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By Rudy Tetteroo, Programme Manager (Community Relations), Motueka

Pauline Samways, together with the Motueka Arts Council, has greatly increased local community awareness of godwits: birds who complete their non-stop migration from Alaska to here in New Zealand.

Pauline observing the godwits on the Motueka sandspit.

Pauline in Motueka with the godwits

Pauline was recently recognised as a Conservation Champion for her tireless work in helping raise the profile of Motueka’s most important annual visitor.

Just over ten years ago, Pauline left the classroom behind after being awarded a Science, Mathematics and Technology Teaching Fellowship by the Royal Society of New Zealand. This allowed Pauline to spend a year on the Motueka sandspit learning about its ecology. It was this experience that made Pauline realise just how truly amazing godwits are.

After following the progress of the satellite-tagged birds, Pauline saw how important the DOC managed Motueka sandspit was to the long-haul travellers who nested there. After her submission to the local council to ban dogs from roaming on the spit was unsuccessful, Pauline wrote articles for the local newspapers about the different birds that were found on the spit and relied on it for their survival. Her submission was later revised and the last 200 meters of the sandspit are now dog free thanks to her efforts.

People viewing the godwits using telescopes.

People viewing the godwits

In 2008 the Motueka Arts Council joined the unofficial Godwits Appreciation Club whilst looking for a new project that would be special to the Motueka Township. They came up with the idea of a ‘Welcome to the Godwits’ celebration—an exhibition of art, photography, poetry and sculpture by adults and school children, along with information about the birds and the importance of the estuary.

“We visited schools to enthuse the children who in turn carried the message to their parents,” says Pauline.

Pauline’s own “Viewing of the Godwits” event saw local Ornithological Society of New Zealand members set up their telescopes on the old wharf over-looking the estuary. People came out to view the godwits feeding and to hear about the amazing journey they made every year. The “Viewing of the Godwits” event paired up with the Motueka Arts Councils festival for three years following its debut and included guest speakers, a dress up parade and art on the waterfront. These events encouraged one local school to publish a book (called ‘Never Ending Summer’) on the topic with the first 200 copies selling out.

Godwits landing on the Motueka sandspit after their migration from Alaska.

Godwits landing in Motueka

In the past three years, a colony of white fronted terns has been nesting at the end of the sandspit. To help manage these predators, DOC provided Pauline with six traps, which she and a friend now monitor regularly.

The increased awareness of godwits in the Motueka community is greatly due to Pauline’s hard work and her partnership with the Motueka Arts Council, as well as the support from DOC and the Tasman District Council.

Pauline has been the community voice working in a methodical and persistent fashion in the best interest of the birds. It’s the quiet, unassuming style that has allowed her to succeed where others have failed.

Pauline using her telescope to observe the godwits.

Pauline using her telescope

Today’s photo showcases Whirinaki Forest, the favourite wild place of Tom McMurtry—one of the lucky winners of our recent New Zealand’s Wild Places giveaway

Whirinaki Forest, huge, ancient trees and birdsong everywhere. ~ Tom McMurtry

Walkers crossing a stream surrounded by native New Zealand bush. Photo: Stefan Marks/flickr

Whirinaki is packed with amazing tall trees, fast flowing rivers, and is home to an array of native species including a variety of magnificent native podocarps.

The park is about 100 km south east of Rotorua on State Highway 38. It is within a two hour drive of Rotorua, Taupo and Whakatane. Its beauty can be enjoyed through a comprehensive network of walks, tracks and huts.

This photo, of trampers crossing a stream at Whirinaki, was taken by Stefan Marks.

Note: Winners of the New Zealand’s Wild Places giveaway were picked at random.

By Al Morrison, Director-General.

Al Morrison holding a whio/blue duck,


Conservation matters every minute of every day of every week. But for all that, welcome to Conservation Week.  It’s a week when we focus public attention on conservation and this year our theme is around getting whānau involved.

We want conservation to be a family affair. Actually, we want it to be something that all New Zealanders engage in across all of New Zealand.

That’s fundamentally why DOC has been making changes to the way we work. We want to help New Zealanders understand, much better than we do now, that we all need to take care of our native plants, animals and special places so that they can take care of us.

DOC has a special job to do looking after the public conservation land and our native plants, animals and birds and we will continue to take the lead on that. But it isn’t enough. Fencing off a place where the forest is healthy, the bird song is loud and the river runs crystal clear means there is a place where New Zealanders can go to see our natural environment as it was before people and pests stuffed it up. That’s important. But it can’t stop there. We have to make sure the whole river system is healthy, from the mountains to the sea and in to the marine environment. That task is beyond DOC alone. We need to work with community groups, iwi, local government, business, private landowners, and you if we are going to succeed.

Al Morrison with two playful kakapo.


The challenge New Zealand faces is not just to claim the Clean Green brand, but live it. We’re a bit mixed on that front at present, and it’s going to take some effort from all of us to get nature in a healthy state and functioning well everywhere. We need to stop making the value of nature invisible; and when we take from nature we need to give back. It’s about balance and harmony.

DOC has gone through a tough period of change over recent years to adjust to that challenge. The change is complete and now we’re in to making it happen. You know our staff. They are passionate, committed, capable, highly skilled and knowledgeable. They have always made a positive difference for New Zealand. Now they are fit and ready to make an even bigger difference.

Al Morrison kayaking.


It’s a fresh start under fresh leadership. That means I’m leaving and this is my last week. It is time for me to let go and hand the reigns to DOC’s new Director-General Lou Sanson. Lou has been Chief Executive of Antarctic New Zealand for the last 11 years but he comes out of DOC’s stable. He knows the business, loves it, and is committed to implementing the course we have set.

DOC is in good shape and in good hands.

I know not everyone agrees with the direction I have led DOC in. You can’t reorganise around a bold, ambitious new approach and expect no criticism. And we need critics because that keeps us on our toes and forces us to question and improve.

Al Morrison by a stream in the Te Papanui Conservation Park.

Te Papanui Conservation Park

But the conservation movement doesn’t have time to sit around and endlessly argue the toss. There is an urgent need to address New Zealand’s environmental performance and DOC has a strong place in meeting the challenge. It is a time to be ambitious and push beyond our comfort zone.

It is a time for conservationists to, as the Irish poet and Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney, who passed away recently, so elegantly put it: “Walk on air against your better judgement”.

Conservation Week banner on the DOC website.

What’s your whanau doing for Conservation Week?

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