they’re domestic. So it’s a commentary on responsible pet ownership. I think if we can do that, you know, and we can enhance this halo…we can monetise this thing, Justin. We can actually convert this to jobs and incomes for Wellington. And just as I’m trying to do in Stewart Island, it’s the same thing. It’s not just tourism, it’s making Wellington a place where talent wants to live that support Callaghan Line (sp), which is absolutely correct. It’s getting a premium for the price on our services and products that are produced in a country that has sustainable production methods. So there are a lot of ways – we should be doing this for our own self-interest, not just the intrinsic value of nature, which we all enjoy anyway.

Justin: Yeah, because Wellington is very well treed generally so it’s only a matter of as trees need to be replaced or if you don’t have a tree, then plant one, but make sure you’re planting the right kind of thing. And the other one, I guess, is what? Bird baths, and feed places, and feeding stations, that sort of thing?

Gareth: Yeah, that’s right, offer them an oasis. We want to see bellbirds and those birds over on the Miramar peninsula. The Greater Wellington Council has done an amazing job. They got rid of possums on the whole of the Miramar peninsula. I mean, it’s incredible.

Justin: I don’t know if they want to cross the runway, though.

[laughter]

Gareth: Well, they’ve got to get the timing right. So what we’re trying to do with this thing is we’re trying to entice Wellingtonians to make their house a halo household. Now, it’s a bit like neighbourhood watch. You get a sticker on your letter box that says that you will try to plant the right things, you will get rid of the weeds, and you will control the pests. And I think if we can get the right spirit going the impact of this will be enormous.

Justin: Well, it should appeal to a lot of people because basically New Zealand is very friendly and hospitable toward nature and animals and the like. We’re only just slightly redirecting the effort. Now, you mentioned a website Gareth?

Gareth: Yeah, the website is halo.org.nz, and that’s where you can sort of register your house. And what I thought we’d do is we will get a map and we would colour in the houses and we will see just which suburbs and which streets are really into this, and really trying to enhance the halo. Because I just think the dividend – we’re never going to get our money back on Zealandia if we don’t actually deal to the halo effects of Zealandia and stop slaughtering the wildlife that those folks are nurturing up there.

Justin: And enabling a lot more Wellingtonians to wake up to, as you say, a real dawn chorus not just the odd tui.

Gareth: That’s right. I mean, it’s fantastic. I live in Oteranga
[sounds like 7:34] Bay and we’ve got feeders here and we’ve got tui and all the rest of it. But I want more than that. I want kereru here and bellbirds and saddlebacks and the whole lot of them, exciting stuff.

Justin: Absolutely. Gareth, thanks for your time.

Gareth: Thank you, mate.

Justin: Okay, cheers.

Gareth: Bye.

Justin: Gareth Morgan.