Archives For Canterbury

Motunau Island is the only offshore predator free island in Canterbury. Community ranger Vanessa Mander tells us why ridding the island of boxthorn weeds is important for the sea birds survival.

Continue Reading...

By Wayne Beggs, Biodiversity Ranger in Akaroa.

The yellow-eyed penguin work happening at Banks Peninsula in Canterbury is a real team effort!

Juvenile yellow-eyed-penguin at Banks Peninsula.

Juvenile yellow-eyed-penguin at Banks Peninsula

We’re fortunate to have some passionate farmers, Mark Armstrong and Francis Helps, who love the local wildlife and who have been the driving force behind protecting the penguins on Banks Peninsula. They had grown up with penguins and were used to seeing them around and they became very concerned when numbers started to seriously decline in the nineties.

Ranger Wayne Beggs and local vet Susan Shannon micro-chipping penguins.

Ranger Wayne Beggs and local vet Susan Shannon micro-chipping penguins

Mark and Francis didn’t muck around and bought their own predator traps to try and control the ferrets, stoats and feral cats that were decimating the local little blue and yellow-eyed penguin colonies.

Mark and Francis soon realised that they needed some help and sought support from the local DOC rangers. DOC ranger Robin Burleigh stepped in and added additional trap lines as well as assisting with monitoring the penguins.

In more recent years Environment Canterbury and the Christchurch City Council have contributed to the trapping and monitoring effort and penguins number have boomed.

Pōhatu is now home to the largest mainland little blue penguin colony (over 1200 pairs last count) in New Zealand and yellow-eyed penguin numbers are starting to creep back up.

A young yellow-eyed penguin in the bushes at Banks Peninsula.

A young yellow-eyed penguin

A local vet, Susan Shannon, has volunteered her time to help with nest searching, mico-chipping penguin fledglings and providing emergency care for injured or sick penguins.

There are also two passionate volunteers, Thomas and Kristina, who really love penguins and put a lot of time and effort into caring for under weight, sick and injured penguins.

It’s thanks to the fantastic effort of all these people and organisations that the penguins on Banks Peninsula have a bright future.

Arthur’s Pass recently celebrated 150 years since the European opening of the route that linked the east coast to the gold fields in the west.

The official opening the new Arthur’s Pass Walking Track was one of the events that marked the occasion.

DOC Ranger Tom Williams, writes:

DOC Director-General, Lou Sanson, speaking at the official opening of the Arthur's Pass walking track.

DOC Director-General, Lou Sanson, speaking at the official opening of the Arthur’s Pass Walking Track

150 years ago today (or thereabouts), in a time when an ‘epic’ was just a part of everyday life, the Dobson brothers stumbled across a pass linking the east coast to the gold fields in the west. That pass was Arthur’s Pass.

Legend has it that Arthur’s Pass isn’t named after Arthur Dudley Dobson as such, but rather that someone remarked that Arthur’s pass was the most suitable pass for direct travel to the west.

The name stuck, and Arthur’s Pass became one of only two places in New Zealand to have an apostrophe! (The other is Hawke’s Bay.)

Celebrations of this feat of discovery occurred over the weekend and resulted in the population of the pass swelling by over 400%.

Cutting the ribbon! Minister for the Environment, Amy Adams, and Zeb Patterson (the great, great, great, grandson of Arthur Dudley Dobson), open the Arthur’s Pass Walking Track

Cutting the ribbon! Minister for the Environment, Amy Adams, and Zeb Patterson (the great, great, great, grandson of Arthur Dudley Dobson), open the Arthur’s Pass Walking Track

Festivities commenced on the Friday night with the unveiling of a bronze kea statue. As we unveiled the taonga, a member of the audience did a sterling haka, and a real kea flew over us.

Arthur’s Pass is one of the best places in New Zealand to see these amazing birds.


Arthur’s Pass is one of the best places in New Zealand to see kea.

In typical Arthur’s Pass fashion, the main attraction—the official opening of the Arthur’s Pass walking track—was accompanied by clear skies and warm weather.

The creation of the new track, however, was no easy feat. DOC staff, and the contractors constructing the track, had to cope with the extremes of local weather.

So far the track has coped with many deluges of rain, gale force winds, blistering sun, a minus 17 degree frost, and a 2 metre snow dump!

Testing out the new Arthur's Pass Walking Track.

Many people took the opportunity to take a guided walk of the track and discover some of the magical flora and fauna of the pass

For those travelling to other places through the Pass, the route travelled has changed significantly from what it was 150 years ago.

Back then the journey took a long time. Once the coach road was constructed (can you believe that they managed to build the road from east to west in one year!) the journey was reduced to four days. Today it is a pleasant two hours to Christchurch, or one hour to the West Coast.

Discover the heritage and fantastic scenery of the Arthur’s Pass walking track yourself. Further information and directions can be found on the DOC website.

A fresh look at the humble backcountry hut by Year 12 students at Rangiora High School has brought forward all kinds of new ideas and concepts for consideration.

Rangiora student Adam Mitchelmore chats to Jeff Dalley.

Rangiora student Adam Mitchelmore chats to Jeff Dalley

Throughout 2013 DOC Ranger, Jeff Dalley, has been working with visual communications and design students in Rangiora to design a new hut for the St James Cycle Trail, a 64 kilometre track through stunning scenery of mountain peaks, crystal clear rivers, high-country lakes, alpine meadows, sub-alpine beech forest, and expansive grassy river flats.

A prescriptive Standard Operating Procedure for hut design in the backcountry means new ideas and designs are rarely considered, but the project at Rangiora High School was a great way to think of new and creative approaches to building these shelters.

Callum Bradbury shows Jeff his Computer-Aided Design drawing.

Callum Bradbury shows Jeff his Computer-Aided Design drawing

The idea was the brainchild of teacher, Carey Prebble, who contacted DOC. Fortuitously a new hut was being considered and DOC staff were keen to collaborate.

The students were given a very specific and comprehensive design brief which would have been exactly what would have been provided to any architect.

The hut design, for 12 people and their bikes, and had to cater to various constraints, including cost, materials, weight and construction complexity.

A final hut design poster.

One student’s final hut design poster

Many of the students had fond memories of staying in DOC huts and wanted to ensure their designs would be attractive and comfortable for future visitors.

DOC staff were impressed with the students’ work, they were truly creative and many of the innovations designed by the students could be immediately incorporated in any final design.

John Robinson who took this picture while mountain biking beside Lake Hāwea, in Hāwea Conservation Park, Otago.

Continue Reading...

By Wendy Sullivan, Project Coordinator

World Wetlands Day is celebrated on 2nd February and promotes wetland protection throughout the world. Wendy Sullivan, DOC Project Coordinator, tells us about the current wetlands restoration project occurring in the Canterbury high country.

O Tu Wharekai Wetlands.

O Tu Wharekai Wetlands

O Tu Wharekai Wetland Restoration Project its situated in the high country of Canterbury. The project is one of the best examples of an inter-montane (between or among mountains) wetland system remaining in New Zealand, and is nationally important for wildlife. It contains a mosaic of diverse wetland habitats nestled amongst high country tussocklands and set against the towering Southern Alps/Kā Tiritiri o te Moana. The project includes the braided upper Rangitata River, and the 12 lakes that make up the Ashburton Lakes, along with ephemeral turfs, streams, swamps and bogs.

Lake Emily in the Hakatere Conservation Park.

Lake Emily in the Hakatere Conservation Park

New Zealand has experienced significant loss of wetlands. Over the last 150 years approximately 90% of inland wetlands (swamps, marshes, fens and bogs) have been converted to other land use. Many of New Zealand’s remaining wetlands are also under threat, mostly the result of human activities including nutrient run-off, pest invasions and drainage.

O Tu Wharekai is aiming to help stop the decline of wetlands through intensive management of the wetlands, researching and trialling new methodologies and raising awareness of the plight of wetlands. It is one of the three Arawai Kākāriki sites, a national wetland restoration programme.

The project has good populations of native and sport fish. Threatened bird species include Australasian bittern, black-fronted tern, wrybill and Australasian crested grebe. There are a number of lizard species including the threatened lizard species scree skink and long-toed skink. The glacial moraines of the high country produce kettleholes which are home to a rare habitat type – ephemeral turfs. Ephemeral turfs are one of the most poorly recognised wetland types. They occur where surface depressions in the land – kettleholes – become ponded with water during wet seasons or wet years, yet are partially or wholly dry at other times. Vegetation consists mainly of herbaceous plants forming a ground-hugging and often dense carpet of intertwined plants. Species present change with changing water levels. They are home to many threatened plant species.

Genetians in kettlehole. Photo by G Iles.

Genetians growing in high country kettleholes

While the area is relatively pristine, there are always threats lurking on the doorstep. There is the potential for water abstraction and storage for irrigation and stock water, and degraded water quality due to sediment and nutrient inputs from intensified farming practice. Broom and Russell lupins threaten the braided rivers, while grey and crack willow threaten the hydrology of lakes, streams and swamps by increasing sedimentation. Swamps, bogs and ephemeral turfs can be damaged by vehicles, rabbits and hares and stock. Predators such as ferrets, stoats, weasels, feral cats, hedgehogs and possums threaten birds, lizards and invertebrates.

Community involvement is also an important element to the project. There are a number of groups, businesses and individual assisting with monitoring and management such as weed control, bird monitoring and riparian planting. Further information can be found on the DOC website.

Australasian crested grebes.

Australasian crested grebes

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 Mary-Anne Baxter, Permissions/Statutory Land Management (SLM) Supervisor, Canterbury

At work

Evening walks each day during my stint at the Arthur’s Pass Visitors Centre last year – the only time I’ve got to wear a proper DOC uniform

Position:Transitioning! Currently acting Permissions/Statutory Land Management (SLM) Supervisor Canterbury Conservancy since this February, high country tenure review officer for the previous seven years, and very shortly to become a Christchurch shared service SLM advisor.

What kind of things do you do in your role?

My tenure review role involved a lot of document drafting for proposals on high country pastoral leases, report and document editing, and implementing archaeological assessments on pastoral leases throughout Canterbury. My current role involves the day to day running of the Canterbury Permissions/SLM team while the newly appointed manager focuses on transitioning to Shared Services. My new role will involve all the statutory land management tasks involved with land disposals and acquisitions, land status investigation, and providing advice to others in the department on this.

What is the best part about your job?

Over recent years it has been the opportunities to research and discover potential historic/archaeological sites and then to actually get out in the high country with a 4WD and archaeologist and actually find them!

A mid 1800’s Mackenzie Basin fence still surviving today, complete with historic horse gateway through it

What is the hardest part about your job?

Convincing others of the processes involved and why things sometimes take a long time to happen.

What led you to your role in DOC?

Making the most of opportunities that become present along the road of life.

What was your highlight from the month just gone?

The original 1880 iron trig marker below a mid 1900’s trig – surveying history combined with amazing Mackenzie Basin views, 4WD trip to get there, great company and amazing archaeological discoveries to find

The lack of any significant earthquakes happening!

The rule of three…

Three loves

  1. Historic research and site discovery!
  2. Taking the Toyota Hilux 4WD out in the high country associated with the above.
  3. Family (most of the time—teenagers are rather hit and miss at times!) and following their sports and music successes.

Three pet peeves

  1. People leaving the television on when no-one is in the room.
  2. Empty containers being left in the fridge/pantry (can’t you tell I have teenagers!)
  3. Cyclists running red lights.

Three foods

  1. Mum’s home baking—worth watching the rugby at Mum’s just for the baking!
  2. Pasta.
  3. Roast potatoes, my daughters favourite.

Three favourite places in New Zealand

  1. St James Station. High country/historic/scenery (and 4WDing for work trips) all mixed in together.
  2. West Coast walks. Charming Creek, Lyell Walkway and Denniston Plateau area in particular. Again the mix of really neat historic things, fantastic scenery and really interesting walks.
  3. Arthur’s Pass. After my couple of months working there last year the enthusiasm of the terrific visitor centre staff there have me sold on the area!

    Overlooking the magical Lake Benmore – a family picnic at the type of spot everyone should get out to

Favourite movie, album, book

  1. Book. Usually whatever I happen to be reading at the time—presently “Caught Mapping” which has wonderful stories of the early surveyors in the 1800’s who mapped our country. I also enjoy a good Jodi Picoult or Lee Child as well though.
  2. Movie. The Lake House has been a favourite, but also Avatar and Inception have been a few that rated highly (in the days when the kids would let us go to the movies with them!).
  3. Album. 30ish years ago it would have definitely been Abba or Bee Gees—these days normally whatever someone else has playing.

Deep and meaningful…

What piece of advice would you tell your 18 year old self?

Make the most of any opportunities that come along (though I probably knew that by then) and to take life as it comes—you never know what will come along next!

Preparations to venture through the cave at Cave Stream, Craigeburn

Who or what inspires you and why?

Probably my parents, for all the community activities they have always been involved with. It’s not until you are there yourself, trying to keep up with your own family and community activities that you really appreciate all your parents really did and are still doing.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A primary school teacher, then later in high school, a surveyor.

And now, if you weren’t working at DOC, what would you want to be?

Surveying would actually still be a good alternative, although historic/archaeological work would be really high on the list, plus legal work would also be attractive (I’m currently studying for a Legal Executive Diploma).

Real life gold panning on the West Coast—I’m glad the objective was a quiet picnic by the river than actually making our fortune in gold!

What sustainability tip would you like to pass on?

Turning off lights and appliances if they are not being used.

Which green behaviour would you like to adopt this year—at home? At work?

Training the rest of the family to turn off lights and appliances if they are not being used! Work is actually pretty good with green behaviour.

If you could be any New Zealand native species for a day, what would you be and why?

A NZ falcon appeals, soaring above the high country tussocks.

What piece of advice or message would you want to give to New Zealanders when it comes to conservation?

Go out and enjoy the wonderful walks/scenery/tramps/activities available on conservation land so you can learn to appreciate the value in looking after it for future generations.