Myrtle rust – Kerikeri, Taranaki and Te Kuiti
On 12 May Martyn Dunne, CEO Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and myself visited our joint MPI/DOC myrtle rust response team working out of our Kerikeri Office.
Staff told me of the excellent experience they were gaining working in an MPI led Coordinated Incident Management System (CIMS) structure; with some very advanced GIS technology that essentially plots all staff movement and work searching for myrtle rust within the biosecurity control zone.
DOC’s role has been to check for signs of infection; and to take seed from 28 of our potentially most threatened Myrtaceae species from all over the North Island and the top of the South Island, for storage in the New Zealand Indigenous Flora Seed Bank in Palmerston North.
DOC has very good support from iwi to do this.
We have also been communicating with our parks management counterparts in Queensland, New South Wales and Hawaii on what they are seeing in plants similar to our mānuka, rata and pōhutakawa species 6 years (Australia) and 13 years (Hawaii) on from when myrtle rust established there.
In Hawaii national parks the impacts of myrtle rust have been of less concern than the new fungal disease they now have, which is attacking and killing ohia (Metrosideros polymorpha).
The impacts of myrtle rust in Australia however are dictated by the climate – with it being a problem in the moist seasons and becoming a lesser problem in the dry seasons.
Sadly, myrtle rust was confirmed in Taranaki last Friday and in Te Kuiti yesterday.
DOC has up to 125 staff of 300 total deployed from across agencies for myrtle rust response.
This is DOC’s biggest deployment to a cross agency response in 30 years; demonstrating the gravity of the problem New Zealand native plants and primary industry now face.
Let’s hope the huge efforts at Kerikeri, in Taranaki and now Te Kuiti, and ongoing science prevent significant impacts in New Zealand.
Sincere thanks to everyone who has helped with the response.
Great Walks bookings
Last week we opened our Great Walks bookings after putting some our prices up between 20 and 30%. Our website was taking 6,200 page requests a minute for Milford Track and by end of the first day 6,000 of our available 7,500 spaces were sold.
We also saw a 75% increase in bookings on day one for the Routeburn Track and a 90% increase on the Kepler Track.
Sincere thanks to our visitor booking teams and IT staff in Wellington and Te Anau for handling such an unprecedented day.
I was very pleased to be joined by the General Manger of Dulux New Zealand, Jevan Dickinson, to sign a new 3-year sponsorship agreement around DOC huts and buildings.
Through this agreement, we have renewed our partnership and are looking to the future to build on the strong foundation of the first agreement.
The partnership with Dulux has provided thousands of litres of paint that has been applied to not only DOC owned and manged huts and buildings but also community owned and managed buildings on DOC land through the community contribution scheme. While painting a hut or building doesn’t directly contribute to biodiversity it does play a massive part in lifting appearance, experience of and pride in our huts and buildings and the impact of being able to support a community to paint a structure through providing paint cannot be underestimated.
NZ Search and Rescue awards
I was delighted to be present when DOC’s Aoraki/Mt Cook Alpine Rescue Team and The Helicopter Line Glentanner Park pilot Troy Feck were presented with one of the 2016 NZ Search and Rescue Awards for saving the lives of five mountaineers over eight weeks in November – December 2016. All were high altitude rescues on Aoraki/Mount Cook, Elie de Beaumont, Mount Tasman and Copland Pass.
DOC community ranger Ray Bellringer, from the Aoraki/Mt Cook Alpine Rescue Team, also received an individual award for his commitment and services to search and rescue.
Last summer was highly unusual with winter snow conditions through to February this year, very poor weather and for our first time in over a decade no mountaineering deaths recorded in Westland Tai Poutini or Aoraki/Mount Cook national parks.
Proudly, DOC’s Alpine Rescue Team led by Andy Tindall worked incredibly hard in difficult conditions to deliver this remarkable achievement.
DOC is justly proud of what they have achieved and their Search and Rescue Awards.
Last week Minister Barry launched Wild Creations. A programme that I believe is a significant opportunity to connect a whole range of New Zealanders to Our Nature and the value of conservation; and our cultural heritage to our national identity.
Creative NZ is putting in an annual stipend of $36,000 and DOC is providing opportunities to have some of New Zealand’s most prominent and up-and-coming artists work alongside DOC during our less busy time of year. Initially, the programme will be for up to three artists a year.
This launch is a revitalisation of an earlier collaboration. Five years ago, DOC had an Artists in Residence programme.
When I was CEO of Antarctica New Zealand, I was hugely proud of the Artists to Antarctica and Invited Artists programmes and am certain Wild Creations will be highly successful in interpreting the value of tangata whenua and conservation stories through art to New Zealanders.
Wild Creations was launched with Minister Barry and senior executive of Creative NZ at DOC managed historic building, Fort Takapuna, which overlooks the Waitematā Harbour.
Renowned artist, and past recipient, Fiona Pardington presented her support and reflected on the inspiration she takes from nature. “Nothing exists outside of nature. Thought, life, us.”
A small ensemble from Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra played at the event which reminded us that creativity takes all sensory forms.