Archives For Rakiura

Today’s photo of the week is the impressive view from Mount Allen in the Tin Range, a remote mountain range on Stewart Island/Rakiura.

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One month ago today, the conservation community lost one of its pioneers. Allan Munn writes about the life of Gary ‘Arab’ Aburn.

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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 Daniel Lee, Conservation Services Ranger, Rakiura/Stewart Island.

The stunning view from Rocky mountain.

The stunning view from Rocky Mountain across to Mason Bay

At work

Dan Lee filling bait stations.

A little breezy and damp on Rakeahua while filling bait stations

Some things I do in my job include… maintaining the tracks and huts around the island, setting bait stations for pests, fighting weeds, and talking to trampers and visitors in the field about the island, and the work we are doing.

This helps achieve DOC’s vision because… I recently had a tramper tell me how Mason Bay was looking much better compared to eight years ago, as a result of the Marram Grass eradication project going on. When people see the work we are doing, and we can show or explain the benefits of the work, and the difference it is making to Stewart Island and beyond, we are helping to spread that message.

The best bit about my job is… talking to the visitors from all over the world. Everyone I meet is so keen to learn about what is going on. Stewart Island is a long way to come for a visit and so it’s a great feeling to be able to share my knowledge of ecology and conservation with them to improve their experience here.

The awesome-est DOC moment I’ve had so far is… doing some weed control work and seal sampling on Codfish Island and Tim, the kākāpō ranger, offered to take us around and show us his work as he carried out some health checks. We found Pearl, a female kākāpō, after a long crawl through the bush and as she seemed in no distress, I was able to hold her. Even working for DOC, opportunities like this do not come around often and so I count myself very lucky indeed! They are such beautiful birds up close, and whole experience for me was both very humbling and motivational at the same time.

The DOC (or previous DOC) employee that inspires or enthuses me most is… a hard question to answer, as everyone I work with has a genuine passion for the work they do, for them it’s not just a place to come to earn a salary, the motivation of doing some good work drives them on and inspires others. If I had to single out people it would be the volunteers that come through, either as long term placements, hut wardens or working parties. It’s a big ask to give up your time for free, and seeing them all get enjoyment from just being here and being a part of conservation inspires me, every time I’m asked: ‘Are you a volunteer?’ to always reply with: ‘No, I’m merely a paid employee’.

On a personal note…

Dan Lee and Pearl the kakapo.

Me and Pearl the kākāpō on our first date!

The song that always cheers me up is… I love music! I’ll listen to almost anything, from Queens of the Stone Age when marching up all these hills on the island, to Cannonball Adderly’s amazing sax licks, but I think the one song I love sitting down at the end of any day, and always seems to fit any mood is Let The Good Times Roll, by Louis Jordan.

My stomping ground is… I’m from the south coast in the UK, and so I grew up exploring the chalky South Downs, and the wealds of Kent. A little older but no more grown up, the Cornish coastline and Dartmoor National Park became a favourite haunt for wild camping, despite the stories of real life Baskerville hounds roaming the Tors!

My best holiday was… spending two months in Borneo volunteering with various projects for education, building schools, and reclaiming native forest from palm oil plantations. I loved every minute of it, from working alongside the Malay communities, overcoming the language barrier with sport, work and rice wine, to climbing the mountain, diving, and getting chased by a pygmy elephant. It was also the one and only time I had ever seen an elusive kingfisher.

In my spare time I… like to dabble in all sorts, a bit of watercolour painting, learning the blues saxophone, and taking advantage of what the island has to offer. It’s great fishing down here and getting a feed of blue cod, mussels and paua takes no time at all. I also like to get to the mainland when I can—for a busman’s holiday, exploring some new frontier of wilderness.

Before working at DOC I… spent the last three years studying Environmental Management at Plymouth Uni in the UK. Before that I was a qualified gas engineer, installing central heating systems, gas appliances, and general plumbing work, and carrying out landlord safety checks for two years. Before that, I served seven years in Royal Navy submarines as a sonar operator, listening to all the noise the ocean makes, and being lucky enough to travel from the east coast of the States, to Singapore, and a fair few ports in between.

Deep and meaningful…

Track work on Rakiura.

Comradeship in the bush…. when the first fella finds a deep hole in the track, it’s only fair you all find it!

My favourite quote is… ‘You can’t solve problems with the same thinking you used to create them’ – Albert Einstein

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is… things are never so bad they can’t be made worse. I cannot even remember where I heard that now, but its true, when things are going wrong you will never change anything unless you drag yourself out from under the duvet and find the positives in life!

In work and life I am motivated by… making a positive difference. I’m not talking on a global scale, not just yet anyway. I’m talking on a day to day basis, whether that be with my friends and family, through work, or to a complete stranger.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is… get involved! Even if you have no time to help with a work day or a DOC event, you can still grab a few leaflets or search the web and read up about conservation issues here in New Zealand. Even by educating yourselves, you’re better equipped to spread the message and make people aware of just how important it is to keep this global bastion of natural beauty safe! That, and come to visit Stewart Island. It’s awesome.

Dan Lee at the summit of Mount Kinabalu.

At the summit of Mount Kinabalu, Borneo

Question of the week…

If you could have a conversation with any native species, which species would that be? I would definitely like to spend the day conversing with an ancient kauri. I would ask it how it has seen the world change since it first started to grow. What it has seen and felt and what it thinks of the changes it has seen, and what it would like to see in the future. What does it think of humans and the impacts we have made. It would probably have some good advice, and a few thousand years old tree would have a few good tales to tell I’m sure!

Today’s photo, of a Stewart Island tokoeka kiwi, celebrates Save Kiwi Week (14 – 20 October).

Tokoeka kiwi on Stewart Island.

Tokoeka – literally meaning “weka with a walking stick” (Ngai Tahu) has four geographically and genetically distinct forms—Haast, northern Fiordland, southern Fiordland and Stewart Island.

The Stewart Island tokoeka are unusual among kiwi for being active during the daytime, as you can see in this photo taken by Alina Thiebes.

Stewart Island/Rakiura is probably the easiest place to observe kiwi in the wild, where some 20,000 still survive.

You can find out more about Save Kiwi Week and how you can help to protect kiwi on the Kiwis for kiwi website.

The first Air New Zealand-funded transfer of fledgling Stewart Island robins from Ulva Island to a new home in the Dancing Star Foundation sanctuary has taken place successfully, with the assistance of students from Halfmoon Bay School.

Kari Beaven prepares a catch net on Ulva Island.

Kari Beaven prepares a catch net on Ulva Island

The transfer is the first step in a plan to re-establish a population of robins on Stewart Island around parts of the Rakiura Great Walk. Located near the start of the Great Walk, the Dancing Star site offers an ideal opportunity for this. Its predator-free status will allow the young birds to establish a breeding population within this fenced ‘mainland island’.

Otago University researcher Sol Heber records data for each robin.

Otago University researcher Sol Heber records data for each robin

Establishing a new breeding population of Stewart Island robins forms part of a much wider biodiversity project resulting from an exciting new conservation partnership between DOC and Air New Zealand.

The project aims to enrich biodiversity and enhance visitor experiences around New Zealand’s Great Walks, with plans also in place for the Routeburn, Milford and Lake Waikaremoana tracks.

Robins are transported securely in cat carrying boxes.

Robins are transported securely in cat carrying boxes

The recent capture of robins on Ulva Island was undertaken by DOC staff and members of a University of Otago research team. After being measured and weighed the fledglings were placed in boxes in preparation for their journey, initially by boat, to their new location.The Halfmoon Bay School children’s role in the transfer was to assist with the release of the robins. After meeting the boat, the children accompanied the birds, in their boxes, into an area of dense bush inside the Dancing Star sanctuary.

Fledgling robin a little reluctant to leave the safety of the carry box.

Fledgling robin a little reluctant to leave the safety of the carry box

A mihi was performed to welcome the robins to their new home, after which, one by one, boxes were opened by the children and the birds were offered their freedom.

It was such a buzz, they’re still talking about it. One child said, “I didn’t think it was going to let go of the perch”. Another: “I got a fright when it took off”, and another said it was “really cool”. Several thought it was pretty funny taking the birds in cat carrying boxes!
Robins in boxes are accompanied by children from Halfmoon Bay school.

Robins in boxes are accompanied by children from Halfmoon Bay school

As their population establishes and increases, future generations of robins are expected to ‘spill over’ and establish in territories outside the predator-fenced sanctuary. Over time, walkers on the Rakiura Track will be able to see and hear robins.

A trapping programme to manage predators around the Rakiura track is part of the Air New Zealand Great Walk biodiversity project. The project also includes plans to increase the kiwi population and work on the restoration of significant dunes adjacent to the Great Walk.

Helping release the robins into their new home.

Helping release the robins into their new home

To celebrate Conservation Week and this year’s theme ‘Love your parks’, Visitor Centre staff from national parks around the country share with us some interesting facts.

There are 14 national parks in New Zealand, and while Kiwis like to celebrate and show off our beautiful national parks, it is often only when people get the chance to visit that they get to learn about some of the hidden secrets and fascinating histories of these places.

Below is a list of some of the interesting facts and figures that have been sent in by our visitor centre staff who like to pass on these pieces of information to visitors to their area.

From the Franz Josef i-SITE:

Franz and his beard

In 1865 Julius Haast named the Franz Josef Glacier after the Emperor of Austria because it reminded him of his long white beard.

Franz Josef is one of only three glaciers that flow down into temperate rainforest; Fox is the other and San Rafael in Patagonia is the third.

The Alpine Fault Line runs right under the town’s petrol station.

The average yearly rain fall in Franz Josef is almost 6000mm compared to Christchurch, which receives approximately 650mm.

From the Arthur’s Pass Visitor Centre:

Arthur’s Pass National Park was the first National Park in the South Island.

Arthur’s Pass village is absolutely tiny, home to only 30-odd permanent residents and surrounded by the 114,000 hectare Arthur’s Pass National Park.

A new plaque on the Arthur’s Pass historic walk was recently put in beside the original lump of greywacke which Ray (above) carved the first symbol into.

Arthur’s Pass is one of only two places in New Zealand with possessive apostrophes in their names (the other is Hawke’s Bay). The Arthur’s Pass Visitor Centre takes apostrophe protection very seriously!

Arthur’s Pass ranger, Ray Cleland, was one of the first full-time professional rangers in the country. In 1956 he designed the mountain, beech and river emblem for Arthur’s Pass National Park which he carved into a lump of greywacke.

From Whakapapa Visitor Centre:

The Tongariro Northern Circuit was opened as a Great Walk on the Labour Weekend of the 1992/1993 season.

In 2007 the Tongariro Crossing track was renamed the Tongariro Alpine Crossing to better reflect the nature and terrain of the track and to address concerns that many visitors who undertook the Crossing were under-prepared both in terms of equipment and expectation.

The track used for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing has been in existence for many years, but was not called the Tongariro Crossing until much later. Part of this track was previously used as a horse track.

From Paparoa National Park:

The flaggy limestone layers of the Pancake Rocks are unique to Paparoa. They occur nowhere else in the world.

The well known Inland Pack Track follows a track originally formed by gold miners.

The endemic Westland Black Petrel breeds only on the Punakaiki Coast.

From Nelson Lakes National Park:

During the last Ice Age massive glaciers created troughs in the mountainous headwaters of the Buller River. Today these troughs are filled by Lakes Rotoiti and Rotoroa in the Nelson Lakes National Park.

The last glacial action in this area was between 12,000 and 20,000 years ago.

From the Rakiura National Park Visitor Centre:

85% of Stewart Island’s total land mass is included inside the borders of Rakiura National Park.

Rakiura means “The Land of the Glowing Skies”—a reference to both the stunning night sky phenomenon known as the Southern Lights and the magnificent sunsets that can be viewed there.

If you have any fun national park facts to share we’d love to hear them; we may even be able to add them to our story for the blog!