Archives For Waikato

By Jack Van Hal, Delivery Planner Biodiversity

Yesterday (2 February) was World Wetlands Day. To celebrate, we’re putting the spotlight on Whangamarino Wetland in the Waikato.

Swamp land at Whangamarino.

Whangamarino Wetland in the Waikato

World Wetlands Day is held every year, on February 2, to mark the signing of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and the Day provides an opportunity to highlight the important role wetlands play in our environment.

Whangamarino swamp.

Wetlands play an important role in the environment

Whangamarino Wetland is one of the largest swamp and peat dome wetland complexes in the country at 7,000 hectares. A Ramsar site since 1989, the wetland is also important to Waikato-Tainui people as recognised in the Waikato River Settlement.

Australasian bittern/matuku, black mudfish and swamp helmet orchid are just some of the threatened species thriving in the wetland. Other species include marsh and spotless crakes, fern birds, dabchicks and various gamebirds, making it a popular spot for game-bird hunting.

DOC ranger checking on the mudfish.

Mudfish

However, the wetland faces a number of threats, including excessive inflows of sediment and nutrients from the wider catchment, altered water levels due to the lower Waikato River Flood Scheme, predators, stock trampling and weeds. Despite these threats, large areas of raised peat bog remain in good condition, supporting communities of threatened wetland plants.

DOC has been implementing innovative wetland conservation initiatives at Whangamarino Wetland under the Arawai Kākāriki wetland restoration programme.

Kayaking through the wetland.

Kayaking through the wetland

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 Greg Martin, Director – Delivery Project and former Waikato Conservator based in Hamilton.

Greg riding during the Taupo Cycle Challenge.

Completing the Taupo Cycle Challenge

At work…

Some things I do in my job include… leading the staff of the former Waikato Conservancy and maintaining significant relationships with many of the key partners and stakeholders in the region.

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by…working together with others to achieve more conservation and to ensure that we maintain the achievements of the past

The best bit about my job is… getting to some amazing places that the average New Zealander would not have the opportunity to visit, and certainly not as part of their job.

The most amazing DOC moment I’ve had so far was… a visit to the Taman Negara Gunung Mulu National Park World Heritage Area in Sarawak, Malaysia in 2011, as part of the Australasian Cave and Karst Management Association. Mulu has reputedly, the largest cave in the world, known as Deer Cave. Each evening at dusk, millions of bats exit the cave to feed over the forest canopy and as they leave they form amazing patterns in the sky.

The person that inspires or enthuses me most is… Dr. Gordon Stephenson who was a founder for the QEII National Trust and the National Farm Environment Awards and is a conservation icon in the Waikato. He is truly a visionary.

Greg and Sue Martin on the Central Otago Rail Trail.

Mountain biking on the Central Otago Rail Trail

On a personal note…

Most people don’t know that I… own every mans’ dream car, an Aston Martin.

My best ever holiday was… with my wife, daughter and her partner travelling in the South of France and North of Spain staying in little villages and places off the beaten track. It was a wonderful experience meeting the locals and enjoying the food and wine. I was fortunate to visit the Niaux Caves in the South of France and see the ancient drawings of cave bison. This artwork has a significant conservation plan in place.

My greatest sporting moment was… when I broke the 3 hour barrier running a marathon. The previous year I went under the clock at 2.59.59 but when the results came out the time was recorded as 3 hours and 81/100ths of a second!  That was motivation enough to achieve 2 hours 48 minutes and 58 seconds at the next event.

In my spare time I enjoy… road cycling and mountain biking and have completed the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge 25 times.

Before working at DOC I was… with the Department of Lands and Survey starting as a cadet in 1973 and amazingly, not even by design, I have had my whole career in Hamilton.

Millions of bats exiting Deer Cave, Mulu World Heritage Area.

Millions of bats exiting Deer Cave, Mulu World Heritage Area

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is… “If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude”  Colin Powell

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given was… by my father to stay in the Government Superannuation Scheme.

In work and life I am motivated by… energetic and passionate people who believe in what they are doing. That is all of us in DOC.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is… that all will come to treasure our natural and historic heritage and understand the scale of the task to conserve it.

Greg's Aston Martin and two other vehicles.

My Aston Martin is on the right

Question of the week…

As a soon-to-be ‘watcher of DOC from the outside’, what stories do you hope to hear in the media and through the grapevine?

I think we will know that we are making real progress when we have generous funds being contributed by supportive and engaged partners in our main population centres to grow and deliver more conservation without drawing significantly on DOC’s precious resources.

By DOC’s Des Williams, based in Hamilton

What used to be a relatively uninspiring walk from Te Pahu’s Limeworks Loop Road to the Kaniwhaniwha campsite in Pirongia Forest Park is being transformed into a tunnel of green.

The walkway now planted with native plants.

The tunnel of green

Thanks to the efforts of the Te Pahu Landcare Group over the past 12 years, many thousands of native trees are flourishing and the track is now suitable for family groups, casual strollers, pushchair pushers and mountain bikers, as well as the more serious trampers.

It has always been DOC Ranger Bruce Postill’s dream to see the area planted up with native trees around the Kaniwhaniwha Stream and local residents regard it as part of their mission to make that come true.

DOC workers and volunteers reflect on their work.

Ed Brodnax, Bruce Postill and DOC ranger Stuart Wind reflect on their work

At the beginning of the project the track was nothing more than a walk through grazed pasture, with the adjoining farmer’s stock having free access to the stream banks and waterway. DOC’s Waikato Area staff members Bruce Postill and Dave Matthews started on a plan to change this little part of their world.

They went to the local council with their plans and the council agreed to turn it into recreation reserve and let DOC take control of it as an access-way to the park boundary.

The next task was to fence the boundary. For the first two or three years Bruce and Dave were making progress at the rate of about 100 metres a year. A hundred metres fenced, a hundred metres planted. Then Bruce looked at Dave: “Mate, we are not going to get this done in our lifetime at the rate we are going.”

The Kaniwhaniwha Stream.

Kaniwhaniwha Stream

Then the project got a kick-start, with the Lotteries Commission provided funding and with the Te Pahu Landcare Group keen to get involved.

Though present membership comprises less than a dozen people, they have all taken this project to heart and are starting to see results with some of their initial plantings now several metres high in places.

A kowhai flower on a branch.

Solitary kowhai heralding the new spring

So, year by year, the walk through pasture land is becoming a walk through an avenue of trees, with each flourishing native carrying the pride of the local community that has helped put it there.