To celebrate Conservation Week and this year’s theme ‘Love your parks’, Visitor Centre staff from national parks around the country share with us some interesting facts.
There are 14 national parks in New Zealand, and while Kiwis like to celebrate and show off our beautiful national parks, it is often only when people get the chance to visit that they get to learn about some of the hidden secrets and fascinating histories of these places.
Below is a list of some of the interesting facts and figures that have been sent in by our visitor centre staff who like to pass on these pieces of information to visitors to their area.
From the Franz Josef i-SITE:
Franz and his beard
In 1865 Julius Haast named the Franz Josef Glacier after the Emperor of Austria because it reminded him of his long white beard.
Franz Josef is one of only three glaciers that flow down into temperate rainforest; Fox is the other and San Rafael in Patagonia is the third.
The Alpine Fault Line runs right under the town’s petrol station.
The average yearly rain fall in Franz Josef is almost 6000mm compared to Christchurch, which receives approximately 650mm.
Arthur’s Pass village is absolutely tiny, home to only 30-odd permanent residents and surrounded by the 114,000 hectare Arthur’s Pass National Park.
A new plaque on the Arthur’s Pass historic walk was recently put in beside the original lump of greywacke which Ray (above) carved the first symbol into.
Arthur’s Pass is one of only two places in New Zealand with possessive apostrophes in their names (the other is Hawke’s Bay). The Arthur’s Pass Visitor Centre takes apostrophe protection very seriously!
Arthur’s Pass ranger, Ray Cleland, was one of the first full-time professional rangers in the country. In 1956 he designed the mountain, beech and river emblem for Arthur’s Pass National Park which he carved into a lump of greywacke.
In 2007 the Tongariro Crossing track was renamed the Tongariro Alpine Crossing to better reflect the nature and terrain of the track and to address concerns that many visitors who undertook the Crossing were under-prepared both in terms of equipment and expectation.
The track used for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing has been in existence for many years, but was not called the Tongariro Crossing until much later. Part of this track was previously used as a horse track.
From Paparoa National Park:
The flaggy limestone layers of the Pancake Rocks are unique to Paparoa. They occur nowhere else in the world.
The well known Inland Pack Track follows a track originally formed by gold miners.
The endemic Westland Black Petrel breeds only on the Punakaiki Coast.
From Nelson Lakes National Park:
During the last Ice Age massive glaciers created troughs in the mountainous headwaters of the Buller River. Today these troughs are filled by Lakes Rotoiti and Rotoroa in the Nelson Lakes National Park.
The last glacial action in this area was between 12,000 and 20,000 years ago.
Every Friday Jobs at DOC will take you behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation.
Today we profile Arthur’s Pass ranger, Tom Williams.
Position: Ranger, Visitor Information, Arthur’s Pass Visitor Centre
Castle Hill peak: not a bad climb from Porters Pass, with some pretty cool views!
What kind of things do you do in your role?
Working in a Visitor Centre in such a small community means that you are the first port of call for anyone wanting information—from recreational opportunities to where the public toilets are located.
Because of the size of the village you also need to be able to deal with whatever comes through the front door or over the radio. This ranges from people wanting to find accommodation, to arranging Helivacs for people injured in the bush.
What is the best part about your job?
Arriving for work in the morning and never knowing what the day has in store for you. I do everything from search and rescue and volunteer fire, to a million other small things that need to be done.
I also get satisfaction from helping people connect with the natural world and getting the most from their visit to this cool place.
Releasing rowi (formerly known as Ōkārito brown kiwi) at Ōkārito
What is the hardest part about your job?
Staying indoors while others go out and enjoy the sunshine. That, and people not listening to your advice and doing things that perhaps they shouldn’t.
What led you to your role in DOC?
I love New Zealand and being outdoors, so I guess you could say working at DOC was a natural fit.
Environmental protection and education is hugely important in addressing the issues facing New Zealand and the global community. Working in a role that I can make a positive impact has always been high on my list.
What was your highlight from the month just gone?
There is always so much going on at Arthur’s Pass that this is a hard one. My highlight for the month would have to be helping out with the mountain section of the Coast to Coast and sharing war stories with the other team members. (I am a member of the Christchurch Red Cross Response Team and we are tasked with looking after the mountain section.)
The rule of three…
Living in Arthur’s Pass. It’s one of the best places to live in the country with an amazing community—it’s always funny going down to the pub and seeing a third of the population down there (Arthur’s Pass has a permanent population of around 35).
Bikes. The feeling of freedom you get from descending down a hill with the wind at your back and the enjoyment I get every time I ride one.
Having such an amazing and beautiful country to call home.
Biking the length of the South Island – somewhere on the Rainbow Road between Hanmer Springs and St Arnuad – as part of an adventure in 2006, thanks to winning the Gore-Tex Good for Life Scholarship
Three pet peeves
People saying ‘over and out’ on the radio (‘over’ means I have finished speaking and am awaiting a reply, ‘out’ means I have finished this communication).
People underestimating what is required to go venturing into the great outdoors.
People feeding kea.
Possibly the most famous short walk in Arthur’s Pass, Devils Punchbowl
Three favourite places in New Zealand
Arthur’s Pass. A real kiwi National Park, understated, with huge mountains, amazing scenery and wild rivers and places.
Stewart Island. Bush, beaches and literally tripping over kiwi and deer—need I say more?
Christchurch. Heaps of recreational opportunities on your door step, from cycling, to skiing, and tramping. We are spoilt for choice. The rebuild plans are looking choice as well.
Favourite movie, album, book
Movie: Good docos such as The end of the line, Foodinc etc
Album: Hard to say, possibly stuff by Dave Dobbyn, David Gray and the likes
Book: Anything by Ken Follett or Dan Brown
Deep and meaningful…
What piece of advice would you tell your 18 year old self?
Life is for living, do what you want and have fun. Don’t be afraid to standout from the crowd and do what you want to do.
Temple Basin – a novel approach to working off the Christmas lunch (Christmas Day 2011)
Who or what inspires you and why?
Anyone that is passionate and cares enough about something to go out there and make a difference. I should also mention my parents for bringing me up to care about other people, the environment, and showing me that small actions can make a difference. My tutors from the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) and the sustainability guru Dave Irwin for helping me see what I want to do with my life.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a kid I think I wanted to be anything from a firefighter to a chef, so I had no real direction until I reached high school and decided I wanted to do something with an environmental focus. As a ‘big kid’ I have narrowed the choices down to how people connect with the environment through urban design and planning.
And now, if you weren’t working at DOC, what would you want to be?
My main interest is how people relate to the environment and how we connect with it. Any job that would allow me to work on this would be a bonus, either that or emergency management.
Going through Harper Pass as part of an 11 day environmental journey
What sustainability tip would you like to pass on?
Ride your bike. It won’t cost you a thing, is good for you and it has been proven that trips around three kilometres in length are quicker on the bike than in the car.
Which green behaviour would you like to adopt this year—at home? At work?
At home: Try and wean myself off internet shopping and buying bike stuff that I don’t need.
At work: Remember to turn off the public toilet lights at night when I shut up shop.
If you could be any New Zealand native species for a day, what would you be and why?
Kea, they are amazing birds and incredibly intelligent. Plus, as kea and Arthur’s Pass go hand in hand, being able to hang out and terrorise this place would be pretty choice.
What piece of advice or message would you want to give to New Zealanders when it comes to conservation?
New Zealand has some of the best natural environments on the face of this earth and this is embedded deep into what it means to be a Kiwi. However, if we don’t alter the way we live (car and resource usage) then we are putting these very environments that make us who we are at risk.
Furthermore, tourism is something like the second biggest contributor to the New Zealand economy, and continued environmental degradation would effectively kill the goose that laid the golden egg.