Westlake Girls High School—14 August 2015
Westlake Girls High School on Auckland’s North Shore is one of New Zealand’s largest girls schools. In 2014, teacher Maree O’Leary brought out a class of Gateway programme students and the girls built benches, signs and a bird feeder all of which they installed at CUE Haven and are still being enjoyed by visitors.
This year’s Gateway class decided to make weta hotels to install in the bush to give visitors a chance to observe some of the endangered New Zealand wildlife that is slowly coming back to CUE Haven.
Weta are large nocturnal insects indigenous to NZ and there are several different types – Tree, Ground, Cave, Tusked and Giant Weta and they all perform important functions in the health of native NZ forests. Tusked and Giant Weta are endangered and protected by the Department of Conservation.
Tree Weta are the most common and they make their homes by burrowing into trees and can grow up to 6 cm long.
Weta hotels are boxes with pre-cut galleries that tree weta quickly settle into. They provide a safe, dry and warm environment where several weta can live. As weta are nocturnal, the boxes have a hinged door to block out the light. A clear window is attached over the galleries so that you can slide open the door and have a look inside and see the weta.
The girls assembled eight weta hotels in their work shop and brought them out to install them in the field. Each box had been made out of a piece of native NZ totara wood.
The group arrived shortly after ten and included teachers Maree O’Leary and Christine Weeks and students Aimee, Amy, Asi, Bailey, Brittany, Bushra, Cecilia, Cheyanne, Georgia, Holly, Jemma, Kyla, Leilani, Mila, Na’a, Natasha, Nathalie, Nicki, Robyn, Selena, Shannon, Simona, Siosiana, Sophia, Talia, Tayla and Trani.
We got acquainted over morning tea. It was a cold and wet morning and the hot chocolate generously provided by Nestle New Zealand, was much enjoyed and appreciated. Thanks Nestle!
We gave the group a brief overview of the CUE Haven restoration project.
We were then joined by Auckland Council Environment for Sustainability Advisor Shanthie Walker. Shanthie gave the students some information on weta and also advised us on where to best place the hotels in the field.
Shanthie first talked about the different types of weta and showed pictures and described the characteristics of cave, tree, ground, tusked and giant weta.
Shanthie had brought along a live tree weta in a mini-hotel which had been kindly provided by Maureen Robertson, an enviro teacher from Verran Primary school. Shanthie passed the weta around so that the students could have a good look.
Shanthie also explained weta habits and showed samples of the kinds of native vegetation they like to eat. Knowing likely food sources for weta helped us to identify the best places to put the hotels so that we would stand a better chance of attracting weta.
The students had a chance to learn to identify the different trees so that they could spot them in the field.
We then went out to install the hotels in the field. It was windy and rainy at first so we got as much wet weather gear as we could before venturing out.
The first box was installed next to a kawakawa tree, one of the weta’s favourite foods. Thomas demonstrated how to do the first installation so the girls could do the rest.
Other boxes were installed throughout the property near trees that weta like to eat. The location and orientation of each hotel was recorded along with information about the surrounding terrain and vegetation. This will give us useful data so that we can identify which locations are more desirable for weta.
Shanthie helped the students find good spots for the hotels.
And the girls went to work!
Fortunately, the weather cleared up and the students enjoyed the rest of the walk in the bush.
After the eight boxes were installed the girls went back to the cottage for a quick lunch.
Shanthie left the weta she had brought and suggested that we introduce it to one of the new hotels.
We gently coaxed it into the weta hotel next to the kawakawa tree by the cottage.
And soon it was well settled in its new home.
The weta hotels are a great addition to the CUE Haven landscape and visitors in the future will be able to observe and learn about weta thanks to the efforts of the Westlake Girls High School students.
It was an educational and also very enjoyable day, and before they left the students treated us to a special Samoan song!
We’d like to thank Shanthie for arranging her schedule so that she could join us today and also for her excellent and informative presentation. And Maureen thanks for providing the weta.
We also want to thank Auckland Council for making Shanthie available and for supporting our environmental education efforts at CUE Haven.
Our many thanks to Maree for her continuing involvement with CUE Haven and for organising the building of the weta hotels and bringing the girls out for a great day. And thank you to Christine for joining us and for your continued support.
And thanks again to Karen, the bus driver from Bayes Transport who always works as hard as any of the volunteers she brings out! It was great to see you again.
And we especially want to thank the girls for assembling the excellent weta hotels and for installing them in the field. They look great and we know that the weta are going to love them too. We really enjoyed meeting you and working with you and wish you much happiness and success in the future. We hope you will come back to visit. And have a look inside your weta hotels—if you’re brave!!