Archives For Aoraki

On a fine summer’s day the route up to Mueller Hut is a fantastic way to experience New Zealand’s mountains without needing to be a mountaineer.

Continue Reading...
Anna ready to take photos of the NZ falcons at Wairakei Forest.

Anna with her camera ready

By Anna McKnight, Partnerships Ranger, Taupō.

A pair of rare New Zealand falcon/kārearea are currently nesting at Craters Mountain Bike Park at Wairakei Forest near Taupō.

The kārearea is a courageous bird. One time, in Aoraki/Mt Cook, a falcon defended itself against an Iroquois helicopter that got too close to its nest.

The helicopter was training with the Search and Rescue team and had to move, as it didn’t want to get the falcon caught in its rotor blades. Kārearea 1, Helicopter 0. That was one brave bird!

Having worked for the Department of Conservation (DOC) in Aoraki/Mt Cook, I knew what to expect when preparing to take photos of kārearea.

Karearea. Photo: Peter Langlands. DOC Use Only.

Karearea. Photo: Peter Langlands

As Murphy’s Law would have it, I was dressed for the office that day—with skirt, stockings and town boots—not very practical. So I raided my fire bag, and with helmet and fire boots for the terrain, I was ready to be dive bombed!

A NZ falcon soaring through the air at Wairakei Forest.

The kārearea speeds towards me

What I wasn’t ready for is the speed of the falcon. They are thought to get up to 200 kilometre per hour!

The falcon flew straight at me, but they were, in this case, just whizzing past to scare me, rather than striking. I need a better, and faster camera!

The sheer speed made the perfect falcon shot elusive, and I decided it is probably best left to the professionals!

NZ falcon pair sitting on a branch in Wairakei Forest.

Falcon pair defending their nest on Craters mountain bike track

It is exciting to be near such a rare and strong bird of prey, but I tried to be as quick as possible so I didn’t stress the parents out too much. Apologies for the amateur photos! If you are a kārearea fan and want to see some more professional photographs check out the page on the New Zealand Birds Online website.

Come behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Today we profile Gina Plumpton, Learning Experience Outside the Classroom (LEOTC) Educator/Coordinator at Aoraki/Mt Cook.

Gina on her bike, mountains in the background.

From Peters Lookout—cycling back from Twizel to
Aoraki/Mt Cook—Summer 2013

At work

Gina holds up a piece of ice from her roof.

The big snow in the village (2013)—
ice from my roof and snow
almost to the roof

Some things I do in my job include… making programmes for school groups visiting Aoraki/Mt Cook by providing a link between the school groups visiting the village and the local businesses/stakeholders. This ensures a streamlined programme is constructed and that schools are not only meeting their curriculum needs but have a memorable experience in the Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. I also teach and love it!

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by… allowing the visiting groups (students/teachers/parents) to be part of ‘The Big Picture’. They have experiences by looking at Aoraki’s past and present and understand how everything is connected; that Aotearoa is special and Aoraki/Mt Cook is unique with everything being connected, even on a spiritual level.

By being part of the Learning Experience Outside the Classroom, visitors can take reasonable steps to have minimal impact, aiding preservation of the area for future generations…

The best bit about my job is… being able to use my teaching, outdoor recreation and tourism skill set to make programmes for school groups, plus teach them in this spiritual landscape…oh and the cute cards and letters from the students!

The most awesome DOC moment I’ve had so far… is learning tha tthe LEOTC team at Aoraki/Mt Cook (and Twizel) have supported the education of nearly 1,000 students in the first term of 2013; which has allowed them to learn more about the National Park, bond in their school groups; plus meet their curriculum needs.

The DOC (or previous DOC) employee that inspires me the most is… Shirley Slatter (current Programme Manager) for allowing her dream of creating the Visitor/Education Centre and being part of the original team who set up the LEOTC Educator position/programme (which is the means to link education with the environment to such a large number of students visiting Aoraki/Mt Cook). Her trust in me to do my job as the Educator/Coordinator has allowed me to grow in the role, which in turn allows the programme to grow.

On a personal note…

Most people don’t know that… I am only so tolerant because of my time in the army; four years living in Japan and travelling in many different countries… I am a Scorpio though!

If I could trade places with any other person for a week… it would be with an endurance runner or extreme explorer or mountaineer…. These things I would love to experience but, for now, I will just look at pictures and watch movies.

My best ever holiday was… cycling for 10 days in Hokkaido and eight days in Miyazaki Prefecture, Japan…by myself…with minimal Japanese and a very reliable bike… (a red one I left at the Osaka Airport and cried for the whole trip home).

Gina standing by her bike by the water. Land in distance.

Cycling in Japan – I love Hokkaido and Miyazaki (pictured here opposite Monkey Island) Prefectures

My greatest sporting moment was recently when… I finished swimming 13.8 km in four days at the 2013 Samoa Swim Series, having nowhere much to train at Aoraki/Mt Cook…so I was lucky to finish. The fresh air here in the village and the snow shoveling must have been good for my cross-training…along with the five swims I got whilst promoting our programme in Canterbury.

Left: Gina and friends in Samoa. Right: Samoa.

Samoa Swim Series July 2012 and 2013 (13.8 km in 4 days)

Before working at DOC… I was a LEOTC Educator at Parliament and at the Wellington Zoo. (I was back at Uni doing a Graduate Dip in Education and needed some extra money).

Gina holding mace.

My last week working at Parliament as an Education Officer – holding the ‘real’ mace ($500,000 in value) with the Deputy Serjeant-at-Arms …keeping it within
his reach

I have also been an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher in Auckland, an EFL (English as a foreign language) in Japan and taught Outdoor Recreation in NSW, Australia…hence my strange accent.

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quotes are: “Everything you are is a result of what you have thought” – Buddha.
“It’s not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” – Sir Edmund Hillary.

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given… is from various school principals “Keep doing what you are doing; students relate, learn and grow – don’t quit teaching!”

In work and life I am motivated by… meeting people who are positive, tactful and tolerant; and who want to challenge themselves.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is… Let’s educate ALL smokers who do not believe that littering their cigarette butts has an environmental impact or is an inappropriate behaviour…that they just need to quit and stop polluting our air and waterways.

Question of the week…

If you could have dinner with anyone, both past and present, fictional or real, who would it be, and what would you ask them?

Nelson Mandela (a fit and healthy one) would be my ultimate pick. I would want to hear directly from him on how he could see the big picture for his people and how (by not retaliating to all the injustice he suffered) he could rise up and be the stronger person. Where did he find the strength and how he could be so forgiving to people who were clearly mean, wrong and evil?

Also; the feeling he had when he was elected President. Did he feel like his peaceful campaigning had paid off? That all the people that put him and his movement down, were ultimately beaten. Or did he just feel blessed for being alive, free and for being true and sticking by what he believed in…?