Archives For Rata

Last night Project Crimson celebrated its 25th anniversary with a reception at Government House. Our Photo of the Week celebrates their work fighting for our iconic red flowered pohutukawa and rata trees.

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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 Maria Deutsch, Outreach and Education Coordinator, based in Nelson…

Maria amongst the speargrass flowers on Mt Peel.

Researching our beautiful flora — speargrass flowers on Mt Peel

At work

Some things I do in my job include: 

My personal vision is to make a significant contribution to connecting people to nature at a deeper level and to mainstream conservation in Aotearoa/New Zealand.To achieve this I (hopefully) work to my strengths and skills, including: facilitation and coaching, creative thinking around interacting with new audiences and development of tools, hands-on input in the partnership space in the community, and supporting the many awesome people in my region in the best way I can. I also have input in national partnerships and enjoy finding solutions to conundrums.

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by:

Facilitating approaches that inspire people about their relationship with nature and through this engaging them in conservation in a way that is meaningful to them.

The best bit about my job is:

My team!  A more awesome, creative, down to earth practical and yet visionary team you will not easily find; it has taken motivation to a whole new level.

The awesome-est DOC moment I’ve had so far is:

Co-facilitating a young leaders’ programme at Whites Bay in the Sounds. Young leaders were taking younger children on a one hour forest exploration walk that included plant knowledge and survival skills; every hour the young leaders and us swapped over to a new group of children. The biggest buzz for me happened at round three when one of the young leaders took over the facilitation of the walk—he included group and leadership skills he had picked up from us alongside the forest knowledge he had learned—us DOC-ites stood back and he held the space!  What an awesome outcome.

The DOC employee that inspires or enthuses me most is…

I have been with DOC since December 2012 and since then I have met too many inspirational people to choose just one. There are funny ones, enthusiastic ones, clever ones, persistent ones, scary ones, odd ones, peculiar ones and ALL are an inspiration in their own right. Ka mau te wehe!

Three red rata flowers.

Rewards of kaitiakitanga—rata flowers in our forest

On a personal note…

My stomping ground is:

36 hectares of native bush that I have been kaitiaki for during the last 20 years with a comprehensive pest control programme and a lot of sharing with others of this special place which now shows the reward of our mahi in a healthy forest and fantastic birdlife. After that it’s tramping in Te Tau Ihu, West Coast and Mount Aspiring National Park. Though working with the Māori Cadets has given me a taste of Te Ika-a-Māui (the North Island)—so more to explore.

My greatest sporting moment was:

Leading a grade 21 rock climb on a tricky slab in Castle Hill/Kura Tāwhiti and getting to the top unscathed.

In my spare time I:

Go cycle touring, photograph patterns and wonders in nature, write poetry, do mosaics, tend to my organic vege garden and orchard, create space to be with friends, take children through our bush, read books, go to concerts… what spare time?

If I wasn’t working at DOC, I’d like to:

Work as a facilitator in situations where multi stakeholder collaboration, including indigenous cultures, brings about new sustainable ways of living in tune with the ecosystem.

Before working at DOC:

I was self employed for 13 years in community development and as a facilitator, coach, trainer, creator of organisational solutions and leading initiatives of integration of nature as an asset for organisational work.  I was also one of the main tutors on the Maori Conservation Cadetship— what an awesome whanau and wonderful young leaders some of whom now work for us—kia kaha e hoa mā!

Maria amongst the mountains in the upper Copeland Valley, South Westland.

Feeding the soul in the upper Copeland Valley, South Westland

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is…

“You have to go through chaos to create a burning star” (Nitzsche)

And my favourite Whakataukī: Toi tu te marae a Tane, Toi tu te marae a Tangaroa, Toi tu nga Iwi.  (if the realms of Tane and Tangaroa prosper, then we will prosper too).

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is:

My dad used to say two things that stayed with me: “there is always a better way of doing it” and “there is always a choice, even if people tell you there isn’t” (he created some unbelievable choices in Nazi Germany—my grandfather was the head of the local resistance movement). The two pieces of advice sit together for me, combining choice and self responsibility with a drive for excellence that creates true innovation.

In work and life I am motivated by:

Inspirational people that walk the talk, children that laugh and play and nature as a teacher.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is:

There is a wellspring of health, enjoyment and inspiration in nature—go out and explore and experience and delight in it.  Once you understand this, the rest will follow…

Maria with a piece of driftwood shaped like a fish at the beach.

What type of fish is this?

Question of the week…

Who would you like to be stuck in a lift with and why?

Adam Kahane, Dalai Lama, Jeanette Fitzsimons and Christine Hogan for fascinating conversations that can change the world, and the lead singer of Runrig and Loreena McKinnett for some beautiful singing.

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.

By Rebecca (Becs) Gibson, DOC Community Relations Ranger, Great Barrier Island

Walking festivals are becoming increasingly popular, so it was no surprise that the recent inaugural Great Barrier Island Walking Festival was a great success.

The walking group heading to Whangapoua beach.

Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to the beach we go. Wild and windy Whangapoua

As this was our first walking festival, and due to our remoteness, we decided to start small and limit numbers. Despite this, people came from all over: New Caledonia, Australia, Te Wai Pounamu and, of course, Raetihi 🙂

Eight walks were offered over the three day weekend, ranging from full day tramps to shorter learning expeditions.

Walkers enjoy the view from Hirakimata Mt Hobson.

Walkers enjoy the view from Hirakimata Mt Hobson on the Over the Top walk

Hosts were allocated for each walk, and accompanying the groups were subject experts and ambassadors, including local iwi representatives, Auckland Council and DOC staff, café owners, fire fighters, ecology professors and historians, who all volunteered their time to give the visiting walkers an experience ‘one step beyond’.

A banded rail.

Unique wildlife encountered, banded rail

Aotea Great Barrier Island is an oasis for travellers; a replenishing place and a site that reflects human history as old as the name Aotearoa itself.

Walking group looks at rata species in  Windy Canyon.

Subject expert, Simon Cook, describes the unique rata species in
Windy Canyon

One walker said that the Great Barrier Island Walking Festival ‘has been a real eye-opener’ and that was on day one – we were just getting started!

The richness of the experience, the wonderful scenery and unique wildlife had many expressing they would be coming back for more.

The view from the top of Great Barrier Island.

Great Barrier Island walks – ‘one step beyond’


Great Barrier Island Walking Festival

The Great Barrier Island Walking Festival was funded by Auckland Council’s Local Board with DOC assistance.

The Great Barrier Island Walking Festival is a three-day walking experience that will leave you wanting to come back for more. Walk through spectacular scenery, learn about the local mining and whaling history, walk with subject experts and take away wonderful memories. For more information visit the Great Barrier Walking Festival website.

By Inger Perkins, Hokitika Office

The Cedar Flat Hut near Hokitika has recently been renovated and extended to provide 12 bunks alongside the two extra bunks in the adjacent historic 1957 deer cullers’ hut.

Cedar Flat Hut before the upgrade.

Before the upgrade

For every tramper, following the walk up the steady terrain of the steep walled Toaroha Valley, with the Toaroha Ridge to the East and the Deidrich Range dominating the west of the valley, a base at Cedar Flat is a gateway to Hokitika’s backcountry and offers a variety of options.

The huts are part of a network of huts, bivs, swingbridges and tracks up the valley and onto the tops.  The choice of direction, difficulty and duration are yours!

Cedar Flat Hut after the upgrade.

After the upgrade

The creek and hot springs are close by and you can wander up to the Toaroha Gorge, with its gorgeous blue water tumbling over jumbled rocks, only 0.5km away.  Enjoy the views as you look down from the swingbridge.

A day trip will take you to the alpine tops and back again.  Adventure Biv at the bushline is well worth the climb for stunning views.

DOC has been working hard in recent years to provide a network of maintained tramping tracks and huts that allow easily accessible circuits.  Two of the favourites among trampers are the Top Toaroha/Whitcombe circuit and the tougher Toaroha/Zit Saddle/Kokatahi/Lathrop Saddle/Styx River Route, both of which start from Cedar Flat.

The first, heading towards the Whitcombe, although challenging does not have the very steep slopes of the circuit over the Zit and Lathrop Saddles to the Styx.  Both will need experienced navigation skills in the group but will reward you with a remote back country paradise and views to go with it.

Brennan-Hughes family at Lathrop.

Brennan-Hughes family at Lathrop

The open flat, with plenty of room for camping and an ideal light and airy place for a hut, is ringed by cedar trees as its name suggests, as well as mixed rata and kamahi forest.  A useful note for trampers on colder nights, cedar doesn’t burn!  In fact it has even been used to line chimneys including the original chimney in the historic Cedar Flat Hut.

On the way up to the hut, you may be fortunate enough to see the elusive whio or blue duck, which is clinging to survival in the valley.

Whio (Blue Duck) with chick. (Photo credit – Mark Neilson).

Whio (Blue Duck) with chick

The start of the Toaroha Valley was initially a source of timber, particularly rimu, and later, when hot springs were found at Wren Creek beside Cedar Flat, accommodation was built for visitors to the springs and the then Westland County Council improved access up the valley by forming a pack track to the springs.

The springs are not easy to find, though a track to the right area of the creek is signposted.  A shovel is usually close by so that new ponds can be dug out.  Careful study of the area, along with clues from the hut book, could lead you to the treasure of a personal hot pool!

The hot springs accommodation became the original base for hunting in the late 1930s and early 40s and a new purpose built hut was built on the opposite side of the river, in its current location in 1957.

The historic hut is a rare and the best example of the regional hut design from the early stage of wild animal control under the New Zealand Forest Service, before national standard designs were used.  The hut was built using some locally sourced and hand worked timbers; the form of wood working expertise is no longer used and now only known by a few people.

Historic 1957 deer cullers’ hut (Cedar Flat).

Historic 1957 deer cullers’ hut at Cedar Flat

Visitors to the hut will have the opportunity to stay in the historic hut, which provides a unique experience seldom so easily accessed.

The later six bunk hut, built in 1968, was proving inadequate and a large hut was proposed to replace both smaller huts.  However, the historic values of the old hut have been recognised and, by extending the newer hut while retaining its look and feel, enjoyment of the old hut and its setting has been maintained.

The two Cedar Flat huts today.

The two Cedar Flat huts today

Tremendous feedback on the extended and restored hut has been received from visitors, particularly experienced trampers.  It has great views of the surrounding tops, where your next day’s tramp could take you.

As with all trips into the backcountry, it is important to be prepared and to leave your intentions with a responsible person.  A good level of fitness is recommended for tramps within the Toaroha Valley and if the river is up, the marked flood routes should be used.  A higher level of fitness and good navigation skills are important for the longer tramps.