Archives For Northland

Last week a team of researchers have been searching the waters off Northland to try and learn more about our manta rays. 

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From the rugged west coast beaches, to the majestic kauri forest and the picture-perfect white sand vistas, Northland is a draw card for nature and summer lovers. Wherever your Northland adventure may take you, follow these tips to help protect our taonga.

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Experiencing Rangihoua Heritage Park – the site of New Zealand’s first Christmas service and the first place Māori allowed English missionaries to settle.

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A beautiful photo of a New Zealand fairy tern to mark the start of the all-important breeding season for this endangered seabird.

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By Trish Irvine, Community Relations Ranger, Auckland

Eleven students from the ‘Gifted and Talented’ programme at James Cook High School in South Auckland recently came to a ‘Guardians of Maungauika Workshop’ hosted by Pou Tairangahau Nick Turoa and Partnerships Rangers from the Tamaki Makaurau Office.

Students being taught about the history of the area.

Students learn about the history of Maungauika

Following introductions and morning tea, Nick (a Historic Ranger in a previous life) led our group on a tour of the maunga including the Barracks building at North Head (a former defence fort, set up in the 1800s to defend Auckland from a feared Russian attack). The students all seemed to delight in exploring the myriad of caves, underground rooms and tunnels of the barracks and former pā.

Students in a long, dark tunnel underground.

In a long dark tunnel, a remnant of the military history of the mountain

As we clambered out of a long dark tunnel and down the steps to the coastal track, the sea spray from the high tide and abating storm licked our faces. As we raised our eyes, a pair of maki or orca coming around North Head suddenly emerged from the waves near us on the shore. We could not have timed it any better. We alerted a colleague up in the Field Base who advised that we should call 0800 SEE ORCA as soon as possible with sightings. Dedicated orca researcher—Ingrid Visser—loves to hear about them as early as possible in the hope of getting out on the water for her ongoing research.

Two orca in Waitemata Harbour.

A rare sighting of two young orca

Stories about the value of the sea for kaimoana and a coastal cave for waka transport were also shared as we continued our walk around the base of the maunga. This highlighted to these future leaders why we all need to treasure our marine environment and encouraged them to take action like beach clean-ups and preventing litter and waste getting into the sea.

At lunchtime we took part in an afternoon workshop with the group that was designed to help DOC learn more about what makes conservation tick for young people, how to better engage with youth in their communities and what support DOC could provide for their conservation efforts. In small groups the students shared their ideas and expressed some valuable insights.

Based on their own feelings, opinions and experiences, the group came up with a range of ideas that they believed would help to develop their peers’ interest in conservation—ranging from making conservation fun and ‘easier’ to do with groups of friends, to including incentives such as food, competitions, prizes, and music.

Students cleaning up the harakeke/flax bushes.

Conservation work is ‘easier’ with a group of friends

We are looking forward to meeting these students again and supporting their efforts to engage with conservation on a stronger footing and in particular, assisting their involvement in the restoration of a wetland habitat in the Wattle Farm Reserve near the school.

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 Oliver Knox, Visitor and Historic Assets Ranger in the Kauri Coast Area Office.

Oliver Knox on Six Foot Track in the Waima Ranges.

Walking up the Six Foot Track towards Framptons Hut in the Waima Ranges

At work

Some things I do in my job include… track and structure maintenance and inspections, developing signage installations, contract management, fire fighting, and being part of the Strategic Iwi Group for Northland.

The best bit about my job is… working alongside the awesome and passionate people that are involved in conservation, and being able to work outdoors in the New Zealand landscape.

Oliver Knox performing music on his guitar.

Performing at the Aratapu Tavern

The awesomest DOC moment I’ve had so far is… eating fresh smoked snapper for lunch at the batch in Tom Bowling Bay on the North Cape, after spending a week doing inspections around Te Paki and the far north coastline.

The DOC employee that inspires or enthuses me most is… Tony Silbury, who was my inspiring and passionate Programme Manager at the Mt Bruce Wildlife Centre in the Wairarapa, where I spent six months doing predator control after finishing my trainee ranger internship in Gisborne.

Oliver Knox guiding a trail of children on the Maunganui Bluff Track.

Guiding a school group over the Maunganui Bluff Track

On a personal note…

My stomping ground is… Baylys Beach on Northland’s west coast—the longest driveable stretch of beach in New Zealand and home of The Funky Fish.

If I could trade places with any other person for a week famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional it would be… my friend Aaron who is now living in the Mentawai Islands running a restaurant just down the road from Macaroni’s—one of the premier surf breaks Indo has to offer.

My best holiday ever was… touring through Europe and Canada with my acoustic guitar and amp, each week performing in a different place and either couch surfing or staying with friends.

If I could be any native species I would be a… karearea, the New Zealand falcon.

Oliver Knox building box steps on the Waiotemarama loop track.

Building box steps on the Waiotemarama loop track

Deep and meaningful

My favourite quote is… ‘The most important human endeavor is the striving for morality in our actions. Our inner balance, and even our very existence depends on it. Only morality in our actions can give beauty and dignity to our lives.” Albert Einstein.

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is… ‘Be true to yourself’.

In work and life I am motivated by… behaving with integrity, compassion, and bringing creativity to life.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is… you can make a difference so find out where and how to get involved. Experience the outdoors and discover what New Zealand has to offer. Respect nature and clean up after yourselves.

A photo of the Waitapu Saddle countryside.

The view south looking into the Waitapu Saddle and 2kms of grass track that needed to be cut!

Question of The Week

If you could pick to stay a certain age forever what would it be… 30, because the body is still in good shape, the character has developed to where it is stable, and there is still a touch of youth. Also, at that age you are still eligible for Working Holidays overseas, so you can work and travel forever!

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.