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Community leads fight for pest free Piha

Piha has a special place in the hearts of West Aucklanders. With its beautiful black-sand beach, awesome surf, luscious bush walks, and not forgetting the majestic Lion Rock, Piha is an iconic destination. And a group of dedicated locals is doing a great job protecting Piha's unique heritage.

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The Protect Piha Heritage Society is a charitable body set up to safeguard the character of the west coast village. And the society is spearheading a community initiative to make Piha weed and pest free by 2025.

It's an ambitious target, but Pest Free Piha is already achieving great results. Neighbours and the whole community have come together in a variety of projects. Rodent and possum trapping and baiting lines have been set up at both ends of the beach, and the next step is to move inland.

A wasp control initiative has also had tremendous success with an 87 per cent reduction in wasps. Around 400 wasp bait stations were set up, with roughly half of Piha's households participating.

And regular neighbourhood weeding bees and planting days tackle invasive weeds. Volunteers replace the weeds with eco-sourced plants from their own nursery and others grown at home.

The team is made up of local volunteers and is supported by a coordinator, Peter Hosking. His job is to recruit helpers, identify street coordinators and generally oversee the group’s work.

‘We have fantastic support in the local community,’ Peter notes. He says around 50 per cent of households are on Pest Free Piha’s mailing list.

‘It’s wonderful to see people working together, and we have achieved some great results,' says Peter. ‘A team of volunteers pulled out by hand 12,000 lupins from the sand dunes last year,’ he adds.

According to Peter, lupins are an invasive weed that impacts the delicate ecology of the sand dunes, affecting native dune plants and assisting the spread of other weeds. They also harbour predators threatening ground-nesting shore birds like dotterels and oystercatchers.

‘Our efforts are making a difference,' declares Peter. He says that grey-faced petrels have returned to the southern cliffs for the first time in living memory.

As a volunteer project, funding is in short supply for Pest Free Piha. However, a successful application for $10,000 to the Your West Support Fund has dramatically impacted the group's work.

‘It's been a real blessing,' says Peter. 'Without the Your West Support Fund, we wouldn't have achieved as much,' he adds.

And while the group has made significant progress towards making Piha pest and weed-free, there's still plenty to be done. Pest Free Piha would love to hear from you if you want to get involved and give back to the community. It’s also a fantastic way to meet new people and make friends.