D-G Direct: An update from Lou Sanson

Department of Conservation —  03/11/2016

By Lou Sanson, Director-General

World’s largest marine protected area announced

We welcome the decision by the Meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) to establish the world’s largest marine protected area in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica.

Adélie penguin.

The Ross Sea will become the world’s largest marine protected area

The MPA covers 1.55 million square kilometres and 72% of this will be fully protected. This decision is a reflection of significant science and policy investment supported by a strong diplomatic push by Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully and US Senator John Kerry. New Zealand and the United States have been working closely with the other 23 countries that make up CCAMLR to get a decision after 10 years of work by a wide range of organisations, scientists and NGOs.

This was truly a huge collaborative effort led by New Zealand and USA with the support of many others. I’d particularly like to acknowledge the efforts of:

• The work of officials at MFAT, MPI and DOC (particularly Danica Stent and Debbie Freeman)
• Peter Young of Fisheye Films, director of the “The Last Ocean”, which had an incredible impact advocating for protection of the Ross Sea.
• Special mention of the efforts of the NGO community, including Barry Weeber from ECO, and WWF New Zealand’s Bob Zuur, Rebecca Bird and Ann McCrone, for their tireless advocacy and support.
• The support of Sanford Ltd (many of our science teams were carried on their ships)
• Above all, excellent science by NIWA.
• We can be justly proud of DOC’s involvement in this landmark decision to protect the world’s most pristine ocean ecosystem.

Labour Weekend visits

Over Labour Weekend I was able to visit a number of our staff who work through the public holiday.

I met up with Jasmine Hessell, our operations manager in Whanganui, and rangers Jim Campbell and Shane Woolley. They are facing their busiest ever season on the Whanganui River with record bookings for canoes and cycling. At Bridge to Nowhere they are planning how to deal with congestion at the single landing site. They have also been successful with new funding from the Air New Zealand Great Walks biodiversity project to work on species management along the river and I heard of the success of their 180,000 hectare Kia Wharite integrated predator management work in partnership with Horizons Regional Council and Wanganui Iwi.

Jim Campbell, Jas Hesseel and Shane Woolley at Tieke on the Whanganui River.

Jim Campbell, Jas Hesseel and Shane Woolley at Tieke on the Whanganui River

At Whakapapa I was able to join operations manager Paul Carr and Dr Harry Keys (Technical Advisor, Volcanology) with staff from DOC and Ruapehu Alpine Lifts as they used the first fine day in early spring to clear the winter’s ice and snow from their two volcanic hazard monitoring sites adjacent to the Ruapehu Crater Lake. DOC has invested over $1 million in volcanic safety systems to provide as much warning as possible to the thousands of people that recreate and visit Tongariro National Park. Harry Keys has worked with GNS, EQC, Genesis Energy, RAL and others for 18 years in developing this crucial system for safety management.

Pureora Timber Trail

With my daughter Georgia, I visited Pureora for the first time since 1977, when I worked there as a ranger. We completed the first day of the 85km Timber Trail, opened in March 2013.

A Snapchat from the Pureora Timber Trail with Lou's daughter Georgia.

A Snapchat from the Pureora Timber Trail with daughter Georgia

We were so impressed with the dawn chorus of birds through Pureora Forest. The diversity of robins, kaka, tui, bellbirds and long-tailed cuckoos in the early morning sun are a testament to the huge amount of predator work done by our staff, TbFree and the community, both with aerial 1080 and ground-based control. It’s also tribute to those New Zealanders who led the charge in 1978 to save our native forests from logging with the Maruia Declaration, which collected 340,000 signatures.

The Northern Pureora Forest is also where we have just confirmed our first genetically robust population of kokako after 40 years of sustained pest control work.

Cycling through Pureora Forest as the sun rose, and seeing the alpine forest on Mt Pureora were two real highlights of our five-hour cycle trip.

Recent project successes

I’d like to commend two projects that have been going for a while which have both made outstanding progress over the last two weeks.

The South-East Marine Protection Forum was formed by the Ministers of Conservation and Primary Industries in 2013, with a strong commitment from iwi partners. They have announced 20 potential marine protected areas for the South-East coast of the South Island and are going out to public consultation. I would particularly like to credit Kim Morgan, Kate Tanner and Greig Funnell from DOC, as well as Tania Cameron of MPI.

As part of a pilot to rapidly improve our speed of management planning, Marie Long (DOC’s director of planning, permissions and land) has led the process of reviewing the Paparoa National Park Management Plan, including provision for the proposed Pike 29 Great Walk. I was privileged to be at the New Zealand Conservation Authority when it was presented by the West Coast Conservation Board, Ngāi Tahu, and our staff.

The entire process is to be completed in 12 months, our fastest ever; and in the view of Sir Mark Solomon, Kaiwhakahaere of Ngāi Tahu, this is the most successful engagement  Ngāi Tahu has yet had with DOC on management planning.

I’d especially like to credit DOC’s Sarah Wilson and Robyn Roberts for the work they have done in leading this.

There is also an outstanding resource kit for West Coast schools on the history and ecology of the Paparoas.

Lonely Planet names Taranaki their number 2 international region to visit in 2017

It was great to see the Taranaki region in the spotlight after Lonely Planet named it their number two region in the world to visit in 2017; and New Zealand as their number two adventure destination for families.

Mt Taranaki in the tarns. Photo: Kathrin and Stefan Marks | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Mt Taranaki in the tarns. Photo: Kathrin and Stefan Marks | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Critically, Lonely Planet identified the Pouakai Crossing as “one of New Zealand’s best short hikes” and a great alternative to the very popular Tongariro Crossing.

As we see visitor numbers continuing to rise, it’s fantastic to have this kind of exposure highlighting the incredible experiences visitors can access away from the main tourist routes. A key part of our strategy for handling the increase in tourism demand is to actively promote short walks, huts, campsites and heritage sites that encourage regional dispersal and off season opportunities at lesser known destinations. This, along with supporting our staff and investing in areas with high tourism traffic, will see us through the busiest of seasons.

I’ve congratulated our staff in Taranaki for the part they play in making their region such a fantastic and inspiring destination for visitors to this country.

2 responses to D-G Direct: An update from Lou Sanson

    Prue Fairbrass 11/11/2016 at 10:57 am

    I have just spent nearly a month in the North Island trying in adverse weather conditions to continue my journey on the Te Araroha Trail. Although some areas were not well marked, most of the tracks were easy to follow. Thanks DOC.


    These are wonderful projects. I was born and lived in NZ but haven’t been back for some years. I miss our beautiful country. Thank you for all your work.