A very Happy New Year to you all. I hope you got to spend some time with your loved ones, enjoying Our Nature.
I want to acknowledge all our staff members, volunteers, and partners around the country looking after the many visitors to the DOC estate during this busy summer period and those responding to recent fires. It’s been another busy season, with increased tourist numbers around the country, even if the weather hasn’t been the best at times!
Rata Moehou – North Cape
Just before Christmas, I visited staff at all our Northland offices and took a weekend to visit Cape Reinga/Te Rerenga Wairua in the Far North.
I also hosted ten iwi leaders from Te Hiku in Kaitaia to understand their vision for the Far North. DJ Neho, our operations manager in Kaitaia, took me to North Cape to experience some of New Zealand’s most unique biodiversity in the form of snails and plants. North Cape was one of the few areas in New Zealand that wasn’t submerged under the ocean 23 million years ago and is likely to be where much of New Zealand’s unique flora and fauna was recolonised from.
The highlight was seeing rātā moehau (Bartlett’s rātā). There are only 14 trees remaining. The two trees we visited on Muriwhenua land showed the value of the wonderful partnership between Ngāti Kurī, Ngā Whenua Rāhui, our scientists (Peter de Lange, Andrew Townsend and Jeremy Rolfe) and our operations staff to bring a species back from the brink of extinction. The arrival of possums in Te Hiku in the 1980s has largely wiped out this species. To see a New Zealand tree rarer than kākāpō made a big impact on me.
Landmarks – Kororipo Heritage Park, Kerikeri
At Kerikeri I joined Kipa Munro (Ngāpuhi) and Andrew Blanshard (DOC), who had just launched New Zealand’s first Landmarks Whenua Tohunga site at Kororipo Heritage Park in conjunction with Heritage NZ and the Ministry for Culture and Heritage (MCH). While we have always considered the Stone Store as an iconic historic site at Kerikeri, recent vegetation clearance at Kororipo has brought to life for me one of the Bay of Islands’ biggest Māori kainga and pa sites. Upwards of 3000 people lived there up to the 1800s.
Kipa now works for DOC on Māori heritage and is one of New Zealand’s leaders on Māori weaponry. To hear him explain the value of Landmarks in profiling the cultural history of his people in the actual pa site and for Landmarks to present early Māori and European heritage together at one site reflects the power we can now get from our new Landmarks brand with MCH and Heritage NZ.
Pupu Rangi Nature Sanctuary – Dargaville
On December 20 I was delighted to join with our Te Tai Kauri / Kauri Coast staff to present a $20,000 DOC Community Fund grant to Octavian Grigoriu for his work on controlling predators on his 100 hectare block of land (Pupu Rangi Nature Sanctuary) adjoining Trounson Kauri Park. Over five years he has deployed 60 international volunteers staying for two months each to run bait stations and traps with the advice of Dawson Allely (ex DOC). Through this hard work record numbers of kauri snails and kiwi have been brought back. He is an inspiration to us all!
Te Wharehou O Waikaremoana – Te Urewera
On December 23, I joined Associate Minister of Conservation, Nicky Wagner, our director of Strategic Partnerships/Treaty, Joe Harawira, and other DOC staff at the blessing of the new Waikaremoana Tribal Authority building at Lake Waikaremoana. The event began in the pouring rain and ended with a spectacular pōwhiri under blue skies. It was a momentous day for Tūhoe and DOC who jointly funded the wharehou, and was another significant step towards co-management of Te Urewera.
DOC Senior Works Officer Herwi Scheltus was our key person for this project and did 38 return trips of six hours each from Taupō overseeing the construction and helping bring it to fruition.
Derek Brenchley, seconded from DOC, will be the Waikaremoana Visitor Experience Manager working with his team from the new building which includes a visitor experience and café.
Mount Hikurangi (Te Ara Ki Hikurangi)
When I first joined DOC, Sir Apirana Mahuika invited me to visit Ngati Porou’s sacred maunga, out of respect to our relationship with them as an iwi. Sadly, Api passed away in 2015. Prior to Christmas, I took the opportunity to visit Hikurangi with John Lucas and Jamie Quirk. Read about this memorable trip here.