Archives For Far North

By Denice Gillespie, Partnerships Ranger, Kaitaia

This year during Seaweek (1-9 March) a crew from Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium in Auckland released two green turtles back to the sea in the Far North with the support of Te Rarawa Iwi.

These two turtles, named ‘Luke’ and ‘Isla’, were found washed up near Ahipara last year, and were nursed back to health by the Kelly Tarlton’s team.

Locals returning a green turtle to the sea at Ahipara.

A crowd gathered at Ahipara for the release of Luke and Isla

A large crowd gathered on the beach at Ahipara to witness the returning of the turtles back to their natural environment.

Not long after the release Cyclone Lusi hit and we were all hoping that the turtles hadn’t been affected by it. I was getting a little worried.

Green turtle swimming at Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve.

Green turtle

Dan Godoy also known as the ‘Turtle Man’ from Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium recently gave me an update on the two turtles. It is good news!

Dan reports that one turtle has just left Parengarenga and is now exploring the waters around Houhora. The other turtle was recorded around Manukau Harbour but has since left and was heading a little further south.

A map tracking one turtle near Houhora in the Far North.

One turtle tracked in the waters around Houhora

So it’s good to see our turtle friends are still cruising the big blue, sharing the turtle love! It’ll be interesting to see what they get up to over winter.

By Denice Gillespie, Partnerships Ranger, Kaitaia

Last year we had some interesting visitors on the shores of the Far North beaches. Five turtles were found washed up: two olive ridley turtles and three green turtles.

We usually have reports of turtles in the Far North, but they are getting more frequent.

Rob Bennie of Kiwi Carpentry with a large olive ridley turtle.

Rob Bennie of Kiwi Carpentry fashioned a shipping crate for a sick olive ridley turtle

“Which makes us think why?”

The majority of the turtles that are reported to DOC are in poor condition. Their shells are covered with algae and goose barnacles, which indicate that they have been floating on the surface for some time and would have been unable to dive for food.

Turtles are prone to ingesting plastic, because they forage in areas where you get accumulations of marine debris. Floating plastic bags look a lot like jellyfish or seaweed. Eating this rubbish causes blockages in their digestive tract, which contributes to starvation and buoyancy.

Turtle and two tamariki/children on the beach.

Children investigate a turtle found on a Far North beach

Turtle eating a plastic bag.

Turtles are prone to ingesting plastic

“What can we do?”

The simple answer to this is to be “tidy kiwis” and to make sure that you reduce, reuse and recycle where possible.

Take part in local beach clean ups and make sure you follow proper boat waste disposal practices.

Join a conservation group today and help make a difference for our turtle friends, there are plenty of conservation groups to get involved with.

A sick turtle found on a Far North beach.

A sick turtle found by DOC staff

So, when your next exploring the beach keep an eye out for our turtle friends and be sure to report sick or injured wildlife, or whale or dolphin standings’ on the DOC Hotline, 0800 362 468.

Ask students in Dunedin how you snorkel a dune lake in the Far North without leaving home and they will tell you, ‘LEARNZ of course!’

Students checking out a fish under the microscope.

Checking out a fish

What started as a way to link New Zealand school children with field work in Antarctica back in 1996, has now evolved into a chance for schools to take part in virtual field trips across the country via live audio link ups and an interactive website with video, a web board and ‘ask an expert’ posts.

In its fourth year, the Far North field trip focuses on wetlands, with a strong Tikanga Māori and Te Reo component.

This year the focus of the Far North field trip was World Wetlands Day, held at Lake Ngatu. Schools from as far away as Dunedin joined in via LEARNZ, while around 160 students from nine Far North schools, and homeschoolers, actively participating in activities including a guided walk; investigating what species live in the lake; and traditional uses for natural resources found around the lake.

A sample collected from the wetland.

From the wetland

Ahipara School student, Ruapounamu, gave the most common response from students when asked for their highlight of the day; “My favourite was snorkelling because it was cool to see all the fish and the species that live in the lake.”

Coordinator, Camellia Nielsen, whose team ran the snorkelling, says her goal was to help the children to appreciate their role as kaitiaki (guardians) of the wetland.

Experiencing Marine Reserves Coordinator, Camellia Nielsen being interviewed.

Coordinator, Camellia Nielsen, being interviewed

“It’s a hands-on demonstration of the value of wetlands as flood protection,” says Camellia.

When quizzed about what they had discovered, Paparore School students talked about wetlands as also being places for holding water and providing habitat for native animals.

This year is the first time that the classroom materials have also been available in Te Reo.

DOC Kaitaia’s Community Relations Ranger and key organiser, Denice Gilliespie, believes that the event showed the lake in a whole different light for the students.

“They see how important it is to look after it so it sustains us all now and forever, recreationally and culturally,” says Denice.

Showing the children how to make things from natural materials that grow around the lake.

Whaea Betsy and Whaea Jane show the children how to make things from natural materials that grow around the lake

Lake Ngatu sits within the rohe of Ngai Takoto. Part of Ngai Takoto’s whakatauki (proverb) talks about the pioke (dog shark) being small in stature but still able to swim against the strong currents around it. For Te Runanga O Ngai Takoto’s Environmental Manager, Kaio Hooper, this is an important reminder in his role and commitment to ensuring that the lake is protected and cared for, despite increasing environmental pressures on the lake’s wellbeing.

Although still ranked as outstanding, environmental monitoring indicates a decline in Lake Ngatu’s water quality, and an increase in pest species. Kaio says this is a case for concern for Ngai Takoto, as the kaitiaki of the lake.

“For our people it’s not so much about scientific reports. They rely more on what they see, and they are noticing that the water is not as clear as it once was,” says Kaio.

Whaea Betsy with the poi and waka she made.

Whaea Betsy with the poi and waka she made

Kaio says Ngai Takoto is looking at ways they can address their concerns. To start the conversation, Kaio set up an information stall where people were asked to complete a simple survey focussed on understanding people’s aspirations and concerns for the lake’s health.

“We’ve been watching the lake change over the past couple of years and it’s not good. We want to work alongside interested parties on a management plan, and the survey is a good starting point” says Kaio.

World Wetlands Day at Lake Ngatu was a two day event hosted by Ngai Takoto and DOC, with support from Bushland’s Trust, Northland Regional Council, Mountain’s to Sea Conservation Trust and Clean Stream Northland.

World Wetlands Day

World Wetlands Day is an annual event held every year on February 2 to promote the value and vulnerability of wetlands across the globe promoted by RAMSAR, an international agreement to protect wetlands.