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It’s Conservation Week and there is a fantastic grand prize on offer―a summer getaway to Great Barrier Island! All you have to do to enter is pick a simple conservation pledge to complete throughout the week. It can be anything from completing a conservation quiz or going for a walk in a local wilderness area.

But I know decisions can be hard, so we have made it even easier for you; simply answer a few simple yes/no questions, follow the arrows, and the chart will tell you what kind of pledge you should be making. When you’ve finished, click the box you end up on to explore the right pledges for you. It couldn’t be easier.

Remember to check out your options on the Conservation Week website and make a pledge:

I hope you are all having a fantastic Conservation Week!

When Ranginui, the sky father, and Papatuanuku, the Earth mother, were separated by their children, the God of the winds—Tawhirimatea—became so angry that he tore out his eyes and threw them into the heavens.

For Māori, the rising of these stars (called Matariki – ‘the eyes of God’), is celebrated by giving gratitude to Papatūānuku, practicing whakawhanaungatanga (establishing relationships and relating well to others) and valuing manaakitanga (hospitality and kindness).

Matariki in the night sky. Image courtesy of pbkwee, flickr.com.

Matariki in the night sky

Known as the Māori New Year, Matariki is also a time to give respect to the unique land we live on; a time of growth, to plant new trees and crops; to gather with whānau and friends and to reflect on what has been and what is yet to come. A time of new beginnings.

Traditionally, the success of the following season’s crops would be determined by Matariki. The brighter the stars, the warmer the season and the more plentiful the crops would be.

The flying of kites at a Matariki celebration. Image courtesy of Chris Gin, flickr.com.

The flying of kites at a Matariki celebration

In days gone by, Māori used the concept of manaaki (care) of the natural resources to survive,” says DOC’s Kaihautu – Te Putahitanga (Manager – Strategic Partnerships) Joe Harawira.

“For Māori, sustainability of resources was crucial to our survival. Our people had to adapt to the sometimes harsh and inhospitable conditions that were encountered upon arrival to Aotearoa. This was the time where they learned how to live, to breathe, to know and to understand how to live with the environment; how to co-exist. They wore the mantle of the land with dignity and respect, hearkened to the ways of nature, appreciated the elements, and speculated the cosmos. Therefore, the environment and its care are at the forefront of the celebrations around Matariki”.

To get in on the action and celebrate this time of new beginnings, bring friends and family along to one of the many events around the country. Eventfinder has a good list to choose from, and the Matariki Festival website has ideas for how you can celebrate from home—recipes, craft ideas, competitions and more.

Planting of trees. Image courtesy of Sandra Burles, DOC.

Matariki is a time to plant new trees and crops

Star gazing

Matariki is the group of stars also known as the Pleiades star cluster or The Seven Sisters. The pre-dawn rise of Matariki can be seen in the last few days of May, with the New Year marked by the sighting of the next new moon that occurs during June. This year it will occur on 23 June. This also happens to be a super moon, so it will be at its closest point to the Earth (known as a lunar perigee), shining brighter and larger than usual.

So, set the alarm for around 5.30 am, wrap up warmly and drag yourself outside. The best time to see Matariki is about half an hour before dawn.

1. Find the pot (the bottom three stars of the pot are called tautoru, or Orion’s Belt).

2. To the left of the pot, find the bright orange star, Taumata-kuku (Alderbaran).

3. Keep going left from Taumata-kuku until you find a cluster of stars. That is Matariki. You may be able to see the individual stars among the cluster, but if it’s a bit fuzzy, look just below or above it and they will appear clearer.

4. Get comfy and spend a few moments reflecting on the year that was and the year to come.

Matariki signals change—preparation and making plans to take action. We appreciate our whenua and celebrate the diversity of life. We learn about who came before us, our history and our heritage. Not only do we acknowledge what we have, we acknowledge what we have to give.

Pre-dawn sky. Image courtesy of irkstyle, flickr.com.

The best time to see Matariki is about half an hour before dawn.

A Mr S Claus has been detained after flying into New Zealand air space with undeclared animals, unwanted organisms and CITES listed threatened species.

Mr Claus has been unable to provide documentation to show that the has passed biosecurity clearance.

Mr Claus has been unable to provide documentation to show that the has passed biosecurity clearance

The animals—nine reindeer—were impounded on arrival and Mr Claus has so far been unable to provide documentation to show that they have passed biosecurity clearances.

“This is a blatant breach of both CITES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and New Zealand’s biosecurity laws, ”  says a senior DOC spokesperson.

“The contents of a bag have been found and appears to hold many personal items that Mr Claus insisted were gifts, and also contained a number of rare parrots from tropical countries. This could be a real feather in the cap for busting a bird smuggling ring“.

Mr Claus insisted he knew nothing of the parrots and was just asked to pass the plain brown wrappers onto someone else on the other side of the border.

The sledge that Mr Claus was riding is made from a rare hardwood from an un-sustainably managed rainforest. The wood is on the CITIES threatened species database of prohibited timbers. Exotic spiders were also found crawling under the vehicle; Claus claimed he hadn’t used it in nearly 12 months.

He was dressed in polar bear fur from his head to his foot and his clothes were tarnished with ashes and soot. His gumboots were covered in dirt and reindeer faeces which carried numerous diseases including didymo.

Mr Claus was wearing gumboots covered in dirt and reindeer faeces.

Mr Claus was wearing gumboots covered in dirt and reindeer faeces

Furthermore, Claus was suspected to be under the influence of illegal drugs. His eyes were too twinkly, he was far too merry, his cheeks were too rosy, his nose like a cherry. The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, and the smoke encircled his head like a wreath.

Picked up (only by specially trained rodent dogs) was a small mouse—undetected by staff due to its lack of stirring.

Picked up (only by specially trained rodent dogs) was a small mouse—undetected by staff due to its lack of stirring