Archives For Manawatu

DOC teamed up with local councils, iwi, and a variety of conservation groups in the Horowhenua/Manawatu, to get their hands dirty over the winter months and plant trees.

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By Elizabeth Besley, Volunteer

The rich red and green colours of New Zealand’s pohutakawa and rata trees are an iconic part of the kiwi summer and holiday season, but our native “Christmas trees” are facing various threats, including the insatiable appetite of introduced possums.

Rata tree in flower. Photo: Lance Andrews (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Rata tree in flower. Photo: Lance Andrews

In April, a group of Pohangina Valley residents, DOC staff, and rata experts, began a seed collecting expedition to help preserve the local populations of Northern rata.

Pohangina Base rata tree.

Pohangina Base rata tree

A rata tree opposite the Pohangina Base, belonging to a local farmer, had been seen flowering in the previous year and was the perfect candidate to start the expedition. We simply had to phone the farmer with a request to collect seed and then stand on the cliff edge and pick bunches of mature seed capsules.

The second source of seed came from massive rata trees along the Kahikatea Walk. The logistics necessitated collection using a different method – in this case spreading matting over the soil surface at the base of the trees and collecting seed as they fell over the coming months.

Rata experts Chris Thomasen and Viv McGlynn demonstrated how to prepare the collected seed for germination. Containers were half filled with potting seed mix, followed by a layer of ‘duff’ – a name given to the nutrient rich soil that builds up at the base of rata trees. The rata seed were then thickly sprinkled over the top. Watering needed to be gentle but regular, using a fine mist, as the seed can be prone to pathogens.

Pohangina Valley volunteers preparing rata seed.

Pohangina Valley volunteers preparing rata seed

The team came together again in November to carefully transfer the thirty odd small seedlings to individual planter bags where they will grow on for another season.

The ultimate aim is to grow plentiful rata plants from locally sourced seed, thereby ensuring it is genetically suitable for using at various sites in the Pohangina Valley. The vision is of a corridor of red flowering rata trees in summer, leading up the valley and into the Ruahines.

crimson-logoInterested in protecting the native pohutukawa and rata trees in your area? Find out about the work that is being done by the Project Crimson Trust on the DOC website.

You don’t have to be an expert mountaineer to explore exhilarating alpine environments. The Manawatu has a great option for first-time alpine adventurers.

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Exploring the Manawatu Gorge tracks has to be at the top of the list of ‘must-do’ activities in the Manawatu region.

This photo was taken by Alistair Thom of Atom Images at Sentinel Lookout which is halfway along the Manawatu Gorge Track.


The shorter Tawa Loop Walk and the full length Manawatu Gorge Track are on offer as part of the Manawatu Walking Festival coming up in February – March 2014.

The festival has walks for all ages and fitness levels, hosted by an array of guides – from historians through to storytellers, nature experts, experienced walkers and photographers – who will share their knowledge to help enhance your walking experience. Visit The Manawatu Walking Festival website to find out more.

Related links

Manawatu Gorge Track
Manawatu Gorge Tawa Loop Walk
Manawatu Walking Festival

By Christine Elers, Teacher at Hāpaitia Kōhanga Reo

Thanks to the initiatives of the iwi authority for Ngāti Kauwhata in the Feilding/Manawatū area, the plight of the whio came to our attention at Hāpaitia Kōhanga Reo in 2012 .

Two whio swimming in a river.


Our kōhanga reo operates with a Kauwhata-Raukawa Māori world view.  It’s common to hear our children talking about their experiences at their marae, singing about the appearance of Matariki (Pleiades) in the winter sky, and our kinship ties to the Kīngitanga.  Knowing that the endangered whio duck inhabits our Oroua river meant the ‘Save the Whio’ was a project that we just had to be involved in.

Over 90% of our whānau have whakapapa or genealogical connections to Ngāti Kauwhata and Ngāti Raukawa ki te tonga.  Our children and whānau have strong, spiritual connections to the whenua (land) and the awa (river) of this urban and rural community.  We honour and nurture these connections in many ways.

The kohanga reo children sing at the Feilding Farmers’ Market.

Singing at the Feilding Farmers’ Market

Our children, like many young children love to sing.  In 2012 during Whio Awareness Month, the organisers of the Feilding Farmers’ Market kindly allowed our children to perform kapahaka to raise funds to help save the whio on the Oroua river. Our children raised nearly $100 from their 8 minute performance. Our parents got involved by helping our children make placards and information sheets about the whio for the public, by taking front row seats to proudly watch their children, and by donating to the cause.  We decided that we will be involved in helping the whio on the Oroua river every year!

Whio Awareness Month came around again in March 2013. This time our tamariki helped bake blueberry muffins, and we offered a muffin and a waiata to organisations in Feilding as another fundraising activity for the whio.  Many thanks go to the Manchester House Social Services, the Manawatū District Council, Te Runanga o Raukawa – Feilding and North Street School for hosting our children for this event.  These organisations collectively donated over $200 to assist the whio.

To acknowledge our support, the Department of Conservation kindly gave our children a stuffed toy whio.  We have named her Pio the Whio. If a child is having an emotional moment, they take solace in the mutual comfort of Pio the Whio.

The children sing a song near Pio the soft toy whio.

Singing a waiata for Pio the whio

The children understand that we all are responsible to tiaki or look after the whio in the wild. In the future we hope to make a trip to see the whio in its natural habitat on the Oroua river – about a one hour hike away – and there’s no guarantee that we will actually see it.  Until then our children can watch clips of the whio on YouTube, look at photos, and draw their own pictures of the whio that we all hope to see one day soon, alive and well in their own natural habitat.

Margaret Metcalfe from the Manawatu Rangitikei Area Office writes about a novel approach being taken to paint a new backcountry toilet in the Ruahine ranges.

It is not often you would look forward to the experience of using a backcountry toilet. However, an interesting approach to finishing new visitor facilities in the Western Ruahine Forest Park will have people wanting to make the trip especially to check them out.

Julie Oliver painting the toilet.

Painting the loo

Inspired by seeing public toilets painted with murals, Department of Conservation (DOC) Visitor Assets Manager Andrew Mercer thought he could bring a similar concept to the new outbuildings at Rangiwahia Hut. “I wanted the new toilet and woodshed to complement the landscape and to tell a conservation story,” he said, “and at the same time add another element to the visitor experience, something that might encourage people come up especially to see”. This is a very special location for its breathtaking views on to the Ruahine range and active bird life. And the murals reinforce these aspects.

Julie waving while painting the backcountry toilet.

Saying hello

A conversation with Mangaweka artist Julie Oliver sparked the project off. She jumped at the opportunity, saying it was just the challenge she needed to give herself a break from her usual style of painting fine detail in oils. It wasn’t until she was actually on site that she could finalise her ideas. The results are simply incredible! Seeing buildings emerge out of the natural landscape, complementing the backdrop of the ranges and sky, and featuring New Zealand native birds typical of the location. “It was so gratifying to be up there immersed in the landscape, listening to the birds and painting it all at the same time”.

Ms Oliver took four days to complete the two buildings with a lot of help from her partner Tim. Using six basic colours from Dulux “Colours of New Zealand’ range she completed it all with brush and sponge to blend the colours. Some of the challenges included painting lines onto corrugated iron, keeping on her feet with uneven ground around the buildings and all the variables associated with weather conditions typical of a changeable mountain environment such as wind, rain, sun, ice and fog.

Julie relaxing by the backcountry toilet.

Dulux supplied the paint at no cost

Dulux supplied the paint at no cost as part of a three year “Protecting Our Places” partnership with DOC that will see recreation and historic assets all around the country painted and, as in this case, upgraded for public’s enjoyment.

The loo finished.

The finished product

Photos shown courtesy of Julie Oliver.

Karl Rollinson and Corey Watkins are performers who moved north from Christchurch at the start of the year. Looking for some inspiring work, and with a love for the natural environment, they signed up for six weeks of volunteer work with DOC. They share their experiences.

In January we made the shift from Christchurch to Levin. We made the move seeking new adventure and creative opportunity.

Karl and Corey sitting in front of a waterfall.

Karl and Corey

Our intention was to find work, but where to find work was the question. As keen performers, musicians and artists, with a love for the natural environment, we were looking for a job which involved all these things.

By word of mouth we heard about volunteering for DOC. It worked in perfectly with our circumstances and our passions.

We went to DOC in the Manawatu and were absolutely thrilled when they agreed that we could help out. We signed up for six weeks volunteer work.

Oroua river in the Ruahine Forest Park.

Oroua river in the Ruahine Forest Park

With help from DOC staff we were able to experience a wide range of activities such as weed control, pest control and track maintenance. We can honestly say there was never a dull moment, and our appreciation for conservation–and our curiosity and insight–only grew stronger as the weeks progressed.

We have an interest in performing in the outdoors and showed DOC staff a video of our House on Fire performance. Impressed by the video, we were asked if our film skills could be used by DOC. We were generously offered transport, food and accommodation at the lovely Iron Gate Hut, which is about one and a half hours drive north east from Palmerston North. Excited by the prospect of adventure, and making a short video, we coordinated a plan for filming and set out.

The Iron Gates Hut sign in the car park.

The sign pointing us to our destination.

When we arrived at the car park at the start of the walkway to our destination, we were dumbstruck by the view. The journey had just begun and we were already in a constant state of awe.

We were pleasantly surprised when we arrived at Iron Gate Hut, and immediately began to make ourselves at home at the tidy, well kept hut. We felt a true state of tranquillity being amongst such beautiful scenery. We paid attention to the sounds of birds in the area and felt extremely comfortable and ready to relax for the night.

Iron Gate Hut.

The topic of our video, Iron Gate Hut

Being able to film and mix this video has honestly been one of the best things that has happened. The whole process was a really great experience. As for Iron Gate Hut? It’s awesome, see for yourself: