Archives For Ruahine Range

Working together for a common cause was the aim of the game for volunteers attending the annual Ruahine Whio Protectors hui this month.

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Palmerston North Boy’s High School Senior Helper Benjamin Pigott shares his experience walking the Ruahine Ranges.

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Karl Rollinson and Corey Watkins are performers who moved north from Christchurch at the start of the year. Looking for some inspiring work, and with a love for the natural environment, they signed up for six weeks of volunteer work with DOC. They share their experiences.

In January we made the shift from Christchurch to Levin. We made the move seeking new adventure and creative opportunity.

Karl and Corey sitting in front of a waterfall.

Karl and Corey

Our intention was to find work, but where to find work was the question. As keen performers, musicians and artists, with a love for the natural environment, we were looking for a job which involved all these things.

By word of mouth we heard about volunteering for DOC. It worked in perfectly with our circumstances and our passions.

We went to DOC in the Manawatu and were absolutely thrilled when they agreed that we could help out. We signed up for six weeks volunteer work.

Oroua river in the Ruahine Forest Park.

Oroua river in the Ruahine Forest Park

With help from DOC staff we were able to experience a wide range of activities such as weed control, pest control and track maintenance. We can honestly say there was never a dull moment, and our appreciation for conservation–and our curiosity and insight–only grew stronger as the weeks progressed.

We have an interest in performing in the outdoors and showed DOC staff a video of our House on Fire performance. Impressed by the video, we were asked if our film skills could be used by DOC. We were generously offered transport, food and accommodation at the lovely Iron Gate Hut, which is about one and a half hours drive north east from Palmerston North. Excited by the prospect of adventure, and making a short video, we coordinated a plan for filming and set out.

The Iron Gates Hut sign in the car park.

The sign pointing us to our destination.

When we arrived at the car park at the start of the walkway to our destination, we were dumbstruck by the view. The journey had just begun and we were already in a constant state of awe.

We were pleasantly surprised when we arrived at Iron Gate Hut, and immediately began to make ourselves at home at the tidy, well kept hut. We felt a true state of tranquillity being amongst such beautiful scenery. We paid attention to the sounds of birds in the area and felt extremely comfortable and ready to relax for the night.

Iron Gate Hut.

The topic of our video, Iron Gate Hut

Being able to film and mix this video has honestly been one of the best things that has happened. The whole process was a really great experience. As for Iron Gate Hut? It’s awesome, see for yourself:

By Jane Dobson, Wellington-Hawkes Bay Conservancy

Fresh to the Wellington-Hawkes Bay Conservancy, I heard about the Oroua Blue Duck Protection Project in the Ruahines and an inspired volunteer team led by Janet Wilson. Needing to know more I contacted Janet and invited myself along on the January trap line check and rebait.

Oroua volunteers getting ready to head off.

Oroua volunteers with coordinator extraordinaire Janet Wilson: Jen James, Janet, myself, Henry Milne and Thierry Stokkermans

Janet arranged to meet us all at the Oroua River car park with equipment, advice and a refresh on DOC 200 traps. As beacons, maps, eggs and rabbit bait were split between packs, Janet told us about the previous weeks training where a man ‘just blanked’ and let his free hand slip and set off a trap. “That’s never happened before, he was lucky to get away with grazed knuckles. “Have fun and look after each other up there,” Janet looked at me. Apparently matching people with similar fitness levels is one of her many challenges.

Jen the Crossfit trainer, Henry the anaesthetist, and team leader/ mechanical engineer Thierry set off with me in tow. We planned to get to Iron Gate, split into teams to reach the Ngamoku Ridge tops and Triangle Hut, return to Iron Gate, then walk out the river line on Sunday. I reassured myself that I was fitter than I looked – for ‘a lady from the Wellington office.’ They’d been warned.

Olearia colensoi, leatherwood, below the Ngamoko tops

Olearia colensoi, leatherwood, below the Ngamoko tops.

Jen and I headed up the ridge. The thought of an evening swim in the Oroua’s emerald pools propelled us from trap to trap. Before long we had an efficient leapfrog system. The beech trees, lime green crown ferns, glorious leatherwood and tussock covered tops made up for any squeamish moments with the stoat and rat carcasses. I even imagined rabbit ‘jerkey’ could be tempting if you were in a tight spot.

Thierry and Henry walked upriver spotting several trout AND a whio/blue duck perched on top of a DOC 200 trap in the river, with three young ducks nearby. Was this cheeky whio mocking the stoats from its macabre pedestal, or alerting Henry and Thierry to the missing trap.

The girls didn’t see any whio but were rewarded nonetheless with Guiness at dinner (fantastic leadership Thierry) and choice bombs on Sunday. The low river, blue sky and cool and clear  river made for a stunning walk out.

Total count: 13 stoats, 13 rats. 

January 2013, Team Oroua in action.

January 2013, Team Oroua in action

Meanwhile, Janet spent her Sunday checking the self-resetting traps up the Tunupo Stream, a tributary of the Oroua. In May 2012 volunteers helped install 37 of these new A24 traps made by NZ company Good Nature. They were bought with funding from the He Tini Trust and Horizons Regional Council. These traps don’t need to be checked as regularly as DOC 200’s, but need re-gassing every six months or so. A down side is there is no clear pest count – the dead critter tends to breakdown or disappear from under the trap.

Jen James baiting for high-altitude stoats.

Jen James baiting for high-altitude stoats

Due to Janet’s nightly phone calls, training trips, constant advocacy and more, the project’s volunteer base is ‘committed and developing.’ Enthusiastic people are needed to prevent the situation the Manawatu Deerstalkers found themselves facing in 2011 with the same few people doing all the work. The coordination takes ‘AGES,’ Janet told me. ‘The Palmerston North tramping club is a great help, Manawatu Deerstalkers still help, the DOC newsletter Keep Tracking On advertises for volunteers. I also put notices in the huts with tear off numbers. We’ve got a committed but developing volunteer base. I’m investing in the training weekends, hoping it will pay off.’

Whio enjoying the view from a washed out trap.

Whio enjoying the view from a washed out trap

Janet won the 2012 Individual Manawatū Rangitīkei area Conservation Award, which recognised her on-going commitment to protecting wildlife through stoat control in the Te Potae o Awarua project, the Manawatu Gorge, and for rescuing the Oroua Blue Duck Protection Project from folding in 2011.

You’re an inspiration Janet Wilson – volunteer coordinator extraordinaire.

Click here to find out how to get involved.

Evidence of an ‘A24’ trap kill up Tunupo Stream.

Evidence of an ‘A24’ trap kill up Tunupo Stream