By Richard Wagner, Partnerships Ranger based in Te Urewera

The New Zealand Army recently held a two-week exercise training in Te Urewera National Park. After the exercise had finished, the army arranged a day to give back to DOC and the local community.

Looking across Lake Waikaremoana in Te Urewera National Park.

Te Urewera National Park

Working alongside DOC rangers ten soldiers cut and marked six kilometres of the Whakatakaa Hut Track and another three kilometres was cut and marked by another seven soldiers.

Soldiers from Victor Company, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment.

Soldiers from Victor Company, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment

The Biodiversity Team also had ten soldiers cutting and marking whio traplines and another ten building a new kōwhai ngutukaka / kakabeak enclosure along the Ngamoko Track.

This was a great way for the army to work with DOC. The army were also able to visit the local Te Kura o Waikaremoana School, where the tamariki/children put on kai / food for their manuhiri / visitors.

Children sitting in the Pinzgauer six-wheeler truck.

Having a go in the driver’s seat

The children thoroughly enjoyed the army visit, especially jumping on and in the Pinzgauer six-wheeler truck, looking at the weapons and eating the army ration packs.

Ko enei whakaahua, ko ngaa tamariki harikoa mai Te Kura o Waikaremoana, me nga hoea i awhi mai nga kaimahi a Te Papa Atawhai.

Today marks the start of Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori / Māori Language Week (July 21—27).

Celebrate Māori Language Week 2014.

Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori is a chance to celebrate and learn more about te reo—a unique and important part of our identity as New Zealanders.

This year’s theme is Te Kupu o te Wiki, or The Word of the Week, which encourages us to broaden our vocabulary by learning a new Māori word each week for 50 weeks.

Department of Conservation (DOC) staff are taking on the challenge.

Visit the Kōrero Māori website the if you’re keen to join us.

Manu / bird. Director-General Lou Sanson shares the word for the week beginning 27 April 2015.

Manu / bird. Director-General Lou Sanson shares one of the 50 kupu

Hopefully, by taking on the Te Kupu o te Wiki challenge, we will make more Māori words and phrases commonplace around DOC.

The Taupo Fishery team is working on an exciting project to bring captive bred whio/blue duck to the Tongariro National Trout Centre near Turangi and to prepare them for life in the wild.

Adult whio/blue duck standing on a rock by a river in the wild.

Adult whio/blue duck in the wild

A new whio hardening facility is being opened which will provide a safe environment for young birds from the whio captive breeding programme to develop their white water skills before they are released into the wild.

Sign for the  whio hardening facility at the National Tongariro Trout Centre.

Whio hardening facility coming soon

Construction of the hardening facility began in April and will hopefully be completed by August. The project involves the conversion of an old water raceway into a stretch of fast flowing river complete with rocks and gravel to mimic a natural stream bed.

Conversion of the raceway at the National Tongariro Trout Centre.

Raceway conversion

Young whio need to develop the strength to tackle fast flowing rivers which will be their home in the wild, and this new facility will act as their gymnasium.

Liner laid down for the whio hardening facility.

Liner for the whio hardening facility

The facility will also be a retirement home for some of the older birds that have played an important part in DOC’s breeding programme.

Whio that are too old to breed or to adjust to life in the wild will have a safe home to live out the rest of their lives.

Rocks and gravel laid down to mimic a stream bed.

Rocks and gravel to mimic a stream bed

This project is part of the Whio Forever partnership between DOC and Genesis Energy to save New Zealand’s unique whio/blue duck.

Follow updates about the whio hardening facility on the Taupo Trout Fishery Facebook page.

Come behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Today we profile Nadine Bott, Project Leader for the Cook Strait Whale Project based in Wellington.

At work

Collecting biopsy samples from humpback whales in the Cook Strait. Photo: Marlborough Express.

Collecting biopsy samples of humpback whales

Some things I do in my job include:

I’m currently overseeing the Cook Strait whale project. Before going on maternity leave in 2012 I was with DOC for almost 10 years working in the marine and freshwater teams. My role at the moment involves keeping the project afloat, organising the logistics of the whale survey, undertaking the research and then writing up the season’s work. The research involves spotting for humpback whales from a land based lookout on East Head of Tory Channel, going out in the DOC Kaikoura boat ‘Titi’ and approaching the whales to take photo identification samples of the tail flukes and biopsy skin samples for DNA analysis.

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by:

It is a collaborative project with the community and business with considerable volunteer support, while achieving (hopefully!) a greater understanding of humpback whales to aid in their conservation, management and protection.

The best bit about my job is:

Working with a variety of different people within DOC and externally, working with whales and having an ‘office’ in a pretty spectacular place.

The awesome-est DOC moment I’ve had so far is:

While working in the subantarctic Auckland and Campbell Islands. Pretty hard place to beat in terms of ‘awesome-est’. I would love to go back one day.

Nadine measuring Chatham Island mudfish.

Measuring Chatham Island mudfish – an endemic poorly known freshwater fish

The DOC (or previous DOC) employee that inspires or enthuses me most is:

I would have to say the RMA planners that I worked with, Sarah Bagnall, Janice Duncan and Claire Graeme – three incredibly smart, enquiring, passionate and courageous women. Another would be Roy Grose, an inspiring leader loved by his community and who has always been supportive and instrumental in getting the whale survey up and running. I have great respect for the rangers in the field who give their heart, energy and time to conservation with little reward or expectation of reward.

On a personal note…

The song that always cheers me up is:

At the moment it is Birdy ‘Light me up’.

My greatest sporting moment was when:

While walking 100 kilometres for Oxfam I remember complaining that my burst blisters hurt more than childbirth and a lady who overheard my comment said ‘you obviously haven’t given birth’. My naive response was ‘you obviously haven’t walked 100 kilometres on burst blisters’.

Nadine with her camera taking photos of humpback whales in Cook Strait.

Photo identification of humpback whales in Cook Strait

In my spare time:

I don’t have any.

If I could be any New Zealand native species I’d be:

I have a few favourite animal species but I like to be warm and they all seem to live in cold water.

Before working at DOC:

I worked at Massey University doing autopsies on stranded and bycaught marine mammals.

Nadine and her family at WOMAD.

At WOMAD with my family: David, Dayananda (2) and Aroha (3 months)

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is:

“Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given:

That I can do it and not to listen to skeptics.

In work and life I am motivated by:

Compassion, selflessness, people in action

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is:

Stand up for what you believe in.

Nadine with Carlos Olavarria and Joe Heberley looking for humpbacks through binoculars from Arapawa Island.

With Carlos Olavarria and Joe Heberley (ex-whaler from Perano Whaling Station) looking for humpbacks

Question of the week…

What is your favourite marine mammal and why?

A tricky question because every species I have worked on has had its unique strength or endearing characteristic. I would probably have to say southern right whales because when I worked with them it was in the Auckland Islands where they were breeding and this is a pretty spectacular site plus there were calves which are incredibly cute. The whales were interactive, gentle and very visible with lots of breaching, tail slapping and rolling around on the water surface. It is easy to see how they were hunted so effectively by shore based whalers leading to their near extinction.

Nadine and others audio conferencing with LEARNZ students.

Live audio conferencing with schools as part of the LEARNZ Wandering Whales virtual field trip

Ever wondered what DOC rangers do in a typical busy day? Well, Rangers Daryl and Keith help look after a wonderful piece of New Zealand’s bush very close to Wellington.

Ranger Daryl Stephens at Papatahi Hut checking off a list.

Ranger Daryl making sure Papatahi Hut is up to scratch

Rimutaka Forest Park is a 40 minute drive from Wellington city.

From the Catchpool Valley (the most popular entrance to Rimutaka Forest Park) you’re only a 2-3 hour easy tramp away from six awesome DOC huts, with full kitchens—including cookers, cutlery, crockery, and firewood. One hut even has a gas BBQ, inside flushing toilet and a hot shower.

A DOC ute before being loaded up with gear.

The trusty DOC ute

As these huts are very busy someone has to make sure that they are always in good working order.

This is where Ranger Daryl and Keith come in.

Every month they load up their trusty DOC ute and spend 3-4 days at the huts, making sure everything is spick and span.

They have lots of different jobs to do. Some are fun (cleaning the toilets), and some are less so (having a nap on the bunks to make sure the mattress is comfy).

Driving the DOC ute off-road beside a stream in Rimutaka Forest Park.

Off-road

Their day starts early, loading up the ute with all they think they need, from soap and toilet paper, through to firewood, gas and chainsaws.

Ranger Daryl Stephens checking a hose pipe near the stream.

Checking the water supply

Once they are at the hut they have an extensive list to go through to make sure the hut is okay:

Clean the loos, the gutters, the floor, wash the decks, check the cookers, check the water in the tanks, check the water pipes, check windows, check all the walls of the hut, a visual inspection of the roof, check no bush is too close to the hut, check the animal traps, check the signs, remove all rubbish and of course sign the hut book!

This is done for all six huts. They also walk the main tracks and check for windfall and track damage. I’m tired just thinking about it all.

Last and not least some advice from Ranger Keith:

“Empty wine bottles do not make good candle holders as they can fall over and start a fire, so please take them home with you.”

And if you do take away empty wine bottles, Ranger Daryl guarantees that:

“You will get good tramping karma and it will never rain on your tramping trip ever again.”

Ranger Daryl Stephens inspecting the water tank at a hut.

Water tanks

So, the next time you spend a night in one of our wonderful backcountry huts think about these rangers who spend their day making it comfortable for you to use, and make sure you leave a nice comment in the hut book.


The six huts in the Rimutaka Forest Park can be booked on a per night basis and sleep 4-14. They’re perfect for families and people wanting to know for sure that they have a bed for the night. They are also sole occupancy huts (meaning you don’t need to share with anyone else!). These huts can get busy, so it’s best to book early.

Haurangi Hut | Jans Hut | Turere Lodge | Raukawa Hut | Papatahi Hut | Boar Inn

Today’s photo of the week is of two newly hatched dotterell/tūturiwhatu chicks in their nest on a Bay of Plenty beach.

Their camouflaged eggs are laid in a scrape in the sand, and can be easily crushed by beach goers as they’re sometimes hard to see.

Newly hatched dotterel chicks in a nest on a beach. Photo: Mithuna Sothieson.

DOC is looking for volunteers in the eastern Bay of Plenty area to get involved with the conservation of our feathered shore friends.

Volunteers will need to be able to commit for the duration of the shorebird season which runs from September to February. More information is available on the DOC website.

Photo by DOC Services Ranger Mithuna Sothieson.

 

This blog post was originally posted on the Explore Group’s website.

The Project Island Song partners—the Guardians, Ngati Kuta and Patukeha hapu and DOC—recently translocated 43 North Island robin/toutouwai from Pureora Forest in the central North Island to a new home on Moturua Island in the Eastern Bay of Islands/Ipipiri.

North Island robin/toutouwai in a tree. Photo: Richard Robbins/Sally Wells.

North Island robin/toutouwai.

Dr Kevin Parker from Parker Conservation and Massey University lead a large team of 20 which doubled as a training exercise for groups from both Pureora and the Bay of Islands.

The translocation was initiated between the hapu from both areas.

Robins being unloaded on Moturua Island. Photo: Richard Robbins/Sally Wells.

Robins being unloaded on Moturua Island

Firstly, a team from Nga Hapu o Rawhiti in Pureora went ahead to locate and pre-feed the birds, then the full crew arrived for three days of catching.

The catching was mainly done using clap traps, with some mist netting.

The male quota of 25 was caught by the middle of the second day, but the females proved a bit more elusive, with 18 caught by the end of day three.

A North Island robin being banded on Moturua Island. Photo: Richard Robbins/Sally Wells.

A North Island robin being banded

The toutouwai were then transported to Paihia overnight in a campervan provided by Wilderness Motorhomes, and then taken to Moturua Island the next morning where kaumatua and kuia were there to welcome them along with around 50 people who were transported to the island by the Explore Group.

Robins being released on Moturua Island by local volunteers. Photo: Richard Robbins/Sally Wells.

Release time

This was Project Island Song’s first wild to wild translocation.

To find out more visit the Project Island Song website.

Ranger and conservation dog on the boat. Photo: Richard Robbins/Sally Wells.

Ranger and conservation dog