Qualified to hang around

Department of Conservation —  09/07/2015

By Kath Inwood, DOC Ranger, Nelson

DOC’s abseiling weed team from Takaka have recently undertaken six days of training to obtain their National Certificate in Industrial Rope Access.

Abseiling Mount Burnett, Kahurangi National Park.

Abseiling Mount Burnett, Kahurangi National Park

Darren Foxwell, Brent Hartshorne, Ollie Harris, Amanda Harvey and Ken Brown were internally trained and assessed in 2008, but have now also completed the industry qualification to ensure they are following best practice.

The external trainer assessed the team as being at Level 3 standard already – with only fine tuning needed to pass the qualification.

The six days of training were carried out in the Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter hangar. This setting helped the team to keep safety at the front of their minds during the training exercises.

DOC staff training in the Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter hangar.

Demonstrating competency… in triplicate

The need to have a trained abseil team arose following a review of the access arrangements for the open cast dolomite mine on Mount Burnett, in Kahurangi National Park.

As part of the review, a pest management strategy was produced that identified the need to manage a suite of weeds to protect the habitat for a number of endemic plants, including Carex dolomitica, Hebe albicans and Gingidia aff. montana.

DOC ranger abseiling on Mt Burnett.

Over the top on Mt Burnett

The most abundant weed was Mexican Daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus) which is typically found in difficult to access vertical terrain, like that of Mount Burnett.

The team’s rope skills are not solely reserved for Mount Burnett weed control though, and can come in very handy for a range of other tasks.

Hanging off the Rocks Road cliffs above Tasman Bay.

Assisting the great white butterfly eradication team, Rocks Road cliffs
above Tasman Bay

In November 2014, the team spent a few days hanging off the Rocks Road cliffs above Tasman Bay to assist the Great White Butterfly eradication team by pulling out or spraying host plants such as nasturtium and wallflower.

Being able to access and treat these near-vertical cliffs provided peace of mind for the butterfly team, knowing that these host plants would no longer be potential breeding sites.

Rocks Road cliffs.

Spot the DOC guy, Rocks Road cliffs

Darren Foxwell says that everyone thinks it’s a glamour job. He dashes that illusion pretty quickly.

Training exercises in the hangar.

Training exercises in the hangar

“If you can imagine doing a miserable task on the ground for hours on end – and then imagine doing that task while hanging in an uncomfortable harness, you’re probably a lot closer to the reality”.

That said, he admits he gets to see some of the best views in the world while he’s up there.

The team get to go above and beyond the usual reach. Darren says that he is very proud of what the team does, where they get to, and how professional they are. Now they have the papers to prove it.

One response to Qualified to hang around


    A fantastic skill to have and great to know should I ever fall down a cliff somewhere – heaven help me!