By Lou Sanson, Director-General
Welcoming visitors to ‘Te Ao Marama’ in Franz Josef
It was a real pleasure to represent the Department with Mike Slater at the opening of the new Franz Josef Visitor Centre, built as a partnership with Ngāi Tahu Tourism.
Sir Mark Solomon and I opened the building with a great representation of Ngāi Tahu and the Franz Josef community.
Te Ao Marama combines a public/private partnership including the DOC visitor centre, a new cafe, Glacier Hot Pools and Glacier Guides all working together. This will benefit both DOC and visitors to Franz with record numbers now using the facility.
The name comes from Ngāi Tahu where Te Koeti Turanga went into the glacier and was awed by the light of the ice-cave – Te Ao Marama.
Battle for our Birds
The coming month will see us initiate pest control operations as part of the Battle for our Birds.
This year’s Budget included $20.7 million to help us tackle the problem of a huge boost in rodent numbers as a result of heavy seeding in beech forests.
These ‘beech mast’ events do not occur every year but when they do, the effect on native wildlife is catastrophic. Rats and mice feast on the increased food, providing more food in turn for stoats who then predate on our vulnerable native species.
See our website for more on the Battle for our Birds.
New partner for Kākāpō Recovery Programme
Recently Meridian Energy CEO Mark Binns, along with our Threatened Species Ambassador Nic Toki and myself, briefed Meridian staff on their new partnership with DOC.
I’m rapt that Meridian Energy has come on board to support the work we are doing with Ngāi Tahu to conserve the kākāpō for future generations.
Meridian has committed to support the Kākāpō Recovery Programme for the next three years. These three years will be vital as the team builds on the 2016 bumper breeding season and focuses on addressing key research decisions to help manage the species.
The Kākāpō Recovery Programme leads the world in endangered species conservation. It pioneered artificial insemination for wild birds in 2009, has developed technological innovations like the snark and Skyranger, and have ultimately brought a species back from the brink of extinction. There are now 123 adult kākāpō in existence – we once had fewer than 20.
Congratulations to Room 7 from Dunedin’s Tainui School who won the trip to visit the albatross centre on Taiaroa Head.
This project has been a fantastic example of how technology can bring stories of our native species and places to life. With 380,000 views on the Royalcam live stream and 11,500 comments, it’s clear that Moana has captivated audiences everywhere as she’s grown up in the spotlight.
At the recent Community Conservation Conference in Dunedin, I heard how significant these birds are to the Otago tourism economy and the role the webcam has played in growing tourism there.
New Summer Scholarships for students
I’m pleased to announce DOC is joining up with New Zealand universities to fund 20 ten-week summer scholarships. The scholarships will be on projects jointly agreed between DOC and the university, covering a range of topics that cut right across our interests, such as species, habitat, tourism and social aspects of conservation.
The initiative has been led by our Chief Science Advisor Ken Hughey and will be managed out of our Science and Policy group. Ken’s also been steadily working to build our relationships with universities and establish a set of relationship principles to guide how DOC works with universities into the future.
Wildbase – New Zealand’s only dedicated wildlife hospital
I visited Wildbase Recovery at Massey University on Friday 10 June with our Operations Director for the lower North Island, Reg Kemper. Last year, their dedicated wildlife hospital treated 317 native wildlife patients, at little or no cost to DOC or the members of the public who brought them in. They are rehabilitating precious native species such as kererū, kiwi, penguins, takahē and tuatara.
The Wildbase Recovery Community Trust is now very close to raising $5.69m to build a full recovery facility including purpose-built rehabilitation aviaries, permanent inflight and breeding aviaries, and an education centre. The plan is to make the facility open to the public, so people can view the wildlife as they recover in a natural habitat.
Wildbase was set up by Massey University and the Palmerston North City Council. DOC has provided some funding support and they have secured support from a range of other sponsors.
Highly invasive seaweed may be eradicated
It’s great to hear that Environment Southland biosecurity officers, along with our Te Anau staff and the ‘Southern Winds’, have not seen the highly invasive seaweed undaria in Fiordland waterways since December 2015. ES has been monitoring the waterways monthly and if eradication has been achieved, this is a fantastic achievement.
Sean Cooper and I attempted an undaria eradication on Rakiura/Stewart Island from 1996-1999. If we have achieved this it will be the first eradication of an invasive seaweed species done in the world!