By Lou Sanson, Director-General
Battle for our Birds gets started in South Island
This year’s Battle for our Birds is now underway in Haast Range, South Westland and the Arthur Valley (Milford Track). If the weather allows, we may also see operations starting in the North Island in the next week.
DOC has nearly 700,000 hectares confirmed for this year’s BFOB operations, and we’ve identified a further 200,000 hectares which will come on stream if rat numbers rise at those locations.
It’s a busy time for rangers in these regions. There’s a massive amount of preparatory work required to get things lined up for on-the-ground operations. Huge thanks to our staff in these regions for all their hard work.
We are planning that this year’s operations will achieve results similar to our last Battle for our Birds in 2014, where our monitoring has shown a positive result for populations of birds such as kaka, korimako/bellbird and robins.
As one of our major pest eradication programmes, the Battle for our Birds is part of the vision for a Predator Free New Zealand 2050. The really exciting aspect of PFNZ 2050 will be building on the science behind BFOB to amplify our predator control efforts even further.
A key change this year is in the contracting of OSPRI to do a significant amount of the work.
Birds of a Feather for predator free island in Tamatea/Dusky Sound
Last weekend, Associate Minister Nicky Wagner and I spoke at the second annual Real Journeys charity ball ‘Birds of the Feather’, where $65,000 was raised for predator control in Tamatea/Dusky Sound. This includes over $35,000 of Dusky Sound-inspired artworks sold on the night.
Real Journeys has committed to help DOC eradicate predators from Cooper Island, a 1779 hectare island in Dusky Sound, a project with an estimated cost of around $300,000. The funds from the charity ball will go towards setting up and maintaining a network of 1,000 stoat and rat traps on the island. Real Journeys will also contribute $100 per person from their 7-day Fiordland Discovery expedition towards the restoration programme.
This wonderful event followed the success of last year’s inaugural Real Journeys ball, where Real Journeys chief executive Richard Lauder and staff raised $35,000 for kākāpō recovery.
Air New Zealand joins DOC’s Te Pūkenga Atawhai
Earlier this month, 18 senior Air New Zealand managers and staff joined 20 of our staff members for the latest Te Pūkenga Atawhai course at Whakatū Marae, Nelson.
These courses were developed to help our people develop their skills in Tikanga Māori in a supportive and empowering environment, and we are really pleased to invite our partners Air New Zealand to join us on this course.
The Air New Zealand staff who attended said they found the sessions on iwi structure and Treaty settlements very valuable. They said they came away with an increased understanding of DOC’s relationship with whanau, hapū and iwi; and insights to help them in their role of welcoming millions of visitors to this country and to our unique culture.
Wild Places EDS Conference 2016
A number of us attended the Environmental Defence Society’s ‘Wild Places’ conference in Auckland last week. This has rapidly become the leading conservation policy and strategy conference in New Zealand. It attracts local government, NGOs, all political parties and groups doing fantastic work for the New Zealand environment.
The atmosphere of this year’s conference was upbeat following the recent announcements around Predator Free New Zealand 2050, Battle for our Birds 2016 and the new $100 million Freshwater Improvement Fund. At the conference, Minister Smith made an announcement about work starting on a national policy statement on biodiversity (to be led by MFE).
The key challenge discussed at Wild Places 2016 was the significant increase in tourism numbers and how to plan for the shift in numbers from three million visitors to five million visitors by 2025. A range of excellent speakers including Air New Zealand CEO Christopher Luxon, managed the debate very well. We are now focused on doing the strategy work, together with our partners, to ensure we continue providing high quality visitor experiences for visitors while protecting our core asset – our nature.
Sustainable Summits Conference 2016 – Aoraki Mt Cook
Last week, I was pleased to present the DOC story (‘Our Nature’) at the Sustainable Summits conference hosted by the New Zealand Alpine Club in Aoraki Mt Cook.
Eight countries were represented at the conference, including Nepal, Canada, USA, Australia, France, Uganda and Malaysia. Organised by Dave Bamford and John *****, the conference focused on minimising our environmental footprint in alpine environments, adapting to climate change, the challenges of increased visitor numbers and waste management.
My presentation focused on some of the key conservation challenges we face in looking after New Zealand alpine environments. Other speakers included Peter Rupitsch (the longest-serving National Park manager in the European Alps), Dawa Steven Sherpa (who championed the ‘Cash for Trash’ clean-up Everest campaign) and Guy Cotter from Adventure Consultants. Our discussions centred on the concept of removable huts, moves to have human waste taken out by alpine recreationists, and increased hazard mitigation.
Southern Alps – changing fast
One of the keynote speakers at Sustainable Summits was Dr Simon Cox from GNS Science, whose presentation titled ‘New Zealand Mountains Falling Down’ explained how plate tectonic motion is absorbed within the Southern Alps while building stress on the Alpine Fault.
This major fault along the western side of the mountains has not failed for 300 years (last time in 1717) and GNS Science expects a 30% probability of a large earthquake within the next 50 years. Such a quake would have a major impact on the DOC estate. We have also lost 30% of our ice fields since 1977.
Dr Cox gave evidence of a huge upswing in rock avalanches over the last 60 years and showed the damage they cause reaching speeds of up to 100km/hour. To highlight the hazards associated with debris flows, he shared a YouTube clip of flows from the Dart River landslide which has had over 600,000 views – it is worth a look.
Dr Cox emphasised that virtually all slopes of over 50 degrees in the central Southern Alps have the potential to fail. He proposed DOC moves beyond the Building Code 50-year life of structures and start thinking of 10-20 year removable huts in higher risk sites and especially alpine environments.
Ski tour to Kelman Hut
Over the weekend at Aoraki Mt Cook, I was able to ski-tour the Tasman Glacier and stay in Kelman Hut. Kelman is one of our highest alpine huts and illustrates many of the challenges we face in our rapidly changing alpine environments.
The hut has a unique history. It was built in 1987, with funding donated by the family of Jill Kelman, one of our Aoraki rangers, who died in a climbing accident on The Eiger in Switzerland. The hut was opened by then-Minister of Conservation Helen Clark in April 1988.
Kelman remains one of New Zealand’s most popular ski mountaineering huts, but today we face increasing maintenance costs relating to moisture, managing human waste, and site stability. The Sustainable Summits Conference was very much about new ways of partnering to reduce these costs and look after these unique assets.
Join the team this Conservation Week
It’s now a little under a month until Conservation Week 2016 (10-18 September), which is again themed around Healthy Nature Healthy People. I’m looking forward to attending some of the events for this year’s campaign and hearing how it goes in locations around the country. Great job to everyone who’s playing a part in showcasing ‘Our Nature’ at Conservation Week this year.