By Lou Sanson, Director-General
Last week I visited the Mackenzie Basin with the new chief executive of Land Information New Zealand (LINZ), Andrew Crisp, where we were hosted by DOC’s Twizel operations manager Sally Jones.
There we met with the chief executives of Waitaki District (Mike Ross) and Mackenzie District (Wayne Barnett) and the chair of the Mackenzie Country Trust, Mike Neilson.
Our key objectives were to review and understand how both LINZ and DOC can better support the outcomes of the Mackenzie Country Vision through tenure review; how we can work together to get even more integrated management over the threat of wilding pines in the Mackenzie Basin; and address tourism growth.
Andrew and I have made a commitment to jointly support the work of the Mackenzie Country Trust as much as we possibly can over the next year towards the Mackenzie Country Vision.
Tourism growth under the dark sky
In Tekapo we met Graeme Murray and his son David who hold a 50% share of Earth & Sky with new business partners Ngāi Tahu Tourism.
Back in 2007 Earth and Sky (Graeme Murray with the University of Canterbury) hosted 100 visitors.
Their aim was to generate international awareness of the dark sky and raise its profile on the world stage – they’ve definitely achieved that.
Today that same business hosts 200,000 visitors; employs 90 staff and is about to receive nearly half of the $8m set aside for the Government’s Tourism Growth Partnership fund.
It was inspirational to see what a few passionate people can create in such a short time.
In parallel to this, Graeme has been working with Honourable Margaret Austin, former politician, to establish an Astronomical Heritage site and give the Mackenzie dark sky UNESCO World Heritage status.
DOC supported the application to the International Dark Sky Association and is now a member of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve (AMIDSR) Board.
Lake Angelus visit – Nelson Lakes National Park
Recently I was able to represent the Department at the NEXT Foundation, Project Janszoon Christmas party in Nelson, where I thanked the many people who have contributed to their success.
Over the weekend I walked into Lake Angelus in rain and snow and met two of our volunteer hut wardens. Chris and Viv Shaw have been active in conservation since 2000. They live in Te Anau and established the Pomona Island Charitable Trust. They have taken all predators off this island and have now shifted 19 Haast tokoeka, robins and mohua back on.
Viv was the chair of the Southland Conservation Board for four years and this is their third trip to be volunteer wardens at Lake Angelus.
The role of volunteers never ceases to amaze me and it was such a privilege to hear the Shaws’ conservation story just after celebrating with all the NEXT Foundation and Project Janszoon staff and volunteers.
I really want to acknowledge the contribution Andy Cox, one of our threats managers, has made to me personally in my career, before he retires next week.
I first worked with Andy in the Kakapo Recovery team in 1981, when he asked me to do a field survey of the Southern Tin range where, sadly, we found three dead birds.
In 1987 I appointed Andy to work for me during the set-up of DOC and he has been a huge mentor for me personally in the management of biodiversity both when I looked after the subantarctic islands and Southland Conservancy.
In my role as D-G he has remained a mentor and his legacy will be some of the outstanding work we have done on island eradication, ecosystem prioritisation, quarantine and threats management.
I wish Andy all the best in his retirement.