Archives For oamaru

On a recent sunny Sunday afternoon DOC staff in Oamaru helped the Landcare Trust out at their planting day along the banks of the Kakanui River.

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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 Herb Familton, Resource Management Act Planner.

Name: Herb Familton.
Position: Resource Management Act Planner.
Office: Christchurch Shared Services, Policy and Regulatory Group.

Herb moutain biking in Nevis Valley.

Moutain biking in Nevis Valley

At work

Some things I do in my job include… biking to and from work through Hagley Park talking to area staff and scientists about the effects of consents and plans, assigning area staff with RMA questions, case management and mediation with lawyers and witnesses, writing submissions and writing evidence. And putting on my best suit and presenting evidence to councils about submissions.

The best bit about my job is… working with bright bushy tailed and committed DOC staff who also happen to be principled and well rounded individuals that are a pleasure to work with.

The strangest DOC moment I’ve had so far is… on the airfield at Pitt island (off Chatham Island) with the skulls of the saxon sheep littered around, facing the howling wind and watching roaring whitecaps offshore roll in. Possibly the strangest I’ve ever felt, it was like at the opening scene of a Peter Jackson Horror movie.

Herb and a friend winning the South Island Regional Gliding Championships.

Day winners of South Island Regional Gliding Championships

The previous DOC employee that inspired me most is… John Cumberpatch – his focus was definitely working on the business.

On a personal note

I am not a Cantabrian; I am an Oamaruvian and still support the Highlanders and the Volts. As it happens, I love neo-gothic stone buildings, particularly if they have Oamaru stone in them. We are losing a lot of amazing buildings at the moment here in Christchurch. Going through town, it’s a bit hard to know where you are sometimes as they have all disappeared! However, things are on the up now in terms of the rebuild, and I’m looking forward to the new improved energy efficient buildings and bikeways over the place.

I was taught History and English by Owen Jones (Marshall) the noted short story writer. The Waitaki Valley and Central Otago are my stomping grounds… the way the light falls and the shadows on the hills at Omarama (the centre of the known gliding universe) in the late evening is just magical (best with a Otago pinot methinks!). The Hopkins and Huxley Valleys are places I’ll always come back to visit.

I live in a renovated 100 year old villa with Donna who is a nurse and with sons Hamish and Alex. We have upgraded this to a pretty good sustainability rating with a worm farm, retrofitted double glazing, heat pump, wall/ceiling/floor insulation, heat pump clothes drier, high efficiency dishwasher, CFL and LED lighting, and  evacuated tube powered solar hot water and shower hot water heat exchange over the years. Did you know you can get candle shaped LED bayonet bulbs for Donna’s lovely chandeliers? The plan is solar PV when I retire maybe…

Herb using a solar cooker in Central Otago.

Solar cooker under Central Otago sun doing dinner

Most people don’t know that I… think that LINUX operating systems are absolutely brilliant, reliable and cost nothing. Perhaps this reflects my Presbyterian upbringing! Fellow DOC shared services staffer Steve Sharman made me a computer in 2005 and its still going strong on Ubuntu LINUX.

The song that always cheers me up… is Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto and any guitar solo by son Alex singing Bruno Mars.

My greatest sporting moment was… definitely leading the South Island Open Class Gliding championship in the mid 1990s for several days (until we missed a thermal and landed in a paddock at Irishman’s Creek one day!)

The Murchison Glacier.

Skitouring in Murchison Glacier (I have walked out of Murchison twice!)

Deep and meaningful

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is… ‘Be true to yourself’ by my Dad. This dawned on me in an epiphany when Nigel Latta the psychologist talked about his Dad in the same way.

My favourite quote is… “If you are going to achieve in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception: it is a prevailing attitude”by Colin Powell, closely followed by “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” by Eleanor Roosevelt.

In work and life I am motivated by… living life by my expectations, the occasional hurry ups from Donna, giving Hamish and Alex the opportunities to become fine young men, and knowing with clear certainty that I have been a positive force in society over a range of endeavours. Ken and Anna as case managers also give me the hurry up as required!

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is… in the towns and cities: walk, bike, or take public transport to work, get into solar HW and PV, insulate and double glaze your homes, renovate your Edwardian villas rather than flattening them as they are big enough, use a heat pump or low emission log burner and compost or worm farm your organic waste.

In the country, take inspiration from our wonderful backcountry and coast, remember to appreciate the special places you value when you visit with family and friends, and give your support to the organisations, groups, or individuals that value them as you are able. We may not have visited for a while, but knowing they are there sometimes is solace enough… toitu te whenua.

Herb's family at the blue penguin colony in Oamaru.

Donna, Hamish and Alex in Oamaru

Question of the week

If you could be a character in any TV show, who would you be and why?

Lisa Simpson from the Simpsons as she plays the alto saxophone of course!

Lan Pham is a Freshwater Fish Ranger from DOC’s Coastal Otago Area Office, she writes about an exciting new project to spread the love of New Zealand’s freshwater fish species.

A Lowland longjaw galaxiid swimming in a stream.

A Lowland longjaw galaxiid – classified as critically endangered

For many our native freshwater fish species are most commonly encountered is in a whitebait fritter, but in Otago a new project aims to change the way local communities experience and relate to our unique freshwater species.

The Otago region is a biodiversity ‘hot-spot’ for a fascinating group of galaxiids—native freshwater fish, which unlike their whitebait counterparts, do not migrate to sea. Instead, these non-migratory galaxiids live out their lives in the stream or river where they hatched. Often these few remaining populations have passed under the radar of their human neighbours. However, as freshwater resources are coming under increasing pressure, the need to raise the profile of these galaxiids is of utmost importance, meaning the time for action and getting to know our galaxiids before we lose them for good is now!

Kids watching two DOC rangers electric fishing for galaxiid.

Electric fishing for the infamous Clutha flathead galaxiid in Boundary Creek

‘Growing Otago’s Galaxiid’s’ is an initiative that has sprung out of Otago’s Growth and Engagement Strategy. It’s a fresh start that aims to get local communities, irrigation groups and foresty companies excited and engaged with their local species, and to facilitate what measures/activities/events they want to drive to help conserve their galaxiid species.

The project is in its first month and there has already been some exciting successes. Several schools have signed up to partner with local fish-friendly landowners who are keen to host restoration sites on their properties. We had a fun visit to the Conservation Award-winning Waitahuna School and met their local galaxiids at Boundary creek and are working with Kids Conservation Club and City Forests on an exciting team project involving our nationally endangered Eldon’s galaxiid.

A DOC ranger shows attendees the creatures living in Oamaru Creek.

Discovering what fascinating creatures live in Oamaru creek!

Only time will tell whether we are on to a winning start with spreading galaxiid love throughout Otago. But we will sure be doing our darnedest to try new things, involve communities at every step of the process and let them take the reigns and run with the projects themselves into the future.

Our big vision is that communities will drive their own galaxiid conservation projects, landowners and forestry companies will actively protect galaxiids on their land and local businesses will support their local galaxiids through sponsorship. Our hope is that the galaxiid love we are seeding during this project is something that will continue to grow within communities, far beyond what DOC alone could ever hope to achieve!

A Clutha flathead.

A Clutha flathead

By Dave Houston

A presence of biologists?

Blue penguin at Oamaru

Blue penguin at Oamaru

I’m not sure that anyone has come up with a term for a group of penguin biologists (however a group of penguins is called a “waddle”), but whatever it is, one was recently sighted in Oamaru at the biennial Oamaru Penguin Symposium.  Around 60 researchers, conservation managers, and fieldworkers from DOC, Trusts, eco-tourism ventures and the community turned up to hear a variety of papers on the biology and conservation of New Zealand (and occasionally Australian) penguins.

14 years ago I attended the first symposium and it was all about sharing with the Oamaru community what we had learned about the impact of tourism on blue penguins at the nearby Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony.  Today the symposium covers all the penguin species of the New Zealand region and attracts an Australasian audience.

Some good news, some bad

Counting Snares penguins

Dan Palmer counting Snares penguins

Actually, except for the continuing increase in the blue penguin population around Oamaru and the apparent stability of Snares penguin population, the news for other species wasn’t that good.  Yellow-eyed penguins had an OK year in Otago but on Codfish Island (off Stewart Island) a continuing decline has us puzzled.  Out on the remote Antipodes and Bounty Islands things are not great either with significant declines noted in the erect-crested and rockhopper populations.  Fiordland penguins have proved tricky to count, but despite the development of new, more accurate methods, the news isn’t great.

So what’s the problem?

Yellow-eyed penguins on Codfish Island

Yellow-eyed penguin nest on Codfish Island

In most cases we just don’t know.  Changes in food availability, perhaps related to natural or man-made climate variations, are a probably the most significant factor in current population declines, but we understand the how and why poorly.  The impact of fisheries in both bycatch and influencing prey availability is equally poorly understood.  Research in these areas is time consuming, difficult and hard to fund, so progress in understanding it is slow.

Snares penguin with GPS

Snares penguins headed for sea, one fitted with a GPS/dive logger. Photo: Thomas Mattern

In Trusts we trust

A lot of the management of blue and yellow-eyed penguins in the terrestrial environment is undertaken by trusts, community groups and even commercial enterprises.  These groups, along with DOC, have been successful in managing many mainland sites on which penguins nest; protecting habitat, controlling predators, educating the public and carrying out research.  Despite their good work much remains to be done.  More collaboration between community groups, universities, businesses and DOC is required to help understand and resolve the many issues affecting the long-term viability of our penguin populations.  Maybe you’ll join me in Oamaru in 2014 to hear what progress has been made.

Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust planting

Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust staff and volunteers planting penguin habitat. Photo: YEPT