The 231 ha Okia Reserve on Otago Peninsula, the largest managed by the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust, was jointly purchased with the Dunedin City Council in 1991. The 3 km Victory Beach which forms one of the reserve boundaries, is the longest beach on Otago Peninsula.
The photo above, a view of the northern end of Victory Beach from the Big Pyramid, shows one of the firebreaks that cross the reserve. Fire is one of the major threats to Okia Reserve, and the firebreaks are designed to stop its spread.
Penguin monitoring at Okia is carried out over the breeding season, with a nest search in October, and monthly monitoring through until the chicks fledge in early February. In the 2011/12 breeding season the reserve was home to 18 breeding pairs (compared to 17 the previous season) of yellow-eyed penguins, with only three chicks (compared to 27 the previous season) fledging. This poor survival rate was due to eggs failing to hatch and chick mortalities.
Pest control is carried out year round with trap-lines targeting potential predators, most notably mustelids (stoats and ferrets) and cats. The trapping is also likely to benefit other native species found in the reserve.
Revegetation of the area began in 1992/93, and hundreds of native shrubs and trees are planted annually to enhance penguin breeding habitat and other areas of biodiversity value. Farmed for over a hundred years, the face of the Okia Flats is changing, with revegetation and natural regeneration combining to offer new opportunities for native species. Grazing ceased over most of the reserve in 1991, with remaining grazing at the southern end finishing in 2009.
Currently revegetation work is underway at the northern end of Victory Beach, and on the Margaret Hazel and Mainland slopes adjacent to Taiaroa Bush.
Pingao planting with associated coastal species was part of the Dunedin City Council Coastal Dune Conservation Programme, at mid-beach, where the walking track from the Little Pyramid leads onto Victory Beach. This project ceased in 2008 when the Dunedin City Council redirected these funds to major dune stabilisation work on the city’s beaches.
Other species are found in the reserve, including the New Zealand sea lion and New Zealand fur seal. In 2003/2004 a southern elephant seal gave birth to a pup on Victory Beach. After an absence of decades, the New Zealand fern bird has made a return. with several breeding pairs located in the summer of 2004/05.
Pictured right is Nerissa, a female New Zealand sea lion amongst the sand dunes at Victory Beach. She is one of the new generation of sea lions re-colonising the Otago Coast. Okia is an important breeding site, with six female sea lions born here since 2000/2001. (Information supplied by the New Zealand Sea Lion Trust).
Okia North End Guided Walk (pdf .18 Mb)