Archives For Old Conservation Week posts

The newest Kiwi Ranger site is Ōtamahua/Quail  Island near Christchurch – the first island site and the first Kiwi Ranger site close to a city. It’s a perfect place for families to make memories together.

Maddie Harrison and William Webb at the ships graveyard; photo S Mankelow DOC.

Maddie Harrison and William Webb at the ships graveyard, Otamahua/Quail Island

The author Sarah, as a leggy 13-year-old in the Kaimanawas.

The author Sarah, as a leggy 13-year-old in the Kaimanawas.

My own strongest childhood memories are all of experiences in nature, thanks to my father who took me to lots of wild places. I have memories of walking behind him holding onto his pack as we balanced across a log bridge; of playing explorers by wading down a stream in the Kaimais, collecting tadpoles and waving toi toi flags. As a teenager he took me on wilder tramps, where we camped under tent flies and saw no one else for days on end.

These memories and experiences were a huge influence on the adult I am today, someone who works for DOC because I believe in the work we do. 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.

There is growing evidence that children are increasingly disconnected from that natural world. International surveys show that fewer children are experiencing nature directly, with many playing indoors rather than out. Research also shows that childhood experiences with nature plays a critical role in determining life attitudes, knowledge and behaviours towards the environment. I know that’s true for me.

Maddie; photo S Mankelow DOC.

Maddie filling out her Kiwi Ranger activity booklet

But how do we help families that may be disconnected from these opportunities, or who may not have had the same influences in their own lives, get reconnected?

Kiwi Ranger is one way. It’s a network of experiential interpretation sites, designed to help families connect with key conservation places.  At its core is a booklet of activities and a badge to collect each unique to each site, similar to the highly successful Junior Ranger in USA.

Each booklet acts like a guide to experiencing our wild places, some of which are a bit daunting to families visiting for the first time. It helps them to stop and take a closer look, to make the most of their visit, so its not just a nice walk, but an experience worth remembering and treasuring.

So far it’s only in the South Island – but North Island sites are coming on board next year.

On Sunday 9 December we are launching Ōtamahua / Quail Island. My son William and his friend Maddie helped trial the booklet and will be getting their badges presented to them in a special ceremony.  We will have a sausage sizzle on the beach and we hope lots of other families will come along and become Kiwi Rangers too.

I’m hoping this will be an experience they will remember.

Kiwi Ranger Quail Island.

William Webb and Maddie Harrison – Kiwi Rangers

Otamahua / Quail Island badge. P.SThe Ōtamahua / Quail Island Kiwi Ranger booklet can be picked up from Black Cat Ferries, the Lyttelton i-SITE or from the Mahaanui Area DOC Office in Sockburn.

Return your completed booklet to the any of the three locations above to claim your badge!

Youtube clip: Quail Island Kiwi Ranger

Skraaarrrk!  You’ve probably already noticed that as the Spokesbird for Conversation I’ve been running a photo contest to celebrate people and parks for Conservation Week 2012.

Well, after a frenzied voting period on my Facebook page to get our top ten photos, my pal (and internationally recognised nature photographer extraordinaire) Rob Suisted has chosen the winner. Boom-roll please…


Congratulations Jill Hoffman from Invercargill!

Photo of three children tramping in the Iris Burn Valley, Kepler Track, Te Anau with a rainbow in the background.

Early morning in the Iris Burn Valley, Kepler Track, Te Anau

Rob says…

“To me this photo captures a great interaction with one of our National Parks and wild places – a beautiful location, well framed, lots of interest, great lighting and mood. Well done”

DOC says…

“The Kepler Track is a a great track for you and your family, especially if you love the outdoors, want an adventure with a bit of a physical challenge that is not too hard to get to and has excellent facilities. The scenery is just spectacular as evidenced by this beautiful photo. Good work Jill.”

So, a big boom to you Jill! You are the winner of the amazing Fiordland adventure.

Rob also chose two other photos that he thought deserved honourable mentions.

Honourable Mentions

Greta File, Napier

A beautiful early morning view from the long drop. A cold winter morning in the Kaweka forest is greeted by the early morning sun melting the frost atop of the Makino Hut.

A beautiful early morning view from the long drop. A cold winter morning in the Kaweka forest is greeted by the early morning sun melting the frost atop of the Makino Hut.

Rob says…

“I think this image has the strongest pure photographic qualities of the selection – It has strong composition, is bravely shot into the light, slightly mystical, and it doesn’t fully reveal its subject, there by allowing the viewer to ponder it.”

DOC Says…

Kaweka Forest is a backcountry park that offers everything from rafting, canoeing, and fishing to hot springs, hunting and tramping. An array of huts are on offer – like Makino Hut which has been gloriously captured by Greta in this shot”

Christel van Krieken, Gisborne

Harakeke in flower, Punakaiki; the gateway to Paparoa National Park.

Harakeke in flower, Punakaiki; the gateway to Paparoa National Park

Rob says…

“I liked the textures and colours with this. If the photographer had have lifted the camera a little the mid ground would have revealed itself more and given a stronger sense of depth, something that’s important when shooting in high sunlight in the middle of the day when less shadow reduces form to an image.”

DOC Says…

“Limestone cliffs and canyons, caves and underground streams, and an absolutely spectacular coastline, are all packed into Paparoa National Park. Paparoa’s luxuriant coastal forest is on display in this image from Christel.”

A corkboard with the other photos, in polaroid format, that made it in to the top ten.

The other photos that made it into the top ten of the photo contest

So, that’s the end of my competition, but that doesn’t mean we should stop enjoying New Zealand’s great parks. So keep taking those photos and share them with me.

Rob Suisted with a South Georgia elephant seal pup.

Rob Suisted with a South Georgia elephant seal pup resting on his legs

A big thanks to Rob for lending us his time and expert eye to help us find our winner. Rob has a passion for the parks and the wild places of New Zealand and was therefore a great choice to judge our contest.

Rob is an internationally respected wilderness and nature photographer. He has published many books and calendars, and his photos have featured on countless magazine covers.

Rob also runs a very successful image library of over 50,000 of his own NZ natural images. You can learn more about his work and view some of his beautiful photos on his site

There once was a limerick contest
Hokitika staff picked out the best
They were displayed on boards
At the Conservation Awards
But one poem was better than the rest

As part of their Conservation Week activities, Inger Perkins and Sue Asplin of the Hokitika Department of Conservation (DOC) team ran ‘The Great Conservation Week Limerick Competition’.

The task was to ‘write a limerick about something you love doing in our great outdoors’. The prize was a helicopter ride for two with Anderson Helicopters, a kiwi crèche experience with a DOC ranger, a daypack, a head torch, Whittakers fair trade chocolate, and an Andris Apse book of scenic photos.

Image of Tyler Bishop, Age 7, the winner of the limerick competition.

Tylar Bishop won the limerick competition

Tylar Bishop, age 7, from Kaniere School won the competition. Here’s his winning limerick:

There was a young kid who liked to go tramping,
As he walked his feet he was stamping.
He kicked all the rocks,
And pulled up his socks,
Then pitched his tent to go camping.

The competition was stiff, with some amazing entries coming forward from local children and adults alike. Below are a few of the good ones. The floor is open for anyone else that wants to have a go, though, sorry, all the chocolate has gone!

Image of a group of children from St Mary's School, Hokitika, reading the limericks of the finalists.

Group of children from St Mary’s School, Hokitika, reading the limericks of the finalists

Limerick contest entries:

There once was a little brown kiwi
Who tried to find his long lost iwi,
When he found the whānau,
They were like “Um, Ah, No!!”
Till they found out his name was Hiwi
Lesha Iraia, Age 12, Karoro School

There once was a fisherman called Ron,
Who was worried the fish were all gone.
Don’t catch too many
Leave some for Lenny
As what will we eat when they’re gone?
Taylor Martyn-Frewin, Age 11, Karoro School

There once was a DOC worker named Ned
Who was a very wise man he said
“Be not overcome with greed
And take only what you need,
Save some for your grandchildren instead”.
Keeley Sexton, Age 11, Karoro School

There once was a botanist called Ambrose
Who would hike up where Edelweiss grows
He saw something new
Then stepped in a poo
His discovery – a Toilet Paper Rose
Megan Norris

Here West of the alps, it is great
With Flora, Fauna, Forests, Glaciers and Lakes,
Whitebait are found,
Marvellous Vistas abound,
Let’s preserve and enjoy our Conservation estate
Jean Adams

I’ve sat back and listened for years
There’s been fighting and protest and tears
If we do what we say
and we say what we do
This planet will last us for years.
Dave Palmer

The Arthur’s Pass kea are such a delight
But feeding these birds is NOT alright!
When they eat the wrong food
They get cheeky and rude
And totally wreck anything that’s in sight!
Sue Asplin

Image of DOC area manager, Ian McClure, selecting finalists - and laughing.

DOC area manager, Ian McClure, selecting finalists – and laughing

Image of Sirocco with a camera.

Vote for your favourite photos in my photo contest

Update: Voting is now over. The winner will be announced soon.Skrraaarrrkk! To celebrate the 2012 Conservation Week theme of “Love Your Parks” I have been running a photo competition on my Facebook page asking you to submit your best “people loving parks” photo.

As a parrot of the night I don’t get many opportunities to see New Zealand’s fantastic parks in the day light – except the undergrowth – but this photo contest was a great way to change that!

Amongst the great snapshots I have received from all over New Zealand are people enjoying glaciers, beaches, mountains, and even our tussock grasslands. The entries reflect how much you all love getting out and using our parks.

Image of Sirocco's Facebook page and the photo contest tab.

Head to my Facebook page to cast your vote

Entries for the competition closed on Sunday, but there is still time to head over and vote for your favourite photo, so wing it on over to my contest page and get voting. To cast your vote head to the competition tab on my Facebook page. You’ll need to have logged into your Facebook account and “liked” my page. Voting closes this Wednesday night.

Voting in my contest will make sure that the very best photos make it into the top ten. These top ten photos will go to my photographer pal Rob Suisted, for professional judging, and he’ll pick the winner.

Sirocco's "Show Me Your Parks" contest banner image.

My photo contest celebrated the theme for Conservation Week 2012,
“Love Your Parks”

Boom! Didn’t get your entry in? You can still share with me your amazing photos on my Facebook page – or check out my photography tips on the DOC website to learn how to get the perfect snap!

My good friends Jenny and Steve were avid trampers BC  (before children) but didn’t attempt an overnighter as a family until Meg was five.

Their first trip – into Magdalen Hut, in St James Conservation Area – was absolutely fabulous said Jenny – and Meg had good things to say about it too!

Jenny Christie and Meg Baker. Photo: Steve Baker.

Mum Jenny and Meg at the start of their first overnight tramp!

Jenny’s story

Meg had lots of day walks under her belt before our first tramp. We’d been up to Packhorse Hut and back, with minimal carrying and complaining, so we knew she could walk for at least three and a half hours.

So, despite threatening rain we set off – walking  up the Boyle Valley, conjouling Meg along the way with pikelets.

Meg carried her own pack, with her soft toy and a jacket.  A  couple of hours in, we took the pack off her, just to get her through that last stretch.

Meg walking along the track her friend Tahi in her backpack. Photo: Steve Baker.

Meg with friend Tahi in her backpack

We thought the swing bridges might be a problem – we wondered if she would be scared, but she wasn’t at all. If we sensed impending ‘scaredness’ we talked about how exciting it was and how brave she was being.

Meg crossing a river on a swingbridge; Photo: Steve Baker.

Meg bravely traverses her first swing bridge!

There was also a washout before the hut, and we had to a climb a steep bank. Again, we didn’t give her a chance to be scared but kept her moving, with motivating words and promises of more pikelets.

We didn’t take a tent, which was a bit risky. I would recommend one, just in case the hut is full, or so you can stop on the way if you need to cut the trip short. But the stars aligned over Magdalen Hut and we had it to ourselves. With its sunny little deck, six bunks, and double-glazed windows, it’s a really nice modern DOC hut, perfect for families.

When we got to the hut Meg was pretty excited to find a little house in the forest. We ate chocolate and played Uno, which was a great game to bring along, very compact. Travel Scrabble would work well too.

Meg and her Dad Steve inside Magdalen Hut. Photo: Jenny Christie.

Dad Steve and Meg inside Magdalen Hut

After tea we all went to bed at the same time. Meg patted my head as she went to sleep, as she was concerned because it was so dark. The platform bunks meant I could be nearby to reassure her.

We got up in the morning and ate porridge for breakfast – with brown sugar as a treat!

The trip out from the hut was easier, as Meg knew what to expect. We played ‘all around the world’ again … and again … it’s amazing how long that game can last.

Jenny and Meg on the track. Photo: Steve Baker.

Tramping is fun! Big smiles all around while Meg and Jenny tramp

It was really good to do this trip as a family. We felt like we’d rediscovered our old life again and we were pleasantly surprised how much Meg could do. We could see a whole world of adventures opening up to us. Roll on summer!

Meg says:

  • “The bit that I liked the best was when we played Uno and I won and we played three rounds.”
  • “I liked when we went over the swing bridge – it felt scary, but wobbly and fun.”
  • “I’d like to go tramping again because it was fun and because I got to go over a swing bridge for the very first time.”
Steve and Jenny on the track. Photo: Meg Baker (5).

Mum and Dad by Meg Baker!

Find child/family friendly activities on the DOC website

You’ll hear the dance of the kakatark before you see it.

Ever wondered what you’d be or do all day if you were a New Zealand native species? Well, just recall your name and date of birth, and follow the guide to create your own ‘species sentence’! For example, if your name is Sirocco Kakapo and you were born on the 23rd of March 1987, your sentence would be ‘I’m in love with fairy terns and my head grows bulbous because I snap my hairy pincers in the air and wave my feelers like I just don’t care.’

All parts of the sentences are based on characteristics and traits of New Zealand species, so mix and match them around to come up with your own ultimate Kiwi character.

Step one—what month is your birthday in?

January: I can’t stop thinking about
February: I look like
March: I’m in love with
April: I want to adopt
May: My feet smell like
June: I’m scared of
July: My laugh sounds like
August: My best friends are
September: My hair style resembles
October: I have the brains of
November: I compare myself to
December: I dance like

Step two—what day of the month is your birthday on?

Never get between an Albaru mother and her bulbous-headed hunting chick

1 – Elephant seals
2 – Kauri snails
3 – Whio
4 – Long tailed bats
5 – Great white sharks
6 – Takahē
7 – Tuatara
8 – Archey’s frogs
9 – Koaru
10 – New Zealand fur seals
11 – Humpback whales
12 – Giant bullys
13 – Pīwakawaka
14 – Kākā
15 – Tīeke
16 – Kārearea
17 – Yellow eyed penguins
18 – Mohua
19 – Kōkako
20 – Grand skinks
21 – Albatrosses
22 – Weta
23 – Fairy terns
24 – Maui’s dolphins
25 – Little penguins
26 – Kākāpō
27 – Eels
28 – Pāteke
29 – Kakī
30 – Ruru
31 – Rowi kiwi

Watch out for the God of all ugly things.

Step three—how old are you?

0–5: and I can never be tamed because
6–10: and I keep replacing my teeth because
11–15: and my head grows bulbous because
16–20: and I like elaborate ritual courtship because
21–25: and I call out ‘zeek zeek, zonk zonk’ because
26–30: and I’m God of all ugly things because
31–35: and I butt males with my tusks because
36–40: and I mate when it rains because
41–50: and I lick my eyes because
51–60: and I sing sweet songs to my partner because
61–70: and I’m heard before I’m seen because
70+: and I wear two coats of fur because

Step four—What is the first letter of your name?

Hey girls, d’you like my boom?

A–C: I’m too busy scoffing my face with hoho—Mmm.
D–F: I’m trying to attract the ladies with my boom hole in the ground.
G–J: I deserve an Oscar for my ‘pretending to be hurt’ performances to predators.
K–M: I’m actually a dinosaur—200 million years old!
N–P: Me and my harem girls flick sand over ourselves to keep cool.
Q–S: I snap my hairy pincers in the air and wave my feelers like I just don’t care.
T–V: Clever’s my middle name—I can swim and hunt within hours of being born. Boom.
W–Z: I get to sleep all winter and can use my wings as legs.

Harry the Hooker lays down the house rules in the harem.

Tell us what your conservation style is below and remember to share your style with your friends and family for Conservation Week 2012.

DOC staff in visitor centres are knowledgeable characters. They know all about the history of their area, what to do, what to wear, where to go for this and that, and are happy to help visitors plan and prepare for their holidays.
However, from time to time, they do get a few questions they’re just not sure how to answer…. As Kiwis we take what we know about our natural areas, flora and fauna for granted, but to tourists, some things are a lot less obvious. Some questions are legitimate and only funny to us New Zealanders, while others, well… I’ll let you decide. Here’s a list of some real questions our visitor centre staff have been asked over the last few years.

From Nelson Lakes National Park

  • What is there to do in Fiji?
  • Can I take a shopping trolley on the Abel Tasman Coast Track?
  • Where can I get a pedicure?
  • I’ve heard there are Roman ruins in the Abel Tasman – can I visit them?
  • How long is an annual hut pass valid for?
  • I have just heard that native snails are carnivorous. Is it safe to go tramping? Do they bite?
  • How long would it take to get to the bottom of the lake in a water taxi?

Abel Tasman’s best kept secret.

Would you like fries with your McFranz meal?

From the Franz Josef i-SITE

  • Do you have a McDonalds here?
  • How long is the 40 minute flight?

From Arthur’s Pass Visitor Centre

  • I’ve been hearing a bird call… do you know what it is?
  • So is the greeting ‘Kia ora’ named after the kea birds?
  • Is this made out of real kiwi? (asked by a shopper about a kiwi toy)
  • Is that the wind? (asked as the village siren went off)
  • The kiwi in the forest—are they tame?
  • Can you please tell me what temperature it will be on 13 February? (a phone call received in December)
  • Is it named after the captain from Star Wars? (‘it’ being Mount Cook—the reply was “First, no—you are thinking of Captain Kirk from Star Trek, and second, Captain Kirk wasn’t around when Aoraki was named”)
  • Have any llamas been squashed on the roads lately, and will they become wild in the park?
  • Are there any peanut farms here?
  • “You get a lot of earthquakes here don’t you – will there be one today at 1pm? We have a woman on our bus – its her birthday and she has never felt an earthquake.” Funnily enough – we had a shake at 1.05pm!
  • The sign says ‘the road is closed’, what does that mean?

Aoraki/Mt Kirk.

Rakiura National Park

  • I’m catching the ferry to Stewart Island on 23 of January—will it be raining? (asked by a caller in early September)

Whakapapa Visitor Centre

  • Do you have donkeys here? For the children to ride on?
  • Are there any volcanoes here? (asked while standing looking at the volcanic information)
  • Are there any postcards of Australia? (No) Oh, why is that?
  • Can you tell me about the gondola to the Bruce Mountain Wildlife Centre?
  • Is it a good idea to take a car on the Tongariro Crossing?

Donkey rides – only $2 across the crossing!

Paparoa National Park

  • Where do I report a dead possum on the road?
  • I wish to cycle to the summit of Mount Cook, how far does the road go?
  • Can you please tell me the tide differences between here and Los Angeles?
  • We are told there is a micro-climate in this area. Where do we find it?

Paparoa’s micro climate for the micro visitors.

Have you ever been asked a quirky question from a visitor to New Zealand? Comment and share it with us.