By Lou Sanson, Director-General
I would like to start by acknowledging everyone involved in two recent significant events. New Zealand’s second biggest whale stranding and our busiest fire season, with major fires in Northland, Queenstown, Broken River and the Port Hills.
I was very proud to see the contribution our staff made to these emergency responses and how communities supported each other through these ordeals. Our hearts go out to the people affected by these events.
DOC University Summer Scholarship Programme
Over the summer Ken Hughey, our Chief Science Adviser, trialled a programme of science scholarships at DOC for students from New Zealand’s eight universities.
The programme has been 50/50 funded by DOC and the universities. Altogether 19 students were chosen to work on projects that DOC needed science assistance with – of course some of these projects could well end up as Masters or PhD thesis topics!
The programme therefore involved students working with DOC staff on real conservation science problems. Some of the really valuable projects achieved include:
• Understanding the impact of commercial fishing boats on protected birds
• Analysis of stoat video footage at rock wren/tuke nests
• Understanding trends and range of Archey’s frog
• Mahoenui giant wētā survival rates in gorse
• Creating memorable icon stories about historic heritage.
An ongoing science scholarship programme will be of significant value to DOC (and the universities) and I look forward to the 2017/18 programme.
Toyota New Zealand partnership
I was delighted to join Toyota’s key partners in presenting the Toyota Dealer Awards a couple of weekends ago.
We’re a year into our Toyota Kiwi Guardians programme, focused on getting children aged six to 10 years into nature. Kids can earn medals by visiting Kiwi Guardian sites around the county and doing conservation activities at home.
Toyota NZ led a major advertising campaign over summer, with the Kiwi Guardians TV commercial running on TVNZ and Sky channels over February. To date over 5,000 medals have been redeemed.
We have recently made the decision to shift to Toyota Corolla hybrids as our sedan replacement. It’s important for DOC to stand up and be a leader in supporting more sustainable transport. Currently we are a major owner of Toyota Hiluxes in New Zealand with 450 Toyotas all up.
To have the opportunity to tell the value of the DOC partnership alongside Toyota NZ’s other key partners – including , Emirates Team New Zealand, the Parenting Place and the Toyota Racing Series, was highly valuable.
I also met Olympic gold medalists Peter Burling and Blair Tuke at the event. As sailors, their affinity with the sea means they really appreciate the work DOC does in the marine environment and they told me of the value this contribution provides.
We wish them every success in the America’s Cup.
Fonterra Living Water partnership
Recently I was able to take Fonterra Chair John Wilson and CEO Theo Spierings for a night at Plateau Hut in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.
The aim was to share progress on Living Water and enable a unique DOC experience for one of our key partners. We discussed how the new project management of the $20 million Living Water project is working and the move to work closely with dairy farmers on improving water quality at the five catchment sites.
We were accompanied by our DOC Aoraki/Mt Cook Search and Rescue team, on the first perfect day in nearly six weeks. The Search and Rescue team spoke of the very unusual summer climate with winter snow conditions still existing into February. There had been 50 cm of fresh snow the day before we arrived.
The record snow fall of this summer has made access across the glaciers easier for climbers (normally access is cut off at this time of year).
The team also reported this SAR season has seen an above average number of accidents.
Christchurch Helicopters partnership
One of our Operations Directors and I were delighted to meet with Terry Murdoch, Lester Singleton, and Richie McCaw, owners of Christchurch Helicopters.
We spent considerable time discussing the Port Hills fire and the superb work done by some of New Zealand’s most experienced helicopter pilots.
We also started work on a new partnership proposal with Christchurch Helicopters to sponsor orange-fronted parakeets.
The idea is to have one of their helicopter’s repainted and branded with orange-fronted parakeets.
The initial art work looks very striking and will definitely lift the public profile of this critically endangered bird.
We are still in the process of developing the value proposition with Christchurch Helicopters, and I look forward to finalising this exciting new partnership.