Archives For Conservation Week 2013

By making a pledge for Conservation Week last year, Gisbornites Robyn and Peter went into a draw to win a trip for four to Great Barrier Island — a prize they were lucky enough to win.

The amazing view from the track on Great Barrier Island.

Peter and Robyn with Lucy and Jake

So, thrilled and excited, they took their seven year old twins Jake and Lucy on the ‘trip of a lifetime’. Peter tells us about it:

The alarm buzzing at 5:30 am signalled the beginning of our Great Barrier Island adventure, after weeks of anticipation.

I was allowed to be in the co-pilot’s seat for our commute to Claris Airport on Great Barrier Island, where DOC Ranger, Fenella Christian, greeted us.

Plane to catch to Great Barrier Island.

The Fly My Sky chariot

Our vehicle was waiting and we headed up the drive to settle into our accommodation — The Lookout Homestead.

On Friday we drove to Okiwi Station to help rangers George and Adam monitor pāteke ducks. This involved creeping up to the verges of the reserves and carefully counting and recording the number of residents. It’s obvious that DOC staff have gone to great lengths to re-create a habitat that offers the ducks a place to breed away from predators.

Counting pāteke on Great Barrier Island.

49 pāteke in one pond

On Saturday and Sunday we drove on to Whangaparapara and Blind Bay. I pointed out the Old Whaling Station and we were entertained with gannets and shags diving for fish right next to Whangaparapara Wharf.

Sunday’s calmer weather allowed for a swim at Gooseberry Flat beach, touring around and enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of the island.

Twins Lucy and Jake beside a pāteke sign.

Lucy and Jake watching out for pāteke

On Monday, we met Fenella and her husband Peter at the track entrance to the Kaitoke Swamp, and walked to the hot springs. We all enjoyed a swim and lunch in this amazing location and on the return walk noticed an eel swimming under the bridge.

We were introduced to the shoe-cleaning stations to stop the spread of kauri dieback. We commented on the work done by DOC with the elevated walkways, and the excellent maintenance of the tracks.

The view from The Lookout Homestead on Great Barrier Island.

The view from The Lookout Homestead

The next day we were up early to prepare for a tramp up Mount Heale. Ranger Becs met us and we were off to the track entrance via Windy Canyon. This is a walk not to be missed!

With Becs’ encouragement we all set off to Mt Hobson Lookout. Becs’ ability to keep us all motivated, made the long hike enjoyable, but physically demanding all the same.

While we stopped for a rest and bite, we were told of DOC’s concerns with cats and rats killing black petrel. We came across a number of traps.

We all lost count of the many steps, both man-made and natural, and the elevated walkways are testament to the efforts made to protect the natural habitat for breeding success of the petrel.

Having made the final fork in the track, we dropped packs and climbed the final steps to the summit – wow, what a view!

After the obligatory photos we descended more steps to arrive at the Mt Heale Hut for the night.

Wednesday dawned fine. As we had a plane to catch, we had to return to the track and made good progress back to the summit fork, where we met Claudia, monitoring black petrel.

Lucy holding a black petrel.

Lucy holding her new black petrel friend

We were all given the unique experience of cradling a young, fluffy bundle of black petrel chick.

We were cautioned the only damage that this chick would do to us was to be pooed upon, or have a belly full of fish-meal spewed into our laps.

This was a highlight for us all! Fortunately neither poo nor spew happened!

We made good progress down the track and got back to the road with an hour to spare. We ate a farewell lunch at The Lunch Box, then took our flights home.

Jake’s and Lucy’s favourite part of the whole trip was getting the chance to hold the baby black petrel.

Thanks to all involved who conceived, planned and executed this “trip of a lifetime”.

To the team at DOC, please keep up the great work you are doing to preserve New Zealand’s natural indigenous species, so that Jake and Lucy and future generations have the ability to retrace these trips.

Aucklanders, Magda Smolira and her daughter Jane, have been busy fulfilling their Conservation Week pledge and turning their backyard into a haven for New Zealand native species. They tell us what they’ve been doing… 

We are so pleased to take part in Conservation Week—mainly because we have been doing many things to invite native species into our backyard and it gives us a chance to share our story.

Building bug hotels

When we were getting rid of an overgrown hedge and broken fence we encountered a family of weta.

We presumed that they were not very happy to be evicted and we tried to make it up to them by building two ‘bug hotels’.

Jane and Magda find a whānau of weta.

A weta household

We used logs of privet that we had cut down and replaced with pohutukawa, a broken clay pot (that the pohutukawa used to grow in), and some left over paving stones.

We hope the hotels are occupied by insects and reptiles, not mice, but to make sure of it we put some Ka Mate traps in the vicinity of the bug hotels and around our compost bin.

Jane and Magda's bug hotel.

A bug hotel

Tracking and trapping rats

Last year, during winter school holidays Jane took part in ‘Eco Warrior Workshop’ (organised by Kaipatiki Project). She made a tracking tunnel and was given the paw print chart.

Jane holding a tracking tunnel.

Tracking tunnel

We were finding rat prints until the day Mr. Rat decided to try a pistachio nut from one of our ka-mate traps!

We were wondering whether Mr. Rat had a family, but we found only snail trails in the tracking tunnel for the rest of the school holidays.

Traps are still in place in case another adventurous rodent visits our backyard.

Attracting the birds

Our neighbours have beautiful kowhai tree and we have some kind of ornamental plum that attracts tui and silvereye when in bloom.

A silvereye hanging in an ornamental plum tree.

A silvereye in our backyard

On our last visit to Tiritiri Matangi we bought a nectar feeder that will hopefully give those birds extra support and stop them raiding my fig tree.

A young puriri tree is our Fathers Day gift to our dad. We hope to see wood pigeons feeding on it in the not too distant future.

Welcoming wildlife

We haven’t seen any reptiles in our backyard yet. We are hoping to though. We grow organic vegies, made bug hotels and are currently planting plants that will attract insects so we are hoping that geckos and skinks will move in. The concrete tubes from Habitat for Humanity shop (anybody knows what they are for?) should make good hiding places.

A lizard home in the garden.

Lizard home

Proud to pledge

We are proud and privileged to celebrate Conservation Week. We still have to do the online bird ID course to fulfill our pledge.

Jane and Magda's backyard.

The backyard

It’s Conservation Week and there is a fantastic grand prize on offer―a summer getaway to Great Barrier Island! All you have to do to enter is pick a simple conservation pledge to complete throughout the week. It can be anything from completing a conservation quiz or going for a walk in a local wilderness area.

But I know decisions can be hard, so we have made it even easier for you; simply answer a few simple yes/no questions, follow the arrows, and the chart will tell you what kind of pledge you should be making. When you’ve finished, click the box you end up on to explore the right pledges for you. It couldn’t be easier.

Remember to check out your options on the Conservation Week website and make a pledge:

I hope you are all having a fantastic Conservation Week!

Today we’re sharing Air New Zealand’s blog post from The Flying Social Network

Like most New Zealanders, we’re proud of our natural environment. We’re even in awe of it.

We should probably spend less time talking about nature and more time actually wandering through it and breathing it all in. In that spirit, Air New Zealand has joined forces with the Department of Conservation to preserve and protect some of our country’s most inspiring natural locations.


So with all of that said to celebrate Conservation Week between 8 – 15 September we are supporting the Department of Conservation and encouraging New Zealanders to get outdoors and get amongst nature.

Over 130 Air New Zealand employees between Auckland and Wellington are pledging their support for Conservation Week and will ‘Get out and walk’ at some of their favourite spots.

Our partnership with DOC focuses on supporting conservation biodiversity projects in the vicinity of the Great Walks, and also promotes the Great Walks – We’re helping to preserve and enhance these unique places that every Kiwi should try to experience in their lifetime. Why not make a Great Walks pledge for Conservation Week?

You can visit the Conservation Week website for more information and all the action and keep a close eye on Air New Zealand’s social media channels. Word has it that the Air New Zealand Fairy has some conservation themed goodies to give away!

By Al Morrison, Director-General.

Al Morrison holding a whio/blue duck,


Conservation matters every minute of every day of every week. But for all that, welcome to Conservation Week.  It’s a week when we focus public attention on conservation and this year our theme is around getting whānau involved.

We want conservation to be a family affair. Actually, we want it to be something that all New Zealanders engage in across all of New Zealand.

That’s fundamentally why DOC has been making changes to the way we work. We want to help New Zealanders understand, much better than we do now, that we all need to take care of our native plants, animals and special places so that they can take care of us.

DOC has a special job to do looking after the public conservation land and our native plants, animals and birds and we will continue to take the lead on that. But it isn’t enough. Fencing off a place where the forest is healthy, the bird song is loud and the river runs crystal clear means there is a place where New Zealanders can go to see our natural environment as it was before people and pests stuffed it up. That’s important. But it can’t stop there. We have to make sure the whole river system is healthy, from the mountains to the sea and in to the marine environment. That task is beyond DOC alone. We need to work with community groups, iwi, local government, business, private landowners, and you if we are going to succeed.

Al Morrison with two playful kakapo.


The challenge New Zealand faces is not just to claim the Clean Green brand, but live it. We’re a bit mixed on that front at present, and it’s going to take some effort from all of us to get nature in a healthy state and functioning well everywhere. We need to stop making the value of nature invisible; and when we take from nature we need to give back. It’s about balance and harmony.

DOC has gone through a tough period of change over recent years to adjust to that challenge. The change is complete and now we’re in to making it happen. You know our staff. They are passionate, committed, capable, highly skilled and knowledgeable. They have always made a positive difference for New Zealand. Now they are fit and ready to make an even bigger difference.

Al Morrison kayaking.


It’s a fresh start under fresh leadership. That means I’m leaving and this is my last week. It is time for me to let go and hand the reigns to DOC’s new Director-General Lou Sanson. Lou has been Chief Executive of Antarctic New Zealand for the last 11 years but he comes out of DOC’s stable. He knows the business, loves it, and is committed to implementing the course we have set.

DOC is in good shape and in good hands.

I know not everyone agrees with the direction I have led DOC in. You can’t reorganise around a bold, ambitious new approach and expect no criticism. And we need critics because that keeps us on our toes and forces us to question and improve.

Al Morrison by a stream in the Te Papanui Conservation Park.

Te Papanui Conservation Park

But the conservation movement doesn’t have time to sit around and endlessly argue the toss. There is an urgent need to address New Zealand’s environmental performance and DOC has a strong place in meeting the challenge. It is a time to be ambitious and push beyond our comfort zone.

It is a time for conservationists to, as the Irish poet and Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney, who passed away recently, so elegantly put it: “Walk on air against your better judgement”.

Conservation Week banner on the DOC website.

What’s your whanau doing for Conservation Week?

Related links:

The Grand Prize for Conservation Week 2013 is an amazing Great Barrier Island holiday package – the perfect summer getaway for you and three others.

Great Barrier Island beach. Photo: Andris Apse.

One of the beautiful beaches on Great Barrier Island

I’ve heard Great Barrier Island described as a remote, tranquil and untouched paradise. My Auckland friends who are lucky enough to holiday there induce jealousy every summer by raving about the pristine beaches, the unique wildlife and the relaxed vibe of the island – if you are reading this I’m still waiting for my invite!

The island boasts scenic mountain biking trails, walking tracks that weave through coastal forests, and isolated coves to snorkel and explore. It’s also perfect for those who want to do a bit of boating, kayaking or fishing. If all that sounds a bit too exhausting, there is always the chance to retreat to the Kaitoke Hot Springs to relax at the end of the day.

Kayaking in a cove on Great Barrier Island.

There are plenty of activities to do on the island like mountain biking and kayaking

All you have to do to win is to make a pledge for Conservation Week, it’s nothing too strenuous. Simply head to the Conservation Week website, choose a nature-related activity for your pledge and fill in the form. Your pledge can be as simple as changing your Facebook cover photo or something ambitious like planning a Great Walk.

Conservation Week banner.

What’s your whānau doing for Conservation Week?

There are also loads of great spot prizes to be given away to those who share their pledges through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest using #pledgefornz. So what are you waiting for? Head over and make your pledge today.

Related links:

Celebrate! Conservation Week 2013.Conservation Week 2013 has officially launched to the world and we’d love to have you involved in the celebrations.

The week runs from 8–15 September, with the theme ‘Celebrate Conservation Week! What’s your whānau doing?’

As part of the celebrations we’re encouraging you to ‘make a pledge’ for conservation and we’ve got a number of celebrity ambassadors on board to help:

Pledge and win!

Everyone who registers a pledge on the Conservation Week website will go in the draw to win an awesome conservation holiday for four to Great Barrier Island.

See for all the details on the competition and how to make your pledge.

Social media

Share photos, videos or stories of you and your whānau completing your pledges on social media using #pledgefornz, to be in to win some neat spot prizes. We’re looking out for you on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Flickr.

We’d also love it if you’d join and share with us on the Wildside, the official Facebook community for Conservation Week 2013.


Conservation Week events will take place across the country – check out what’s going on in your region and get involved. New events are being added all the time.

That’s the spiel, now, tell me, what’s your whānau doing?