Race set to help restore nature

At the finishing line of the coming Skedaddle race will be Island Hills Station landowners Dan...
At the finishing line of the coming Skedaddle race will be Island Hills Station landowners Dan and Mandy Shand. PHOTO: TIM CRONSHAW
About 500 trail runners will be greeted at the finishing line of the Skedaddle race this weekend by Island Hills Station landowners Dan and Mandy Shand.

Now in its second year the race has distances ranging from 4km to 42km for all levels of runners.

Entry fees will go towards raising funds for conservation efforts in the Mandamus Preservation Reserve, including a 600ha QEII covenant block on Island Hills.

Named after the highest peak on the property, Mt Skedaddle, the race is entirely on private land.

All proceeds go to conservation work including maintenance of many pest traps with the long-term goal to reintroduce kiwi and build up other native bird flocks.

Skedaddle was the brainchild of Shaun Monk who runs the Island Hills Station Walking Track with partner Haley Lloyd.

Mr Shand said they were "super keen" to support the race as soon as they heard about the idea.

"Shaun has it so the walkers can buy a trap to get the Mandamus Preservation Reserve predator-free and he had so many people buy traps it just got to the stage where it was unmanageable to have them all set and look after it. So the race helps fund that. We want to get to the point where predators are considered low enough to have kākāriki and eventually even kiwi released. In order to do that we have to prove we have pest numbers low. I actually came down the hill before and there was a ferret in one so that’s really encouraging to see them working."

Mr Shand said they had seen the bird population increase since possum and wasp control work began and the next stage was to reduce mustelid numbers.

"When I was young there were so many kea on the tops when I was hunting and we would see them everywhere and we saw the demise of them over a very short period of time for unknown reasons. So just seeing the changes in bird life has been so good.

"We had massive lancewoods you could hardly put your arms around them and we watched them get eaten out by possums so that’s really encouraged Mandy and I to start the possum work and, in fact, skinning possums and selling the fur was how we paid to start the walking track. We were getting up to 1000 a week at one stage."

When they returned to Island Hills about 20 years ago a sighting of a tui was so rare they would get the camera out. Now they are in the trees around the house over winter.

Race funds go into the charitable trust to look after the Mandamus Preservation Reserve.

Just over 300 runners ran the inaugural event with the field expected to be over 500 on the weekend.

"I think that’s a really cool thing that you are not only entering a race, which is great to do, but you know your entry fees is helping nature and conservation."