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David Swann

Bluff Hill Motupōhue Environmental Trust

BHMET Trustee & Project Leader



David Swann is a trustee and project leader with the Bluff Hill Motupōhue Environment Trust.  After a career in the British Army followed by 12 years working for a software company in Southern California, David arrived in Aotearoa in 2008 and has run a number of IT companies in Wellington.  In 2019, David ‘saw the light’ and moved south to live in Bluff where he has switched tracks to become immersed in conservation.


Planting Native Trees – A Community Conservation Group Perspective


Motupōhue is te taurapa o te waka o Aoraki – the sternpost of the South Island –  and is a tōpuni site recognised in the Ngāi Tahu treaty settlement act of 1998. This special place contains a 200 hectare fragment of mature podocarp forest. The trust has been restoring native habitat on Motupōhue since 2008 because the forest was being killed by possum browse and native birds eaten by feral cats and mustelids.

Our goal is to have created the conditions to reintroduce kiwi and tieke (South Island Saddleback) onto Motupōhue by 2028.  In order to do this, we have to create a safe, predator free habitat where these precious taonga can thrive.

This is going to take a lot of effort and requires a strong social license to operate from the Bluff community. Planting is a strong way of building social license – a positive activity to balance out the negative connotations associated with killing predators, gorse and wilding pine.

Of increasing importance is the carbon implication of the mahi we’re doing. Planting natives is an important way of increasing the carbon sequestration capacity of Motupōhue.  But it must be remembered that predator control is another important sequestration activity. Each possum across our 1,000 hectares consumes as much as 3kg of vegetation every day. If we weren’t controlling our possum population, Motupōhue has the potential to support a population of around 8,000 possums – so they would be removing 24 tonnes of vegetation a day.  Given that the sequestration capacity across Motupōhue is around 10 tonnes of carbon a day, possums are a slow-motion catastrophe in climate terms.

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