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A partnership between our staff and Marlborough District Council (MDC) saw a traditional teachers’ workshop evolve into something a little bit special this year. Community Ranger Wendy Sullivan explains how Marlborough students taught their teachers a thing or two about conservation.

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Te Mata School students Ahmed Khalid and Lucinda Newman share what they learned during their recent trip to Cape Sanctuary in the Hawke’s Bay.

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During the winter months, DOC Ranger Joe Waikari, goes around the East Coast region talking to schools, kohanga, early childhood centres and marae about the need to protect native wildlife from predators.

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By Sarah Ensor, Partnerships Ranger in Rangiora

Last month 176 senior students from 23 secondary schools worked alongside 57 scientists/taxonomists, 24 university students, 26 teachers and 16 helpers to discover and document species in the Nina Valley, Lewis Pass.

The Nina Valley Ecoblitz team. Photo: Sonny Whitelaw.

Most of the team on the last day

The idea for an ‘Ecoblitz’ in the Nina Valley started almost 18 months ago with Tim Kelly, a teacher at Hurunui College. Tim approached some like-minded people and a group was formed. This group comprised representatives from Hurunui College, Lincoln University, DOC, Hurunui District Council and specialist volunteers.

Over $33,000 of sponsorship was raised to cover all the costs of the event and this meant that the event was accessible to all students, regardless of their financial circumstances.

Students conducting plant identification. Photo: Steve Attwood.

Students conducting plant identification

The weekend offered students 119 field activities and workshops, each lead by an expert scientist. Participants worked side-by-side to discover and document native species of Nina Valley in a methodological and educational manner.

Eripatus. Photo: Bryce McQuillan.

Some excellent professional photographers covered the event and photographed species for ID

The term ‘Ecoblitz’ was coined to reflect the detailed research into the ecology of the forest, shrub, grasslands and waterways around the Boyle River/Nina Valley. 17 sites in these different habitats sites were selected, based on surveys conducted previously by Lincoln University, and thus provided a baseline on which to compare data and repeat in future years.

Lincoln University is collating all the data which will be sent to students, this includes researching an unidentified sample that may even be a new species!

Students at the campsite. Photo: Steve Attwood.

Students at the campsite

You can find out more information about the event on the Nina Valley Ecoblitz 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 Maria Deutsch, Outreach and Education Coordinator, based in Nelson…

Maria amongst the speargrass flowers on Mt Peel.

Researching our beautiful flora — speargrass flowers on Mt Peel

At work

Some things I do in my job include: 

My personal vision is to make a significant contribution to connecting people to nature at a deeper level and to mainstream conservation in Aotearoa/New Zealand.To achieve this I (hopefully) work to my strengths and skills, including: facilitation and coaching, creative thinking around interacting with new audiences and development of tools, hands-on input in the partnership space in the community, and supporting the many awesome people in my region in the best way I can. I also have input in national partnerships and enjoy finding solutions to conundrums.

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by:

Facilitating approaches that inspire people about their relationship with nature and through this engaging them in conservation in a way that is meaningful to them.

The best bit about my job is:

My team!  A more awesome, creative, down to earth practical and yet visionary team you will not easily find; it has taken motivation to a whole new level.

The awesome-est DOC moment I’ve had so far is:

Co-facilitating a young leaders’ programme at Whites Bay in the Sounds. Young leaders were taking younger children on a one hour forest exploration walk that included plant knowledge and survival skills; every hour the young leaders and us swapped over to a new group of children. The biggest buzz for me happened at round three when one of the young leaders took over the facilitation of the walk—he included group and leadership skills he had picked up from us alongside the forest knowledge he had learned—us DOC-ites stood back and he held the space!  What an awesome outcome.

The DOC employee that inspires or enthuses me most is…

I have been with DOC since December 2012 and since then I have met too many inspirational people to choose just one. There are funny ones, enthusiastic ones, clever ones, persistent ones, scary ones, odd ones, peculiar ones and ALL are an inspiration in their own right. Ka mau te wehe!

Three red rata flowers.

Rewards of kaitiakitanga—rata flowers in our forest

On a personal note…

My stomping ground is:

36 hectares of native bush that I have been kaitiaki for during the last 20 years with a comprehensive pest control programme and a lot of sharing with others of this special place which now shows the reward of our mahi in a healthy forest and fantastic birdlife. After that it’s tramping in Te Tau Ihu, West Coast and Mount Aspiring National Park. Though working with the Māori Cadets has given me a taste of Te Ika-a-Māui (the North Island)—so more to explore.

My greatest sporting moment was:

Leading a grade 21 rock climb on a tricky slab in Castle Hill/Kura Tāwhiti and getting to the top unscathed.

In my spare time I:

Go cycle touring, photograph patterns and wonders in nature, write poetry, do mosaics, tend to my organic vege garden and orchard, create space to be with friends, take children through our bush, read books, go to concerts… what spare time?

If I wasn’t working at DOC, I’d like to:

Work as a facilitator in situations where multi stakeholder collaboration, including indigenous cultures, brings about new sustainable ways of living in tune with the ecosystem.

Before working at DOC:

I was self employed for 13 years in community development and as a facilitator, coach, trainer, creator of organisational solutions and leading initiatives of integration of nature as an asset for organisational work.  I was also one of the main tutors on the Maori Conservation Cadetship— what an awesome whanau and wonderful young leaders some of whom now work for us—kia kaha e hoa mā!

Maria amongst the mountains in the upper Copeland Valley, South Westland.

Feeding the soul in the upper Copeland Valley, South Westland

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is…

“You have to go through chaos to create a burning star” (Nitzsche)

And my favourite Whakataukī: Toi tu te marae a Tane, Toi tu te marae a Tangaroa, Toi tu nga Iwi.  (if the realms of Tane and Tangaroa prosper, then we will prosper too).

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is:

My dad used to say two things that stayed with me: “there is always a better way of doing it” and “there is always a choice, even if people tell you there isn’t” (he created some unbelievable choices in Nazi Germany—my grandfather was the head of the local resistance movement). The two pieces of advice sit together for me, combining choice and self responsibility with a drive for excellence that creates true innovation.

In work and life I am motivated by:

Inspirational people that walk the talk, children that laugh and play and nature as a teacher.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is:

There is a wellspring of health, enjoyment and inspiration in nature—go out and explore and experience and delight in it.  Once you understand this, the rest will follow…

Maria with a piece of driftwood shaped like a fish at the beach.

What type of fish is this?

Question of the week…

Who would you like to be stuck in a lift with and why?

Adam Kahane, Dalai Lama, Jeanette Fitzsimons and Christine Hogan for fascinating conversations that can change the world, and the lead singer of Runrig and Loreena McKinnett for some beautiful singing.

By Amy Brasch, Partnerships Ranger, Wellington.

Hundreds flocked to Wellington’s Waitangi Park last month for the first annual Pest-Fest. It was a great display of various conservation partnerships in the Wellington area coming together for a common cause—educating the public on pests in New Zealand.

A young girl meets a Wellington gecko up close.

Meeting a Wellington gecko at Pest-Fest

The event included a range of activities for the public, such as weed swapping, animal pest trapping demonstrations, kids’ crafts, information on current conservation research, tracking tunnel tutorials, kiwi conservation tips, advice on how to design bird-friendly gardens and much more.

A ranger with a working predator trap at Pest-Fest.

Ranger Lisa Calpcott setting a trap

Despite being the first Pest-Fest ever held in Wellington, a wide range of organisations attended, including the Department of Conservation, Wellington City Council, Victoria University of Wellington, Zealandia, Forest and Bird, WWF and many others. It was a fantastic example of organisations coming together for conservation.

Pest-Fest was a fun way to learn about New Zealand pests. There were a lot of hands-on activities and demonstrations that really highlighted the teamwork between the various local agencies. The event ran alongside the Wellington Phoenix Community Day and the Farmer’s Market, which attracted a diverse audience.

A young girl and Rimu the kiwi point to a trap and dead rats.

Rimu the kiwi and his friend inspect a trap

It was great to see all the different organisations in one place complementing each other and it was great to be engaging with the community on such an important conservation issue and teaching people how to monitor pests in their own backyard.

Celia Wade-Brown looking at a Wellington gecko.

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown learns more about the Wellington gecko

It’s Māori Language Week—Te Wiki o Te Reo Māoria perfect time for us to enjoy a kōrero about te reo with Joe Harawira, DOC’s Kaihautu – Te Putahitanga (Manager- Strategic Partnerships).

Language is central to the cultural identity of both the individual and the community to which he or she belongs. Not only does a language express the realities of a particular group, but it also marks one’s membership of that group, both from within (since the language is shared) and without (since it highlights one’s differences).

Joe Harawira at the Maori Market in 2011.

Joe story telling at the Māori Market in 2011

If a language is lost, the cultural identity of the group is considerably weakened, which in turn alters the very nature of the society of which that group is part. In light of this, it may be considered important to retain and promote the Māori language, in order, amongst other things, to develop a diverse and harmonious society.

Ko Te Reo Te Hā Te Mauri O Te Māoritanga.
Language is the very life-breath of being Māori.

Te Taura Whiri I te reo
Māori Language Commission

In 1987, the Māori language became an official language of New Zealand along with English and, more recently, Sign Language (2006).

The Māori language is a very important part of who I am as New Zealander. Having travelled the world over the past 35 years as a storyteller, I am constantly asked by the audiences I perform to, to tell the story in my language, the Māori language.

All languages have a wairua, a spirit. The Māori language seems to be one of those languages that people can hear, can feel, can know, can understand. Even though the language is foreign to the ear, and the people I met on my travels are first time listeners of the Māori language.

I first of all tell the story in te reo Māori and then retell it in English, with a translator from that country retelling it in German, Dutch, French, Hungarian and so on. In fact, when in Paris last January, I told a story in te reo Māori and a young Māori university student who had been through the Kura Kaupapa Māori immersion schooling system translated straight into French for the children gathered. It was a fantastic experience.

Joe Harawira storytelling in the Outback (Kakadu).

Joe storytelling in the Outback (Kakadu)

The Māori language has a spirit of its own and in order to maintain the integrity of the spirit, correct pronunciation is required. To mispronounce a word is to alter its story and its spirit. All names, including place names, have a whakapapa, a story.

An example of people altering words is the use of Paraparam for Paraparaumu. I am not sure what the story is behind Paraparam, other than people having trouble pronouncing the word or just plain laziness. I could be facetious and say that the story behind Paraparam is that it is about someone pushing a pram down the street. Paraparaumu alludes to the plentiful food resources of the area, evident in the leftovers found in the food pits. The literal translation of parapara is scraps and umu is cooking pit or oven.

I make this point, more so, to share the importance of maintaining the integrity and the spirit of the language through correct pronunciation, as the correct pronunciation of Māori names and words has a bearing on its meaning. I wish not to labour the point of the importance of language to a culture, other than to say that we all are connected, physically, spiritually and mentally to the natural world, in our own ways, through our deep sense of manaaki (caring) and tiaki (nurturing).

The Māori language is a simple language. It is made up of vowels and consonants. An understanding of the pronunciation of those vowels and consonants will go a long way to giving the language the mana that it deserves. I congratulate those that see value in learning the Māori language as an addition to the tool and skill sets that you already possess.

Kia kaha.