D-G Direct: An update from Lou Sanson

Department of Conservation —  11/05/2015

By Lou Sanson, DOC Director-General

Cave Creek 20th anniversary memorial in Greymouth

I was humbled to represent DOC at the Cave Creek memorial service at Tai Poutini Polytechnic on 28 April, where I met with the victims’ families and survivors.

Lou Sanson with Kit Pawsey's sister Fleur at the memorial stone.

With Kit Pawsey’s sister Fleur at the memorial stone

I was also pleased to hear about the range of memorial events held around the country. Thank you to everyone who helped mark this important anniversary and reinforce the lessons we learned from Cave Creek.

Tai Poutini Outdoor Education

While in Greymouth, I met with the CEO of Tai Poutini Polytechnic, Allan Sargison, and was impressed to learn that more than 1,000 students have completed the Tai Poutini Outdoor Education course since the events of 1995.

Tai Poutini Polytechnic Outdoor Education students. Photo courtesy Tai Poutini Polytechnic.

Tai Poutini Polytechnic Outdoor Education students

Over the years we’ve continued to maintain a strong relationship with the course through the involvement of staff.

Tai Poutini has recently been accredited by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School to begin offering international leadership training based in the outdoors.

Their first 10-day ‘Coast to Coast’ course attracted 190 applicants for its 12 places, and similar programmes are now being developed with China. What a great way to involve leaders from around the world in appreciating our nature.

Cobden Aromahana Sanctuary and Recreation Area

Our Greymouth staff gave me a tour of this restored wetland area, which is the product of a partnership between DOC, Grey District Council, the West Coast Whitebaiters Association and local volunteers.

Greymouth Services Ranger Henk Stengs with the chair of Cobden Aromahana Sanctuary Inc Rob Harrison and Quecha Horning from Grey District Council

DOC Ranger, Henk Stengs; Chair of Cobden Aromahana Sanctuary Inc., Rob Harrison; and Quecha Horning from Grey District Council

Led by Greymouth Ranger, Henk Stengs, and drawing on a partnership fund of $60,000 of mining compensation money, this initiative has transformed what used to be a disused rubbish dump into a high-value recreation space and conservation area for birds and freshwater fish.

New Zealand Fur Council Agreement

It was a pleasure to represent the Minister of Conservation in signing a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the New Zealand Fur Council.

Lou Sanson signing the MOU with the chair of NZ Fur Council Neil Mackie.

Signing the MOU with the chair of NZ Fur Council, Neil Mackie

The agreement was signed at the Perino facility in Upper Hutt, which has a $150 million business exporting merino/possum fur blends. Perino processes 2 million possums a year and employs 90 staff to manufacture their uniquely New Zealand product. On the day I was there, they had over $1 million in possum fur bales coming in from Northland.

This agreement puts conservation right at the heart of what the New Zealand Fur Council does from a marketing perspective and has the potential to double the amount of possum fur product exported annually.

As a former commercial possum trapper, it’s great to see an agreement that supports conservation as well promoting a high-value New Zealand product.

DOC at the heart of NZ tourism

In mid-April, we hosted CEOs from Tourism New Zealand, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, the NEXT Foundation and Air New Zealand in Fiordland.

With Tourism NZ CEO Kevin Bowler, Predator Free NZ’s Rob Fenwick, NEXT Foundation Chair Chris Liddell, Director – Conservation Services Southern South Island Allan Munn, Harbers Foundation-New York’s Renee Harbers, NZTE Chief Executive Peter Chrisp, MBIE Chief Exec David Smol, Air New Zealand CEO Christopher Luxon.

With Tourism NZ CEO Kevin Bowler, Predator Free NZ’s Rob Fenwick, NEXT Foundation Chair Chris Liddell, DOC’s Allan Munn, Harbers Foundation-New York’s Renee Harbers, NZTE Chief Executive Peter Chrisp, MBIE Chief Exec David Smol, Air New Zealand CEO Christopher Luxon

This is the first time we’ve got the CEOs of these groups together to map out a potential way forward for DOC to play a larger role in high-value tourism based in nature and supporting ‘Brand New Zealand’.

As a result of this meeting, we’ve agreed to set up a small group of representatives to work on a ten year strategy for tourism linked to the assets managed by DOC.

Australian parks leaders visit: learning from our close neighbours

On 23-24 April, Kay Booth, Mike Slater and I hosted Australian parks CEOs and Directors in Queenstown—taking the delegation out on the Routeburn Track.

Deputy D-G Conservation Services Mike Slater pictured (far left) with Parks Directors including Director of National Parks Australia Sally Barnes, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service’s Ben Klaassen, Andrew Bridges from Northern Territories Parks, Peter Mooney from Parks and Wildlife Service Tasmania, Andrew Skeat from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Jason Irving from South Australia Parks, Bill Jackson from Parks Victoria.

Deputy D-G Conservation Services Mike Slater pictured (far left) with Parks Directors including Director of National Parks Australia Sally Barnes, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service’s Ben Klaassen, Andrew Bridges from Northern Territories Parks, Peter Mooney from Parks and Wildlife Service Tasmania, Andrew Skeat from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Jason Irving from South Australia Parks, Bill Jackson from Parks Victoria

While our close neighbours are facing many of the same challenges as ourselves, there’s still plenty to be excited about and learn from.

The Healthy Parks, Healthy People initiative is looking like the most significant outcome of the Sydney World Parks forum in 2014.

We also learned that thousands of park users in Australia are now engaged in citizen science. The average user is 22 years old and they’re engaging with innovative apps like ‘Climate Watch’, which allows them to participate in data collection related to 170 indicator species and signs of climate change.

Similarly, all 100 of Australia’s marine reserves are now being monitored by volunteers through a citizen-science initiative, the Reef Life Survey.

Aorangi Restoration Trust

Recently I visited the Aorangi Forest Park along with conservationist Clive Paton (CEO of Ata Rangi wines) and a good mate of mine, Rhys Buckingham (who looks for extinct kokako!).

Volunteer Ben Hancock, birdwatcher Rhys Buckingham and CEO of Ata Rangi Wines Clive Paton.

Volunteer Ben Hancock, birdwatcher Rhys Buckingham and CEO of Ata Rangi Wines Clive Paton

For 20 years Clive has been working on large-scale community conservation in the Southern Wairarapa, assisted by one of our Conservation Partnerships Managers, Chris Lester.

Last year, Clive was awarded the Loder Cup for his contribution to habitat restoration.

Clive leads a group of community leaders who are working on pest management covering 22,000 hectares of Aorangi Forest Park. Much of the resource is coming from TBfreeNZ and the Greater Wellington Regional Council. Clive has also put in a 200 hectare conservation covenant.

The Trust is made up of hunters, fishers, farmers and iwi. They run 1,000 hectares of ground-based predator control and are strong advocates for predator free New Zealand. They have a huge vision to connect the work happening across the Wairarapa with the work in the Rimutakas.

And we’re making progress! DOC Ranger, John Bissell, has largely eradicated goats from the South and West Aorangis, and DOC continues to play a key role in this vision of a pest-free reserve.

New DOC Threatened Species Ambassador role announced

Late last week the Minister announced the creation of a new DOC Threatened Species Ambassador role, which will be a powerful new voice dedicated to raising public awareness of our threatened species and the efforts needed to conserve them.

This is an exciting new awareness and advocacy role, which will have a high public profile.

Air New Zealand is supporting the role for two years as an expansion of our partnership deal.

Farewelling Frana Cardno

Frana Cardno.

Frana Cardno

The week before last I visited DOC’s Invercargill Office, and also attended and spoke at the funeral of Frana Cardno.

Frana served as Mayor of Southland District from 1993 until 2013, becoming the longest-serving female mayor in New Zealand’s history. Her funeral was widely attended by representatives from all sections of the Southland community.

Her love of Fiordland and contribution to conservation was widely recognised. As one of the original protesters on the Save Manapouri campaign, she had a strong affinity for our work.

Her greatest legacy will be the Hump Ridge Track where she was successful in gaining $7 million in government funding for this venture, to give the town of Tuatapere a tourism focus after logging closed in the area. She also played a role in working with us on the creation of Rakiura National Park.

Tribute to our hut wardens

While in Te Anau I was able to attend the end-of-season barbeque for the 25 hut wardens, who’ve broken all previous records by looking after 60,000 bed nights on the Southern Great Walks this season.

These staff are the face DOC, every day and every night, playing a critical role in public safety – which has been a challenge with the big storm events on the Milford this year. Congratulations and thank you to that hard working team.

A typical day for a Fiordland hut warden. Photo: Masako Shinagawa.

A typical day for a Fiordland hut warden

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