D-G Direct: An update from Lou Sanson

Department of Conservation —  31/03/2017

Celebrating our latest island recruits

It is great to see two of DOC’s female rangers, Kata Tamaki and Vonny Sprey, overseeing Tiritiri Matangi Island and supporting the great work of the Trust. They are supporting conservation work for Auckland’s number one TripAdvisor experience – visiting the birds on Tiri.

Tiritiri Matangi Island is a wildlife sanctuary located near Auckland. Many years of farming has led the island to be stripped of 94% of its native bush. With hard work from volunteers and DOC Rangers like Vonny and Kata, the island is now 60% forested with the remaining 40% left as grassland for species preferring open habitat. A number of threatened and endangered reptile and bird species have also been successfully reintroduced, while mammalian predators have been eradicated.

There are few places in New Zealand where you can readily see and walk amongst so many rare species.

Amanda Baird, another of our rangers, has just completed 21 years working for DOC on Chatham Islands. Her work with local landowners has led to significant covenants with Ngā Whenua Rahui and Nature Heritage Fund.

Predator Free 2050

Momentum is building for New Zealand’s goal to get rid of rats, stoats and possums by 2050.

Prime Minister Bill English and Conservation Minister Maggie Barry joined 19 organisations for the launch of Predator Free Dunedin this month. Predator Free Dunedin is an exciting collaborative effort to remove all predators from the Otago Peninsula.

I am really pleased to see a network of self-resetting stoat traps deployed on Goat Island in Southwest Fiordland as a result of a partnership between DOC and Goodnature. Initial results were very encouraging and if stoat eradication is successful, it could have far-reaching implications for creating a predator free New Zealand.

In Picton, more than one hundred people turned up to the first meeting to discuss making Picton predator free, sponsored by Kiwi Bank and Predator Free NZ Trust (PFNZ Trust).

The Holiday Parks Association has just signed a partnership agreement with the PFNZ Trust.  They will promote Predator Free 2050 to visitors, and trap predators in their 300 parks nationwide.

Predator Free NZ Trust has also launched a series of videos. Check out Sir Rob Fenwick’s video for NEXT Foundation.

The new company Predator Free 2050 Ltd is progressing under the guidance of chair Jane Taylor, and is now recruiting for a CEO. This is an exciting time for the company and will be a significant milestone.

I would also like to note the incredible achievement of Kelvin Hastie at Predator Free Wellington, supported by NEXT Foundation.

Kelvin now has 24 Wellington suburbs signed up to Predator Free Wellington, with six more in Porirua. With help from the Morgan Foundation, they have 3,000 traps installed in back yards around Wellington, with 3,500 predators caught so far this year!

1 in 5 households are signing up (the target was 1 in 7!). This means thousands of people in Wellington are actively involved in helping to achieve the Predator Free 2050 goal.

It’s great to see just how far and wide the Predator Free 2050 vision is spreading –   and everyone has their part to play!

The Predator Free 2050 Ltd, board

The Predator Free 2050 Ltd, board with Chair Jane Taylor (front left center) and our conservation minister, Hon. Maggie Barry (front right center)

Blue whales

Research on blue whales this summer once again revealed large numbers of animals between Taranaki and Farewell Spit, including mothers and calves. Hydrophones which were placed in the waters off Taranaki last year also detected blue whales nearly every day for six months. This work is contributing to a growing body of evidence that the whales are in New Zealand waters year-round and may even be breeding here. This study has been made possible by several sponsors – most prominent has been the generous donation from the Aotearoa Foundation.

The research team, led by Dr. Leigh Torres of Oregon State University, is supported by DOC through two biodeversity rangers,  Mike Ogle and Callum Lilley. Mike and Callum have played an important part in supporting the work in the field, and I’m really excited to see what happens next with this research project.

Mike Ogle lining up for a biopsy on a blue whale

Mike Ogle lining up for a biopsy on a blue whale South Taranaki Bight blue whale survey, Jan 2014. Photo by Pete Gill

Whanganui River as a legal person

I was fortunate to be in Parliament recently to witness a historic moment. The Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Act creates a new way for iwi, local and central government to work together to advance the health and wellbeing of the Whanganui River and its surrounds. The legislation establishes and recognises Te Awa Tupua as a legal person, an “indivisible and living whole, comprising the Whanganui River from the mountains to the sea”.

Two people will be appointed jointly by iwi and the Crown to the role of Te Pou Tupua, which will be the “human face” of the River. DOC looks forward in particular to working with Te Pou Tupua and to participating in Te Kōpuka, the strategy group whose purpose is “to act collaboratively to advance the health and well-being of Te Awa Tupua”. We look forward to supporting Whanganui Iwi and Horizons Regional Council to enable their vision for the Awa.

To be in Parliament listening to 400 Whanganui Iwi singing waiata was an incredible experience.

New Te Reo resource for Tamaki Makaurau

One of the responsibilities we have as a Treaty partner is to maintain and foster deeper relationships with whānau, hapū and iwi.

A basic part of this relationship is Te Reo; increasing our use of Te Reo helps us to understand (for those of us who need to learn) and acknowledge the Māori world view.

It is also a building block in achieving our stretch goal:

“Whānau, hapū and iwi are able to practise their responsibilities as kaitiaki of natural and cultural resources on public conservation lands and waters”.

Our Tāmaki Makaurau team is making Te Reo more accessible for everyone (not just DOC staff) through their new Māori pronunciation app Te kete reo o Tāmaki Makaurau, released in January.

The free app is designed to give non-Te Reo speakers confidence to pronounce the names of places, spaces and species in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland. The app ‘speaks’ to you and is really easy to use.

I was stoked to hear the app’s been an instant success, achieving a place in the top three downloaded apps in New Zealand in the first three days of its launch. It’s clearly struck a chord with people who are keen to learn more about our nature.

Downloaded the free app here: iOS on the App Store; Android on Google Play.

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


    I would like to see some research done on WASPS and there effect on the food chain.
    If there were none in the beech forest I am sure there would be a far greater food source available to the native birds from the honey due.

    This year there seems to be high numbers in Nth Westland beech forests.