Archives For History

This week will feature inspiring public talks, historic walks, and displays in regions from the Far North to the Deep South. Find an event near you!

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Erosion damage at a Māori Rock Art site has given us the chance to help with a rare archaeological dig, uncovering some interesting finds hinting at life once lived there.

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To mark Wellington’s 150 year celebration as our capital city DOC will be celebrating at the largest wooden building in the Southern Hemisphere.

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By Kay Davies, Visitor Centre Ranger, New Plymouth.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) has recently been working with the Department of Corrections (DoC) to help transform space in their National Office into a Heritage Centre.

Corrections Heritage Centre wall panels.

Wall panels in the Centre trace the history of Corrections through the years

It was an ambitious task involving hours of research, writing, image and object collection, and meticulous fact-checking and editing—and that was all before any exhibits could be produced by the designers.

DOC’s willingness to skill share across government agencies saw me seconded, part time for five months, to project manage the content delivery for the new centre—working alongside a small project team in Corrections.

It was amazing how many links to the Department of Conservation I came across during the project. I’d be searching for photo material to use and would often stumble across images of Community Corrections teams helping DOC with anything from wetland restoration, to planting days and general clean ups.

It’s nice to think that this will only increase with the Memorandum of Understanding between us.

Collection of Corrections’ uniforms over the years.

A display of Corrections’ uniforms over the years

The new centre is a place where the history of Corrections in New Zealand is displayed. It shows how the organisation has been shaped by what’s gone before, and reinforces the current focus—on reducing reoffending and creating lasting change.

A replica cell from the historic New Plymouth Prison.

A replica cell from the historic New Plymouth Prison

The Heritage Centre includes a replica cell from the historic New Plymouth Prison (now closed) and displays of historic items, contraband seized in prisons, and Corrections uniforms through the years.

Wall panels in the Centre trace the history of Corrections, and touch screens look at the WWI connection, changes in prison facilities over the years, and the way Corrections works with the community. An audio visual display portrays the pathway of an offender.

It was great to see what inter-agency skill sharing and collective thinking can achieve.

The project has been a good forerunner to work we are currently doing to build on our existing relationship with Corrections.

Prisoners and offenders on community based sentences already help us in some regions with conservation work, and hopefully this will continue to increase.

Our work with the Department of Corrections is proving to be a win-win relationship—we grow conservation in exchange for valuable skill development.

The centre is open to the public Monday-Friday 7:30 am – 5 pm and is located at Mayfair House, 44-52 The Terrace, Wellington.

Today’s photo of the week is the 17 metre high and 59 metre long Sandhill Point viaduct in the rugged Waitutu Forest.

It is one of four giant timber viaducts built nearly a century ago on the south coast of the Fiordland National Park that will be restored under an agreement announced by the Minister of Conservation last week.

Sandhill Point viaduct. Photo: digitaltrails | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

The viaducts were originally built in the early 1920s as part of a timber tramline to a local logging and sawmill operation.

Nowadays the viaducts are a spectacular part of the Hump Ridge Track which travels along the south coast of Fiordland. The restoration will mean that generations of New Zealanders and international visitors will continue to enjoy the historic features of this track.

This photo was taken by digitaltrails | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

By Herb Christophers

Ken Bradley.

Senior DOC Ranger, Ken Bradley

Ken Bradley was 16 years old when he first walked the Milford Track in 1968. That was 45 years ago and only one year after the Milford Track was opened to ‘Freedom Walkers’.

Now, as the track celebrates its 125th year since the route over McKinnon Pass was discovered, Ken tells me about his time on the track and the changes that have taken place.

Ken is part of the matrix of personalities whose life is bound to the Milford Track – he has been a guide, trackman, park assistant, park foreman and ranger in charge.

Man putting his feet up outside Trackman's Hut.

Trackmans Hut at Mintaro – one of original tourist huts at this location

He reckons he would have walked the track well over 100 times and walked the Clinton Valley part at least 500 times, either working, fishing or hunting. That’s hardly surprising when you realise he spent his early working years from 1972 until 1975 living in the Clinton Valley as guide/trackman with the Tourist Hotel Corporation which, in those days, had exclusive access for guided walks.

Man on a tractor.

A tractor on the track from Glade to Pompalona. This was the way stores were carried from 1965 to 1978

As part of his job, Ken worked on the ‘Tawera’ – the vessel taking people to the head of Lake Te Anau. This gave him access to the lower Clinton Valley on his days off to fish and hunt when he wasn’t volunteering to clean up the huts.

Tawera in its final years.

Tawera in its final years

“I remember back in the late 60’s and early 70’s there were no possums on the Milford Track, or very few,” says Ken.

“The birdlife has always been reasonably good, but it’s now a lot better since the stoat trapping undertaken in the last 15 years.”

In the late 1960’s there was plenty of deer living on the valley floor and it was really easy to shoot a couple to take out to sell. That would equal a week’s wages for Ken ($20 per week in 1968). By the mid 1970’s the numbers of deer had been greatly reduced by helicopter hunting for export. Trophy heads of those remaining became better, with more feed as vegetation recovered.

In 1976 Ken joined Lands and Survey Department which managed Fiordland National Park at the time, working on a wide variety of projects throughout the vast National Park.

National Park rangers clearing the new hut site at Mintaro.

National Park Rangers clearing the new hut site at Mintaro, 1986 (Ken Bradley in the green bush shirt)

Back on the Milford Track in 1992, Ken was ranger in charge of all operations up to 2006. Since then he has overseen track maintenance operations and other major projects in the area.

“Much of the grunt work was taken out of operations by helicopters but they were rare in the early days. These days, I am in and out of one most weeks somewhere on the track over summer,” says Ken.

Helicopter lifting material during the mid 1970s from head of Lake Te Anau.

Lifting material during the mid 1970s from head of Lake Te Anau

Ken’s favourite hut is Clinton Hut.

Clinton Hut. Photo: Neil Hunt/flickr.

Clinton Hut

“The old Clinton Forks Hut ‘at five mile’ was in danger of being washed out when the river changed course, so we moved it downstream in the mid 90’s to ‘two and a half mile’.”

Clinton Forks Hut, the original Freedom Walkers hut.

Clinton Forks Hut. Built in 1966 it was the original Freedom Walkers hut

Ken oversaw the recycling of 40% of the old hut and rebuilding and expansion of the current hut.

The most radical change that Ken has seen is the type of people doing the Milford Track.

People standing outside Mackinnon Pass Shelter No 2 during late 1950s.

Mackinnon Pass Shelter No 2 during late 1950s

Track walkers in flood conditions during the 1970s.

Track walkers in flood conditions during the 1970s

“People these days seem less prepared than you might expect for a trip in the outdoors. Even so, in spite of giving themselves a hard time, they always go away with a smile on their faces so I guess the experience outweighs the discomfort.” he says.

“Also, if we allowed 100 Freedom Walkers a day we would most likely fill them over the height of the summer. With 40 a day at present, we are at 98% capacity for all of the summer season.”

Related links

Milford Track
Heritage Walk on the Milford Track
Celebrate the Milford Track’s 125 years – Media release

Toni Ellis, Fiordland District Office

This year marks 125 years since the Milford Track began drawing thousands of tourists from all parts of the world. To celebrate, a special heritage focused walk of the four-day 53.5km journey is scheduled—departing 31 October 2013.

Mountain and hut view at Mackinnon Pass on the Milford Track.

The alpine vista at Mackinnon Pass

The idea was hatched by local DOC Ranger, Ken Bradley, who wanted to gather track personalities together to tramp the four days in period costume, highlighting the unique and colourful history of the track.

From there the concept grew, with spaces being opened up to the public as a fundraiser for the restoration of Beech Hut; the official opening of the new Sutherland Falls Track being included; and the Minister of Conservation, Hon Nick Smith, confirming his attendance.

Quinton Mackinnon camping along the Milford Track.

Quintin Mackinnon (middle) discovered a passage later to became known as the Milford Track

Those lucky enough to secure a spot on the walk can expect to be transported back in time by five expert guides—all specialists on the Milford Track. Their stories and experiences will bring the track to life, detailing history, culture and current biodiversity work in the area.

A group in swandris walking the Milford Track, at Six Mile Hut.

Walking the Milford Track during the early 1960s

Many enjoy the Milford Track as a personal and physical challenge; while others enjoy witnessing the results brought about by the ongoing protection and regeneration of New Zealand’s native biodiversity. Heritage is yet another layer that contributes to the unique character and charm that makes the Milford Track Great Walk ‘The finest walk in the world’.

A group of pack horses on the Milford Track.

Pack horses on the Milford Track.

You can celebrate the Milford Track’s 125th anniversary by joining the Heritage Walk. Book your place on the DOC website or by contacting the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre.

Related link

Celebrate the Milford Track’s 125 years – Media release