DOC staff at Canterbury’s Mahaanui Field Base, used a team-building exercise to bring the Manuka Bay Walkway back to life.

DOC’s Ross Millichamp, Conservation Services Manager / Kaimanatū Matarautaki, explains…

The start of the Manuka Bay Walkway at the Hurunui River mouth.

The start of the Manuka Bay Walkway at the Hurunui River mouth

The Manuka Bay Walkway runs from the Hurunui River mouth to Manuka Bay in North Canterbury.

The 5 km long jaunt is typical of many local tracks—highly valued by the local community, who appreciate its coastal vegetation and stunning vistas—but less well known by people from further afield.

Pete Heyward works the scrub bar.

Pete Heyward works the scrub bar

DOC Ranger, Tony Woods (Woodsie).

DOC Ranger, Tony Woods (Woodsie)

For a number of years the walkway fell into disrepair because access to the Hurunui River end was blocked by a landowner. However the property recently changed hands, and an easement is now in place to restore public access.

This is all well and good on paper, but the reality of bringing an overgrown track back to life was a daunting prospect for local Ranger, Tony Woods.

A call to our neighbours at DOC’s Waimakariri office—who are blessed with a large recreational asset team—secured enough assistance to re-open the walkway, but it was clear that more work was needed to bring it up to standard.

So the idea of a large-scale assault came up. It was branded as a “team-building exercise” but in reality it was a dirty trick to use some of our biodiversity team human resources to tackle the challenge.

DOC Ranger, Alan McDonald, suggested that we make use of his contacts in the local community to bolster the numbers further.

Services Ranger Ian Hankin (left) and three volunteers; now we will get some work done!

Services Ranger Ian Hankin (left) and three volunteers;
now we will get some work done!

In late August it all came together when 12 Mahaanui team members and six volunteers from Gore Bay, Manuka Bay and Cheviot, tore through the track like a herd of wildebeests, doing more work in two days than Tony Woods could have managed in months.

Staff and volunteers clear a blocked channel and re-open a section of bridging.

Staff and volunteers clear a blocked channel and re-open a section of bridging

Although a few finishing touches are needed, the track looks a million dollars and the feedback from the local community has turned from mild criticism (“when are you going to get around to re-opening our track?”) to effusive praise.

Some of our volunteers plan to return to trim weeds and start a pest trapping programme now that access has been restored.

By DOC’s Leigh-Anne Wiig

Calling all hunters, trampers, rafters and bush bashers!

If you’re out and about in the bush this spring, keep a sharp look out for one of our most striking native plants, the critically endangered ngutukākā/kakabeak.

Ngutukākā/kakabeak.

Ngutukākā/kakabeak

DOC is working with Forest Lifeforce Restoration, to prevent the extinction of ngutukākā. Together, we’re asking people to help spot the plants and report their position back to DOC, preferably with the help of a GPS reader and a couple of photos.

This is the best time of year to spot ngutukākā because the plants are heavy with spectacular bunches of bright red, curved flowers that resemble the shape of a kākā’s beak (hence its name).

Ranger Don with a wild kakabeak plant near Gisborne.

Ranger Don with a wild kakabeak plant near Gisborne

The plants have a whole host of enemies, including goats, deer, rabbits—who find their tasty pods irresistible—and a range of insect pests.

Sadly, there are fewer than 120 naturally seeded plants known to exist in the wild—mainly around northern Hawke’s Bay, East Cape and inland to Waikaremoana.

The surviving plants tend to be found clinging to cliff faces or on bluff systems where goats haven’t been able to reach.

Wild kakabeak plant.

Wild kakabeak plant

We really appreciate the groups and individuals who help search for ngutukākā, as this significantly boosts the chance of finding new wild plants.

Once we know where they are, we can actively manage these plants and help them thrive in the wild.

Many people don’t realise how rare ngutukākā are, because you often see them in home gardens. But the domestic plants are all derivatives of a few wild plants that have been interbred and have little or no genetic value.

Any new find in the wild is significant because it widens the gene-pool of wild-grown seed that can be used in propagation efforts.

Typical kakabeak habitat in the Ruakituri.

Typical kakabeak habitat in the Ruakituri

The most recent find was on a field trip to Ruakituri, in inland Hawke’s Bay, when 18 wild plants were discovered, where previously only six were known to exist. So there’s hope yet!

Any help you can give to locate this floral gem is much appreciated.

Keep your eyes peeled for those stunning red flowers in the wild and spread the word to others!

By DOC Ranger, Stephen Moorhouse

A power barrow can only move so much, so when DOC staff in Tongariro needed to move a substantial pile of stones to resurface a track, they decided to get hold of a slightly larger than normal barrow—a KiwiRail Train!

kiwirail-train-unloading

Old Coach Road sign. Photo: Stephen Moorhouse.

Old Coach Road — the destination

How much is a “substantial pile” of stones? Well, we’re talking about 350m³ of AP20 (i.e. very small) rocks.

That is a very large pile of very small stones!

And they all needed to end up on the central ‘skyline’ section of the Ohakune Old Coach Road—one of the most popular walking and mountain bike tracks in the area, running between Ohakune and Horopito.

As you could imagine, moving 350m³ of track surface would’ve taken us a long time. By working with KiwiRail we were able to get the job done much more easily.

“It is great to be able to work in partnership with an organisation such as KiwiRail. They provide additional support and resources that are complimentary to the outcomes of our team and the Department.” — Conservation Services Manager, Paul Carr.

With KiwiRail involved it took a diesel locomotive, 10 goods wagons, two mornings and three trips to complete the first stage of the journey. Add to that a substantial sized digger and you have got some serious machinery on the job!

A big machine for a big job! Photo: Stephen Moorhouse.

A big machine for a big job!

KiwiRail train. Photo: Stephen Moorhouse.

A larger than average power barrow!

Now the truly hard work will start.

Over the next 12 months the monstrous pile of stone will be moved from its current resting place to the ‘skyline’ to ensure a superb track surface. This process, unfortunately, won’t have the help of a train, but will be completed by DOC staff with quad bikes, trailers and hard graft.

DOC has developed close links with KiwiRail on other projects too. A trapping initiative, to protect resident whio and kiwi at the Makatote Viaduct, is one of these.

“KiwiRail are generous, supportive and have conservation outcomes in common with the Department. They have a passion as an organisation to preserve the environment that they operate in.” — Ranger Cassandra Reid.

Stones on the train track. Photo: Stephen Moorhouse.

The aftermath

By Michelle Crouchley, Partnerships Ranger, Te Anau

Following a career spanning 30 years of service to conservation, Te Anau Wildlife Park ranger Carol Gardner, has retired from DOC.

Carol feeding a kea.

Carol and one of the keas she has known since it was an egg!

‘The big break’

Carol started working in conservation so long ago that she can’t even remember the date! It all began when she started to look for work outside of her role as mother to her four children. She was married to a farmer, and at the time many employers would not consider taking on someone in her position. When Carol mentioned she was looking for work to Lands and Survey Department staff Russell Montgomery and John Clark, they offered her a job working on tracks in the Tuatapere area. Carol describes this as her ‘big break’ and will always be thankful to Russell and John for giving her that opportunity. Reflecting on this moment, Carol said “the decisions you make about other people can change their lives and we should never forget how much influence we can have on other people.”

Carol’s career has seen her doing many different jobs in many different places throughout Fiordland. In the late 70’s and early 80’s she was part of a project building tracks in Fiordland National Park.

Carol’s walking companions.

Carol’s walking companions

‘Funny moments’

Carol has fond memories of working in the Hollyford Valley with John Clark. One day the fridge broke down and they had to carry it out. John shouldered the fridge and Carol walked in front, as they passed trampers John would explain his strange load by saying “I’ve got the ice; she’s got the gin!”

She then moved to Te Anau and took on a job looking after an area that spanned from Milford Sound to Mavora Lakes; it would take her three hours to drive from one end of her beat to the other!

During this time Carol was responsible for landscaping outside Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre and caretaking in the now council owned Ivon Wilson Park. For the past 24 years she has been  taking care of our feathered friends at Te Anau’s Wildlife Park.

Carol leading a tour of the Te Anau Wildlife Park.

Carol leading a tour of the Te Anau Wildlife Park

‘What will you miss most about working at DOC?’

Carol formed a deep affection for the park’s birds. She has cared for the two resident kea since they were eggs. They are now mature 25 year old birds. She hand-reared the Canadian Geese that reside in the waterfowl enclosure and has looked after all the other birds that have lived in the park: weka, kereru, pateke, ruru, parakeets, kaka, paradise shelducks and takahe. Carol found her calling as an advocate for our native birds. It is the birds at the Te Anau Wildlife Park that Carol will miss the most now she has left DOC.

Carol’s retirement cake.

Carol’s retirement cake

‘What’s next?’

Carol’s contribution to the Department will not end with her retirement as she intends to continue her service by volunteering. She also intends to spend lots of time hanging out with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, walking her dogs and tramping.

Carol giving resident kākā, Charlie Brown, her breakfast.

Carol giving resident kākā, Charlie Brown, her breakfast

He’s better looking than Bieber, more charismatic than Clooney and he has some pretty hardcore admirers.

Sirocco at Zealandia. Photo copyright of Janice McKenna.

One handsome bird

Sirocco the kākāpō is our social media superstar and New Zealand’s Official Spokesbird for Conservation. Today he has reached an amazing milestone in his quest for world domination by reaching a massive 100,000 devoted fans on his Facebook page.

This parrot is not just a national treasure, but also an international rock-star with fans from as far away as Serbia and Brazil. Over 6000 of his fans speak Arabic, 7000 speak Portuguese and 140 fans are even fluent in Pirate – arrrrrr me hearties!

Sirocco the rock-star kakapo book.

The rock-star

Through both Facebook and Twitter, Sirocco connects his fans (now over 100,000), their friends (millions of them), and the wider social media community (billions of them) to conservation messages and stories right here in New Zealand.

Sirocco's Facebook page.

100,000 likes

Sirocco’s high-flying career was launched in 2009 off the back of the BBC’s ‘Last Chance to See’ programme, when Sirocco attempted to mate with zoologist Mark Carwardine’s head. Footage of this event has now generated more than 6 million hits on YouTube.

Sirocco on Mark Carwardine's head with Stephen Fry.

Mark and Stephen

In January 2010 Sirocco was officially recognised as a conservation ambassador by the Prime Minister John Key, who named him the “Official Spokesbird for Conservation”. Mr Key said Sirocco would bring attention to the plight of our endangered species.

Sirocco is currently touring the country and will be on show from 19 September – 5 October at the Orokonui Ecosanctuary in Dunedin.

You can become one of Sirocco’s loyal followers over on Facebook and Twitter.

The kea, named by Maori for the sound of its call, is endemic to the Southern Alps of New Zealand and is the world’s only mountain parrot.

Today’s photo of the week is of two kea in Arthur’s Pass National Park showing off their beautiful coloured feathers.

9770443453_95bd09ba9e_o

Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith announced yesterday that $90,000 from the Community Conservation Partnership Fund would go to supporting the Kea Conservation Trust.

This support will allow the trust to continue its work to ensure this endangered iconic species will continue to be enjoyed by future generations.

Photo by Geof Wilson | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

By Andy Thompson, Technical Advisor Recreation, Christchurch

As a passionate hunter I love exploring our backcountry—so much country, so little time!

Hunting tahr up the mighty Rakaia River.

Hunting tahr up the mighty Rakaia River

The backcountry—its huts and tracks—are our inheritance.

For me, the places where I first took my kids on an overnight tramp, and where they shot their first deer or chamois, are ingrained into my character and our family’s folklore. It’s a legacy I want my grandkids and their grandkids to have.

Andy Thompson's family on the Kepler Track.

A day walk with the family at the bottom on the Kepler Track

I’m also one of the lucky DOC staff working with the New Zealand Outdoor Recreation Consortium, who are keen to look after and maintain New Zealand’s backcountry facilities.

The consortium is a partnership between the Federated Mountain Clubs of New Zealand, New Zealand Deerstalkers’ Association and Trail Fund NZ.

Reischek Hut.

The great wee Reischek Hut in Canterbury

My heroes are the people that go on major missions, who use these places and then choose, in their spare time, to put something back.

Andy Thompson's family on the Hollyford Track.

Whānau and friends on the Hollyford Track

This isn’t about DOC shedding its responsibilities to look after backcountry huts, this is about doing more and looking after the places where many of us spend our holidays and weekends and enrich our lives.

Stanley Vale Hut.

One of my favourite places and backcountry huts—Stanley Vale in the St James Conservation Area

So, if you’re a tramper, hunter, mountain biker, 4WDer, horse rider, caver, kayaker, mountaineer or more, and want to find out what we’re up to come check out the New Zealand Outdoor Recreation Consortium website.

Moss Thompson looks out over the Mt Sommers Walkway.

Moss Thompson looks out over the Mt Sommers Walkway