By Les Judd, Community Ranger
Thanks to a beautiful new paint job, the buildings of Raoul Island now have their whites a little whiter, and their brights a little brighter – just like the laundry powder ad.
The paint was provided through our Dulux partnership, which has seen DOC facilities in some of our most remote places receive some much-needed love and protection.
The largest of New Zealand’s northernmost islands, Raoul Island is 1,100 kilometres north of Auckland. This makes it by far the most remote place to receive paint through the partnership.
On a stunning November day, the seven resident ‘Raoulies’ welcomed a team of four painters ashore off the Tiama sailing vessel, ready for five weeks of painting.
They were in a bad state – the buildings that is – so a lot of preparation work was required before the team could get busy with their paintbrushes.
DOC contractor Paul Fleming led the project – his fourth trip to the island. He was joined by past Raoul volunteer/ranger and general handyman Mike Thorogood, North Head ranger Nigel Harper and contractor Deane Williams.
The guys slotted right in to life on the island and quickly became part of the team. Aside from complaints about the disappearance of home baking and chocolate, the guys were loved for their great company, card games and green fingers – the Raoul veggie gardens have never looked so good!
Top on the priority list was weatherproofing and repainting the exterior of the hostel, annex and MetService buildings – the three largest buildings on the island. The hostel was built in 1939 and has been the recipient of numerous patch-ups and paint jobs over the years – at least eight paint jobs if you count the number of coats that had to be scraped off the building.
The team got down to business fixing weatherboards, window sills, window glazing, soakers, flashings, and water blasting and scraping paint. Lead-based paint was beneath the newer layers of paint so a thorough health and safety plan was essential to keep the team safe. Asbestos also needed to be removed from a section of the MetService building. Twenty five fish bins of contaminated paint and materials were collected from the buildings.
The weatherboards were entombed in Dulux WeatherShield then painted in Dulux Southern Alps with the trims painted a very appropriate pohutukawa-coloured Dulux Ettrick. All up, 220 litres of product was used.
With meticulous planning, Paul organised everything his team needed to complete the job. This included paint, scaffolding, ladders, paint sprayer, sanders, brushes, right down to enough rags and rubbish bags.
“I wrote a lot of lists while I was planning the project,” says Paul.
“It’s a long way to the nearest hardware store so I couldn’t afford to forget anything. By the end of the job all we ran short on was some timber repair filler, I was pretty happy with that.”
The biggest challenge for Paul and the team was to get as much done as possible within the five weeks.
“I have the utmost respect and admiration for my team, they were energetic and put in long hours to get the work done,” says Paul. “We worked our jobs around the weather so no time was lost to bad weather. They are a great bunch of guys, I couldn’t have done it without them.”
The team managed to complete the painting of the three buildings, and Paul will return with his team mate Mike in March to complete the smaller hospital and dry goods store buildings.
Following the completion of the exterior painting, the interiors of all the buildings will be painted, along with replacing the roofs on the hostel and MetService buildings.
“Improving the condition of the accommodation and office facilities for staff on the island is part of DOC’s commitment to maintaining a presence on the island for the long-term goal of preserving biodiversity,” says Operations Manager Geoff Woodhouse.
“We are indebted to the support of Dulux which will allow us to focus valuable resources on the core business of returning the island to a pest-free status. In particular, we were grateful of the assistance of the team at the Dulux Trade Centre in Mairangi Bay,” Geoff says.
Raoul Island has been free of mammalian pests since 2004, with cats and rats the last to be removed. The core focus of work on Raoul Island is now the eradication of introduced weed species that threaten the balance of this unique ecosystem.