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Why did the weka cross the road?
1 November 2014

When you see a weka running, it’s obvious that walking really is, as musician Laurie Anderson described it, “falling, then catching yourself from falling, over and over.”

One crossed the road in front of us and we heard plenty of others calling during the recent Motu Challenge multisport race as we cycled the Old Motu Rd which threads through the Opotiki and Motu Virtually On Track gemsite.

While seeing weka is a regular thing around there, sighting one of these threatened native birds was an event highlight for the Waikato-based cyclists I was riding with.

Curiously, weka populations undergo boom and bust cycles which are not well understood.

In the late 1980s the Motu population plunged dramatically.

Now it’s booming again – and without human assistance.

Trials of predator control around Motu have shown weka do just as well in areas where stoats and rats are not managed as in heavily controlled areas. 

How long the boom will last is anyone’s guess, but I’d get out into the Opotiki and Motu gem sooner rather than later if you want to see one of these rarer-than-kiwi birds in the wild.

When my mountainbike contribution to the race ended, my team-mate for the day, Ric, set off on a 17km run, part of which passes through a conservation area.

The area in question has a community group doing pest control and other work to look after kiwi.

They also put out a few “weta hotels” – simple boxes for weta to crawl into.  Ric noticed one on his run and later reflected that if it wasn’t a race he would have looked inside it.

He now plans to come back for a look some other time – an example of a simple conservation action acting as both an enhancement to recreation and an inducement to local tourism. 

Still on Motu Challenge, the value of having good support businesses backing recreation came through with the way Motu Trails Ltd provided cycle shuttle services.

When I saw them, they were waiting for their final MTB to transport back to Opotiki.

The bike and rider Garth, who was doing the Motu 160 event – a MTB to Motu then road bike back to Opotiki via SH2, eventually arrived.

Garth asked one of the drivers to fetch him a coffee (which they did – probably free of charge) then set off to finish his ride.

He later told the MC at the prizegiving how impressed he was with his “hire-a-support-crew”.

I’ve a feeling they were equally impressed by their customer – Garth is a sprightly 78 years’ old.

More about Motu weka (TVNZ video)

How to build a weta motel:


This post was written by

Steve Brightwell - who has written 17 posts

Steve Brightwell is a partnership ranger with the Department of Conservation.

He has been a part of the Virtually On Track team from the project's inception.

Steve lives in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, has a communications background, and is a weekend warrior of modest multisport ability.

The views he expresses for this blog are his own and do not necessarily reflect or imply official policy of the Department of Conservation.

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