Biodiversity day creates a storm

Department of Conservation —  28/06/2014

Partnerships Ranger John Barkla writes about the recent community day in Dunedin to celebrate the International Day for Biological Diversity.

In a scene reminiscent of the Pied Piper of Hamelin I watched as Ranger Jim Fyfe, grim determination etched on his face, led the unsuspecting children up the hill away from their parents. Actually it was all above board and the kids were willing and enthusiastic tree planters on Quarantine Island/Kamau Taurua in the Otago Harbour.

Ranger Jim Fyfe leading the children up the hill on Biodiversity Day.

Ranger Jim Fyfe leads the children up the hill

The day started with a gathering on the Otago Peninsula. Four speakers gave unique perspectives on what islands meant to them, with historical, ecological, spiritual and management themes all explored.

While the adults were being enthralled with this, the children were off having a fun learning time under the watchful eye of local Kiwi Conservation Club organiser Tiff Stewart.

For the DOC rangers present it was a chance to reconnect with old friends, make new acquaintances and share island experiences and stories.

Ranger Jim Fyfe planting trees with the children.

Ranger Jim explains the finer points of tree planting

Following a sumptuous lunch we all took the short boat journey to Quarantine Island/Kamau Taurua where resident caretaker Gordon Douglas gave a brief welcome before everyone grabbed a plant or two and carried them up to the planting site amongst tall rank grass.

Once the planting was dispensed with it was time to explore the forest. What started as a pleasant wander, under warm north-westerly conditions, turned into an unforgettable show of the force of nature. With little warning, a south-westerly front hit the island bringing 70 km/hr plus winds that whipped the sea into a fury and drove rain and stinging hail onto those caught by the onslaught.

The storm front approaching the island.

The south-westerly front about to hit

The group was quickly and safely shepherded back along the spine of the island to the ’The Lodge’ where hot drinks and food restored composure. Conditions soon eased enough for everyone to be ferried back to the wharf on the mainland.

This was a day to be remembered; great company and fascinating perspectives with some wild island weather thrown in for good measure!