Two determined pensioners have transformed a Far North reserve from a gorse-covered possum haven into a lush love nest for amorous moreporks.
Seven years ago retiree Gerald Messenger had a yarn to his mate David Panckhurst about doing something for Taumarumaru, a Department of Conservation reserve at the northern end of Coopers Beach in Doubtless Bay.
Mr Messenger approached DoC and received an enthusiastic response from Kaitaia's visitor services manager at the time, John Hatton - and so began an almost daily commitment to look after the reserve and its feathered and leafed inhabitants. Hundreds of native trees have been planted and war declared on noxious weeds including gorse, tobacco weed and the odd sneaky asparagus fern.
The reserve is now a danger zone for invading mammals thanks to a series of mustelid (weasel family), possum and rat traps. The past year's haul includes 36 possums and 35 rats, including a giant Norwegian rat caught last week.
"The bush is looking great with lots of seedlings coming up, so it's definitely paying off."
Of particular delight to Mr Messenger has been a pair of moreporks who moved into a nesting box he put up last year. They have produced one chick, now almost fully fledged.
Sadly, Mr Panckhurst died in December 2011. DoC Kaitaia community relations manager Carolyn Smith said he was a humble man who liked to "just get on with it".
"Dave was a stalwart of conservation who spent his retirement involved in all sorts of conservation projects."
But his main passion was Taumarumaru Reserve, where a boardwalk over the wetland at the entrance to the reserve is just one of his achievements.
Other Cooper's Beach residents regularly lend a hand but more volunteers are needed to help with checking the traps, weeding and planting. Call Mr Messenger on (09) 406 2201 for more information.