By Lou Sanson, Director-General
Million Dollar Mouse completes the job
Last week our Million Dollar Mouse team on Antipodes Island achieved full coverage of two bait drops aimed at eradicating mice from the island. This is a remarkable achievement in mid-winter in the Southern Ocean.
Their blogs have been some of the best I’ve seen direct from a DOC field operation. Their blog featuring video of the first bait application is one of my favourites.
With three helicopters, 13 staff, 65 tonnes of brodifacoum, 30 tonnes of fuel and two ships, this is one of the most complex jobs we have taken on recently, on one of New Zealand’s most isolated islands.
Awaroa beach – now part of Abel Tasman National Park
Two weekends ago, Awaroa beach officially became part of Abel Tasman National Park, after the crowdfunding campaign which raised money from the public to buy it.
Several of our staff were involved in organising the celebration which marked the official handover of the beach to DOC’s management on behalf of all New Zealanders.
The real beauty of this story is that it shows how much the public appreciates and values our nature.
US Ambassador celebrates 100 years of US National Parks Service
A number of us were pleased to be invited to the US Ambassador Mark Gilbert’s Fourth of July celebrations, where he gave an inspirational speech on the value of national parks. Ambassador Gilbert’s speech recognised New Zealand’s distinction of having one of the first national parks in the world (Tongariro, established in 1887).
Ambassador Gilbert has, in the short time he’s been in post, visited four of our National Parks and is now exhibiting some of his photos in Wellington.
Amy Satterfield, one of our Partnerships Rangers in Taupo, has led the relationship with the US Embassy on events to mark the centennial year of the US National Parks Service. So far, with the Embassy, we have had Rimutaka Forest Park tree plantings, Kapiti Island interpretation panel funding support and reveal, and completed the Tongariro crossing with US Embassy staff. Future events planned with the Embassy include a social media photography contest; a Kapiti Island fencing project; Motutapu Island planting restoration event; and a citizen science initiative. Healthy Nature Healthy People is a particular focus of our work with the Embassy.
Fulton Hogan partnership great news for takahē
It was a great pleasure to join Bob Fulton, Sandra Cook of Ngāi Tahu, the New Zealand National Parks and Conservation Foundation, and DOC staff from our Takahē Recovery Programme and Te Anau Office as we celebrated the launch of a new partnership with Fulton Hogan to support takahē recovery.
The five-year $1 million partnership will enable us to work with Ngāi Tahu to identify potential new recovery sites in the South Island to establish a new wild takahē population, with greater access for the public. The takahē team have already started work on assessing new sites within Kahurangi National Park.
We now have approximately 100 birds in Murchison Mountains, the only wild population of takahē. Through expanded predator control work across 50,000 hectares here (including close to 3,500 stoat traps) this is one of the largest areas managed for low pest numbers in New Zealand.
The focus over the last five years has been increasing the breeding pair capacity at the Burwood Takahē Centre and at secure sites nationally. This, along with ceasing puppet hand rearing, has enabled a huge jump in the number of birds being produced annually. We had the biggest ever release of 25 takahē back into the Murchison Mountains in 2015, and it’s likely that the population will pass the magic number of 300 birds later this year.
So it’s really great news that the Fulton Hogan deal comes at this critical time for further securing the future of takahē.
Glenfern Sanctuary purchase a key part of predator-free New Zealand puzzle
Earlier this month I was delighted to join DOC operations manager Geoff Woodhouse on a visit with Scott Sambell, manager of Great Barrier Island’s Glenfern Sanctuary. This visit followed the purchase of Glenfern by the Nature Heritage Fund ($975,000), Auckland Council and the Great Barrier Local Board ($1.25million combined), and the community trust Foundation North ($675,000).
Since Tony Bouzaid’s death, Scott has been investing in the maintenance of the predator free area with leading edge GIS technology, resulting in a significant recovery of both black petrels/taiko and Cook’s petrel, which has been attracted in to breed in the sanctuary with acoustic devices.
The 83 hectare sanctuary joins with DOC land on Kotuku Peninsula and will be run through tourism and accommodation to fund the costs. The ultimate vision is to work closely with iwi and DOC on achieving a predator free Northern Great Barrier Island/Te Paparahi.
New MOU with Greater Wellington Regional Council
Our Lower North Island team has signed a new Memorandum of Understanding with the Greater Wellington Regional Council. The aim of the agreement is to streamline and simplify the way DOC works with the council on Resource Management Act matters and could lay the groundwork for similar agreements around the country. Councils are a critical partner for the Department and this agreement will help align our shared goals in a way that benefits our current and future work together. Great job to our staff in the Lower North Island region and Planning, Permissions and Land, and at GWRC for putting this agreement together.
Working with the New Zealand Conservation Authority
I would like to acknowledge the critical role that the New Zealand Conservation Authority (NZCA) plays in our success as an organisation. Having had 11 years working under a Board structure at Antarctica New Zealand, I personally highly value the role NZCA plays in testing and improving our strategy, ensuring we remain connected to our communities and Treaty partners, and their ability to give both myself and the Minister free and frank advice about DOC’s strategic direction and priorities.
Under Warren Parker’s superb leadership they have been a critical player as we move to improve and simplify our processes in preparing Conservation Management Strategies and Management Plans. They regularly travel around New Zealand to engage with our Conservation Boards, iwi, whanau and hapū, and our communities. We highly value their contribution to conservation.