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Most of my strongest childhood memories are of free, unstructured play in wild places near my home—building huts out of fern fronds, playing explorers by wading down a stream in the Kaimais, collecting tadpoles, and waving toi toi flags.

A stream in the Kaimais. Photo: Dennis Kuhn/flickr (cc)

Childhood memories of exploring streams in the Kaimais. Photo: Dennis Kuhn

These experiences were a huge influence on the adult I am today—someone who believes conservation is vital.

I’m trying to do the same for my own kids—but in this increasingly urban and tech-driven world it’s getting pretty hard. There are less “wild places” in cities. I’m competing with the TV, the computer, gaming devices… for their attention—and not always winning. Homework, sports and structured extra-curricular activities makes for busy lives.

We need to help families that are struggling to find time to reconnect with these wild places. Here in Christchurch DOC has partnered with the Greening the Rubble Trust to create a nature-play park in central Christchurch.

A small Greening the rubble garden in Christchurch.

Greening the rubble in Christchurch. Photo: Christchurch City Libraries

The park will encourage families to discover—through free play—what is special about Canterbury plants and wildlife, and how they can make conservation part of their urban lives as they recover from the devastating earthquakes.

It will be interactive and exploratory, allowing for fun and learning. It will be a key drawcard to engage children and young families within Christchurch’s regenerating CBD.

We hope the site will be well-visited and part of any trip to Central Christchurch, and we plan to run several events and activities here over the coming year—starting with an opening ceremony as part of the Open Streets event on Saturday 29 September.

Greening the rubble site. Photo: Fiona Oliphant.

Turning the sod at the new nature-play park. Photo: Fiona Oliphant

We have a lot of work ahead of us to create this space, and it’s projects like this that make you realise that it’s people that bring the magic. Without a whole lot of people happy to help and donate time or materials, this park will not happen. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in!

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The family-focused conservation education programme Kiwi Ranger is being launched on Tiritiri Matangi Island this Queen’s Birthday weekend—for the first time giving Auckland kids the chance to be accredited as Kiwi Rangers.

Christchurch family Steve, Jenny and Meg visited Tiritiri Matangi while staying with family at Christmas. Having done two South Island Kiwi Ranger sites, they are now planning for a return visit to Tiritiri to earn their third badge. Jenny recalls their day:

Jenny and Meg on the boat to Tiritiri Matangi Island.

Jenny and Meg on the boat to Tiritiri Matangi Island

Steve had always wanted to go to Tiritiri, so we decided to go before Christmas—before the hordes. The forecast was not great, with cyclone warnings, but the day turned out beautiful.

We bought a guide book on the boat so, when we arrived, we headed straight up the Wattle Track, which meanders up to the lighthouse and visitor centre.

I heard a strange noise, and then we saw it—a takahē skulking in the bushes. Meg thought that was pretty great.

Jenny reading interpretation panels on the island.

Jenny reading the interpretation panels

We checked out the lighthouse and spent a bit of time looking at the really good history interpretation panels.

The old fog horn captured my imagination; I loved the old pictures of it originally sited over the cliff, and then seeing the replica one.

Walking on Tiritiri Matangi.

A wonderful day for a walk on Tiri

By then it was lunchtime, so we sat down in a big grassy area and ate while we chatted to the friendly DOC ranger.

We checked out the visitor centre and the shop, where I finished off my Christmas shopping. It seemed crazy shopping on an offshore island, but hey, they had some pretty funky things, and I felt good that my money was going to support a good cause.

Ground dwelling birds on Tiritiri Matangi.

Quail. Tiritiri Matangi is one of the most successful conservation projects in the world. Predators have been eradicated and rare native birds and animals have been returned to its now-safe and restored habitats

We walked along the ridge track and got nice views all around the Hauraki Gulf, and looked for things rustling in bushes.

Tui having a dust bath.

Tui having a dust bath

The most amazing thing about the trip was how close we got to the birds. On the mainland most forest birds hang out high in the canopy, but on Tiri they were actually scuttling around on the ground. We saw tui and quail having dust baths right on the track!

Jenny and Meg walking in the bush.

There is something magic about just wandering

We weren’t sure how long it would take to walk the tracks with Meg, so we played it safe and headed down the Kawerau Track. In hindsight we probably could have gone further, but in some ways it was quite nice not to ‘frog-march’ around the island. There is something really magic about just wandering—taking time to see things properly.

The Kawerau Track was a really special old piece of forest, with pūriri and other really cool trees that you just don’t see in the South Island.

Meg walking on track in bush.

We weren’t sure with Meg how long it would take to walk the tracks. In hindsight we probably could have gone further

Meg on track - Tiritiri Matangi


We had time on our hands so we ended up down on the beach and went for a swim before heading back to the boat.

We’d seen saddlebacks, takahē, amazing flowering rata and pohutukawa but, while we were waiting for the boat, we heard these people talking about seeing a kōkako. Steve was a bit disappointed to have missed that, so yes, we were thinking about coming back before we’d even left the island! And with Kiwi Ranger on the island now, Meg is pretty keen to get her hands on the badge. I know from having done it in other places it’s a great way to discover the hidden secrets of a place like Tiri.

When we come back we’ll walk some of the other tracks and we’d love to go stay overnight to hear a kōkako calling and experience the dawn chorus.

Meg was pretty quiet on the boat home. She sat leaning on the railing looking back towards the island as we pulled away. She’d had quality time with mum and dad, been for a swim, and seen some cool birds. It’s the kind of family time that makes for great memories, memories that last a lifetime.

Kiwi Ranger text with image of Tiri showing saddleback and lighthouse.

Kiwi Ranger is being launched on Tiritiri Matangi over this Queen’s Birthday weekend, 1-3 June 2013. Join Lucy Lawless to become one of the first Tiritiri Kiwi Rangers! 

Ferry company, 360 Discovery, are making it easy for families to travel to the island during Queen’s Birthday Weekend. One child may travel free with each fare-paying adult. Go to their website or call 0800 360 3472 to book.

The Kiwi Ranger programme will be ongoing, so visit any day Wed -Sun for a fun family day out with a difference.

Swinging below the crane, a wee cabin linked to Scott’s fatal Antarctic expedition looked more like a cubby than a 100-year-old piece of history.

“It looks like a child’s playhouse!” remarked its ‘owner’ Valerie Crichton.

Scott's cabin is moved by crane from the earthquake crumbled cliff in Sumner.

DOC’s Murray Lane helps guide the hut as it’s lifted out of the spot where it has sat for the last 100 years

But as Grant Campbell, DOC Community Relations Programme Manager eloquently said, “We’ve lost so much heritage in Christchurch, even the wee ones count.”

The hut, which for the past 40 years has been under the care of the Crichton family in Sumner, has been pulled from the brink of an earthquake-crumbled cliff top after being vested with DOC.

It’s the culmination of lots of long talks and negotiations by Grant and Community Relations Ranger Cody Frewin with the Crichtons, Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) and the Christchurch City Council.

Valerie Crichton said, “It’s taken more than two years to get traction on this. Then we met with DOC and it was ‘can do’. That ‘can do’ was music to our ears.”

Scott's cabin is hoisted by crane on to a truck.

The hut had to be lifted high around pitched garage roofs and powerlines

Cody said, “I’m really proud of what we have achieved.”

Grant, Cody and the Crichtons were all onsite to watch the cabin be retrieved and trucked to Godley Head by contractors HGM Construction. David Crichton pacing back and forth was reminiscent of an expectant father.

“I have mixed feelings about this event,” said David. “It would have been nice to stay here but this is the next best thing.”

The cabin began life as a meteorological hut taken to the Antarctic by the Terra Nova for Captain Scott in 1911. But it was brought back to Lyttelton in 1912, still in its wrapping.

Scott's cabin makes its way from Sumner to Godley Head by road.

The convoy makes its way through the narrow streets of Sumner before heading up the hill (you seen the road in the background)

It was erected on Clifton Hill above Sumner in the garden of the expedition agent, Sir Joseph Kinsey and was home to the wife of Captain Scott’s right hand-man Dr Edward Wilson, Oriana Wilson, for a year until she received the news of his death in February 1913. The hut was also known as ‘Uncle Bill’s Cabin’ after Dr Wilson, whose nickname was Bill.

David Crichton used the cabin as his study, and later it was a place of refuge after the September quake, when the couple felt nervous about sleeping in their own house. This fear was proved founded when the February quakes bought their house down, while the cabin rolled with the quakes like “a wee boat,” said Valerie.

In a press release, Minister of Conservation Hon Dr Nick Smith said, “I’d like to acknowledge the Crichton’s vision and generosity in gifting the hut, as well as the assistance provided by CERA and the Christchurch City Council in making the removal possible.”

The cabin is place at the new Godley Head site by crane.

The hut will sit on the old parade grounds on Godley Head temporarily until it’s restored and resource consents are sorted for its final resting place with a sea view

“For a building to have travelled so far and survived so much, it would have been a tragedy to have left it to be demolished.”

The hut has been taken to public conservation land at Godley Head where it will be restored and eventually opened to the public, in a spot with sea views as it was on Kinsey Terrace.