Success at Mokaihaha

Source: Department of Conservation

Introduction

Last year’s aerial 1080 operation at Mokaihaha Ecological Area has helped enable native bird populations to grow, including a special population of kōkako.

Date:  20 February 2019

The aerial 1080 operation at Mokaihaha Ecological Area in September last year has achieved a result that will be of immense benefit to native species this breeding season. Monitoring of introduced rats using tracking tunnels following the aerial 1080 operation last year has shown a huge decline from a rat tracking rate of 37% to 0%.

Biodiversity Ranger Maurice Wilke explained that research has shown that a rat tracking index above 5% means that kōkako and other susceptible birds will have a poor breeding season, as most eggs and chicks will be eaten by rats. A 37% index (i.e. 37 tunnels out of every 100 tunnels showed rat tracks) before the breeding season had even started, would have almost certainly meant a complete loss of kōkako nests this year if pest control had not occurred.

“We know that if kōkako are to have a chance of successfully breeding, rat numbers need to be at 1% or below in early November” he said. “We were hoping to achieve near zero, and this result will enable our important bird populations to continue to thrive. The reason we have treated just over 2000ha is to give kōkako and other species that live outside the core bait station area the opportunity to nest successfully” says Wilke.

“The success of previous pest control programmes has enabled the endemic kōkako to prosper at Mokaihaha” says Jeff Milham, Operation’s Manager. “These endemic birds are not found anywhere else in the world and are considered taonga. This population of kōkako is extra special because these are remnants of the original birds of the area. There are only 11 original kōkako populations now left in New Zealand, and Mokaihaha is amongst the 5 most genetically diverse of these populations.”

Other native birds such as North Island robin, North Island kākā, tūī, bellbird and whiteheads will also breed prolifically. A nesting kākā was observed within the reserve soon after the aerial drop last year. Native bats also occur here and should also benefit from the low pest numbers. Rimu are fruiting heavily this year and without pests competing for food, the intermittent breeder’s such as kākā and kererū will stand a better chance of rearing young. With such low pest levels at Mokaihaha, both species can also be expected to have a highly productive breeding season.

A 2015 survey of adult kōkako established population and distribution within Mokaihaha. This survey recorded 91 adult birds including 39 pairs. A repeat survey in 2018 showed an increase in birds to 94 kōkako including 43 pairs.

The 2018 report showed a greater increase in the number of territorial kōkako may have been expected over the three year period since the 2015 survey.

The report shows kōkako are expanding their territories into a wider area of the Mokaihaha reserve, with the highest number of territories outside the core block as a result of the wider predator control area we have achieved using aerial 1080. The 2018 survey also recorded 13 juvenile birds that are not counted in the adult survey method. These younger birds will continue to have the best survival chance with sustained pest control and are expected to be represented in the next kōkako survey.

Mr Wilke said that warning signs are still out, advising the public about the dangers if they come across the baits or predator carcasses and that dogs are particularly susceptible to the poison. “I would like to remind dog owners to take extra care until the warning signs are removed. Dogs should not go into the reserve, and people with dogs in areas adjoining the reserve need to keep their dogs under control to avoid contact with carcasses.”

A bait station operation containing toxins aimed at rats and possums will start again next season over about 40% of the area and continue to be used in conjunction with 3-yearly aerial 1080 operations.

Contact

MIL OSI

PEPANZ gas report nothing but fake news and flatulence

Source: Greenpeace New Zealand

An oil industry-commissioned report claiming to show the Government’s oil and gas exploration ban will cost billions is nothing but “fake news and flatulence”, according to Greenpeace.

The NZIER report commissioned by oil industry body, PEPANZ, claims the oil and gas ban issued by the Government last April could cost the the New Zealand economy $28 billion by 2050. It also claims it could cost the Taranaki economy $30 billion.

But Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner, Amanda Larsson, says the figures in the report are based on false assumptions and alternative facts.

“This report is simply a rehash of old modelling that failed to take into account the cost of climate change or the value that new clean energy industries will have as we transition away from fossil fuels,” she says.

“It assumes we have a choice about whether or not we respond to climate change. We don’t. We have just ten years to cut our emissions in half if we want to avoid passing the 1.5 degree warming threshold for human safety.”

Larsson says the effects of climate change will cost us dearly and inaction is not an option. Most recently, the Insurance Council of New Zealand confirmed that 2017 and 2018 were the two most expensive years in New Zealand for claims related to extreme weather.

“Ending fossil fuel use is non-negotiable. What matters now is how the Government and industry support workers and communities through the transition to clean energy so they are not negatively impacted,” she says.

“The oil and gas industry has had 40 years’ warning that fossil fuels are driving climate change – the industry now has a responsibility to invest in retraining and transition support for its workers and communities.

“In Taranaki, there are enormous opportunities in the clean energy industry. The skills employed in offshore oil and gas transfer well to the offshore wind industry, for example. In the US, we’ve seen wind and solar technicians become the two fastest growing professions.”

PEPANZ hopes to use the report as leverage for a review of the oil and gas ban. Larsson says she hopes common sense will prevail.

“PEPANZ is an oil hype group that exists solely to pedal propaganda for an industry that for decades has been knowingly causing climate change and denying it. The alternative facts pushed in this report are nothing but fake news and flatulence,” she says.

“The figures are based on fantastical modelling that imagines masses of gas lying offshore that despite intensive searching, the industry has failed to uncover. Oil and gas companies have drilled 75 wells in a decade and not found one bit of commercial gas – not even a fart’s worth.”

ENDS

Contact:

Amanda Larsson, Greenpeace NZ climate and energy campaigner, 021 722 794

MIL OSI

Historic diesel plume discovered in Milford Sound

Source: Department of Conservation

Introduction

DOC is currently investigating an historic underground diesel plume discovered in Milford Sound/Piopiotahi.

Date:  19 February 2019

DOC is working alongside Environment Southland and has employed the services of contaminated land specialists to fully investigate the matter.

Te Anau Operations manager Greg Lind says while the investigations are ongoing, it has been determined there is no current risk to public or wildlife health, and the plume appears to be stable.

“This investigation will look to discover the scope and source of the contamination and offer recommendations on how to manage or remedy this site going forward.”

The plume, which was first discovered on January 7, is located near the area’s infrastructure.

“The investigation should take another 6-8 weeks to complete and should inform on scope and age of contamination, source and recommend remedial action needed.”

Milford Sound is located in Fiordland National Park, part of the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area.

Contact

MIL OSI

Nelson fires: on the front line

Source: Department of Conservation

The Pigeon Valley fire in Nelson has left a trail of smouldering ashes in its wake.

At the peak, the fires affected an estimated 2340ha with a fire perimeter of 35.4km. The fire forced about 3500 people to evacuate, leaving 1000 homes, livestock and properties at the mercy of the blazing trident.

DOC Golden Bay (Takaka) Crew on the 30-metre black out tasks – supporting FENZ Crew, Pigeon Valley. Photo: Mike Ogle

The Department of Conservation were part of the first responders to the fires and continue to have a presence in Pigeon Valley.

DOC firefighters from Nelson, Tasman, Whangarei, New Plymouth, Te Kuiti, Invercargill, West Coast and the rest of New Zealand geared up and stationed themselves on the ground to fight the fires. Up to 20 staff are deployed each day to the fires, with rosters to ensure teams are on the ground day and night.

I spoke to some of the rangers, managers, regional director and international experts (who just happened to be in the right place at the right time) to get their experience responding to the fire.

Here are their stories…

Roy Grose
Northern South Island – Operations Director

The fire response was a great combined effort from across the board, and all staff worked tirelessly doing the hard yards. The team did our share of the heavy lifting. It’s great to see how well teams from across the organisation have come together.

Some teams on the ground were made up of rangers from all over who have been thrown together, some meeting for the first-time working side by side on the fire line.

Teams of 4-5 people were assigned divisions in Pigeon Forest to fight the fires which has been burning for around two weeks. Credit: Mike Ogle

I’m also proud of how our team integrated with other responding organisations. Working with Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) and other agencies has been a worthwhile experience for a number of our local staff . Communication from Scott Bowie from our National Fire Support team was excellent with consistent updates and media support.

When you have teams of people wanting to help and communications is lacking, there can be a lot of sitting on your hands. I would like to thank the team at FENZ for doing such a great job to allow our teams to get to the front line and get on with the work.

We had firefighters from the USA, Central Oregon Rappellers (AKA the ‘Hot Shots’) who come to New Zealand each year to train and assist with fire work in their off season.

These men and women are very experienced and have the tools and skills to battle fires of this size. This team are a tight nit crew that can be deployed at any minute and be ready to fight fires. They are used to working in tough conditions and repelling from helicopters in mountainous terrain.

I’m grateful for the other fire crews from within DOC, there was an immediate response when the call was put out. “You seem to think that when an issue in your patch, even an issue this size, that you have onus of the issue on your shoulders. You forget you have a whole network of people to support you.

There were lots of offers of support from across the organisation, and it was great to see. I am grateful we received an amazing response from across DOC, and I thank those people and teams who continue to support the region in battling the fire.

Kieran Parish – Assigned to Alpha Station
Ranger Supervisor Recreation/Historic – Golden Bay

I came back from Annual Leave and we were given the call about the fires and needed to send out a crew. We had a day to sort gear and get over to the command centre. We were lucky we had a bit of time to sort out gear and equipment. The fire was divided into areas for teams to attack. I was deployed to Alpha Division, in Pigeon Valley for three days.

Our team was all DOC crew, from Renwick, Nelson Lakes, Takaka – and we were assigned crew leaders to direct us. Teams were quite small – 4 to 5 per team and generally you were put in a team from your own district.

Helicopters with monsoon buckets were be called in to put out hot spots too hot to be pulled out by hand. Credit: Chris Wootton

We had 12-hour days, briefing in the mornings were at 7am – and you worked until the evening briefing at 7pm. My first day was spent on running wajax fire pump at the main skid site for the hose crew.

Days were long – and you pace yourself, so you didn’t burn out. When we were in the thick of it working with the hand tools, you get hot and tired, so need to take regular breaks. Most of the work was dry firefighting techniques which involved walking the burnt line putting out hot spots, digging out burning stumps and roots.

In some cases, if we found a hotspot that hand tools could not extinguish, we called in heli support to extinguish with the monsoon drop. We don’t get fires every year, so it was great to be involved and get some invaluable experience, it’s been a big eye-opener for me and the team.

Matt Page – Motueka – Assigned to Division A Alpha
Ranger Supervisor Biodiversity

I got the call I was going to be deployed to assist with the fires, I arrived a day later than the other guys attending. We met at the DOC Motueka yard at 6am each day and headed over to the Incident Control Point ICP) and met up with the rest of the crew and was assigned to crew leader role. The ICP is where we received a daily briefing at 7am before meeting with Sector Supervisors for taskings.

On day one and two of our crews arriving we were putting in containment lines with hand tools and hoses putting out hotspots up to 30 metres from the fire edge. We worked cohesively with DOC teams from Nelson Lakes, South Marlborough and Takaka for most of the three days under the watchful eye of our sector supervisor Shane Cross.

Part way through day two the Motueka crew got redeployed to deal with a ‘slop over’ which is where the fire has jumped containment lines. We used hand tools and hoses to dig up and extinguish hot spots and after a few hours had things dampened down. The following day (three) we rechecked the slop over area and dealt with a few remaining hot spots and felled a few hazardous trees before being redeployed to assist with a back-burn.

Our crew were tasked with watching the non-burnt areas for any spot over. Once the back-burn was complete we set up a dam and ran a fire pump with two lines wetting down the edge where the back-burn was lit to minimise the risk of any spot over fires during the night. We were fed and watered pretty well and had good quality food throughout. Lunches had notes from the community thanking us for our work which was greatly appreciated.  This is a big fire and days are long so it’s best to pace yourself and chip away at it. We were reminded that there is no hurry to get to the fire as its already burning, we just needed to be safe about what we are doing.

Staff from the South Marlborough team received personalised notes from Appleby and Wakefield schools to help lift the spirits of fire fighters on the fire line. Credit: Mike Ogle

It was great to be kept busy most of the time, comparatively there was very little hurry up and wait.  I know the Motueka Crew enjoyed themselves and gained valuable experience on the fire line.  I wonder when the rain will arrive?!

John Wotherspoon
Operations Manager – Nelson Lakes

Operating under a incident management structure and seeing how we work with other agencies has been valuable. You could call it a bit of a circus, and you can only plan ahead so much, but will always be slightly chaotic, and you need to be able to expect it and deal with a changing landscape.

Its been a fantastic experience for the DOC crews and for some it is a once in a lifetime opportunity. You don’t want events like this, but situations like this will prepare crews for future fires or larger scale emergencies if they arise in their own region or internationally.

Response teams from DOC, NZRF, St Johns, NZ Police meet each day at the Forward Control Point

Rangers from Invercargill to the Bay of Islands; some with their usual work mates while others are hybrid crews from around New Zealand, have been in the fire ground working 12 hour plus shifts – 7am to 7pm or 7pm to 7am. We have generally labelled crews by where their crew leader is normally based. On average there have been 3-4 crews of 4-5 rangers on the ground at one time.

The DOC fire teams have been really good at sizing up and accepting the situation, and getting stuck into it. Crews can come through and if fresh, get set up with a vehicle, hand tools and a thorough briefing and be on the fire line within a couple of hours. Everyone who has come to help out understands things aren’t easy and have been great to work with.

As a region we are pleased and grateful people have come through from other parts of the country and taken on the work, the favour will probably be returned in one way or another.

Agencies from DOC, NZRF, Ambulance, NZ Police, and NZDF came together at the command bases to brief and update firefighting teams. Credit: Mike Ogle

Wayne Beggs
Ranger Biodiversity – Taranaki

I was called a week ago to assist with the fires. I just arrived today with rangers from Te Kuiti, Bay of Islands, Auckland and Whangarei. I’m here until Friday to help turn over the ground, knocking out some of the hot spots.

Because it’s so dry here and there’s no rain forecast for a while, there is a real risk of a break out, so crews will stay until the fires, embers and hot spots are well and truly under control. Hot spots can be smouldering underground and a lot of tree roots and old logs can be smouldering away and are easy enough to flare up again.

Turning over hotspots, taking out stumps and wetting areas make it less likely for a breakout. Credit: Mike Ogle

Aroha Gilling – Treaty Settlement Ranger
Ranger – Nelson

I’m based at the Control Command Centre in Richmond, alongside all the other agencies pulled into the Crisis Incident Management team. I am the Pou Āwhina to the Iwi Liaison team and support the coordination and communication with local iwi to ensure iwi interests are upheld.

Iwi leaders from the eight Iwi of the Top of the South were there to support the fire response. Barney (pictured right end). Credit: Nelson Tasman Civil Defence

Being flung into a team like this I had to quickly learn a new set of skills I had no previous experience of. I had to learn fast who was who, key people I would need to work with, and how our team sat within the structure. The current structure of CIMS traditionally doesn’t have iwi liaison officers as a role, however they add a lot of value to response teams like this.

A team such as this meant there was an iwi presence at the media stand-ups, ILO doing daily live feeds on Facebook to keep whānau up to date on the iwi’s response to the fire. These daily Facebook posts have had guests, such as the Mayor and sign language interpreter who appears on the daily Tasman Council updates and become somewhat of a local celebrity. These live posts are highly popular with the online community.

The Iwi Advisory Group makes daily updates to iwi and communities, using Facebook Live. Pictured: Shane Graham (TPK), Barney Thomas (DOC), Paul Palmer, Dexter Traill (NZ Police). Credit: Nelson Tasman Civil Defence

There is real value in a Māori response team in a time like this and it provides an opportunity to start a meaningful and authentic relationship between iwi and local government, supported by Iwi Liaison Officers and other stakeholders to discover what a true partnership could be.

In the thick of this all, this has been a big learning curve for all involved, including me.

Dylan Kane – Central Oregon Rappellers
Hotshots Firefighter the USA

I work in the crew of 24 people from the USA. What do we do? In short, we abseil out of helicopters to fight fires.

I came over to New Zealand as part of a program that’s been going for the last 10-11 years. The program brings firefighters to NZ for a 5-week course, doing track work, recreational work, historic work – whatever DOC needs. We also do some work with hand tools, chain saws etc. Because we have experience and skills compatible with what DOC wants, we come to train on our off seasons.

I’ve been here for a month now, and we heard about the fire while doing a track project. When we got the call about the fires, we were told we would likely be requested to help. We had a team of 12, got our bits and pieces together and left for the fires.

The ‘American Hotshots’. Dylan Kayne pictured back row, third from left.Credit: Daniel Chisnall

We arrived in Brightwater, where staff were briefed. We are familiar with this process and it’s the same as we use at home. In the US we use an Incident Command System, which is a flexible system to change the control of demand with changing situations. This is an effective way of tasking assignments to clearly state who is in charge.

When we arrived, we were given an area. The burnout reduced the fire perimeter, and then we were tasked with holding the perimeter, holding the fire line and getting rid of hotspots.

This Nelson fire was very similar to ones we see back home. In the US this would be a medium size fire – we have 1000 ha fires each year. The forest types between NZ and US are different. In USA the environment has adapted to fire, so fires are much more frequent.

Fire season occurs throughout the year and we are usually following fires because they are so common. In New Zealand there aren’t so many fires caused from lightning like at home.

The PM with some of the American Hotshots. Credit: Matt Flyn

We learned a lot from locals, about fuels and natural fuels, environment and weather condition changes. We were able to share strategies and tactics with contractors, DOC and other agencies which was hugely valuable.

On behalf of us we are excited to be able to come to New Zealand and help, we are honoured and appreciate the opportunity to assist and work with our colleagues across from the ocean.

MIL OSI

Waikawau Bay Campground gets upgrade to conserve water

Source: Department of Conservation

Introduction

Waikawau Bay Campground in the Coromandel will be closed from 1 March to 30 June 2019 for a $2.1Million upgrade on water facilities.

Date:  19 February 2019

The 1250 camper capacity campground will be closed to the public while 10 new ablution blocks, complete with point taps, showers and sink benches are installed. They will be fitted with automatic shut-off type tapware. The upgrade will conserve water usage by up to 60%.

DOC are upgrading a number of Northern Coromandel campgrounds. The investments which include new facilities will improve campers’ experience and accommodate the influx of visitors to the region over the busy summer season.

Operations Manager Nick Kelly says “the new facilities have been designed to conserve water across the campground. The measures not only reduce the amount of water waste, but also encourage visitors to drink the drinking water on site rather than bringing in bottled water. The empty bottles usually end up in local waste stations.”

“We want to improve the experience for our visitors as they can enjoy more facilities. It will be more convenient as they won’t have to walk so far or queue in lines”.

With the new abolition block visitors will have accessible and standard blocks with 20 toilets, 10 waterless urinals, 18 showers and 18 sink benches. A new campground wide treated water reticulation system will be installed, connected to new toilet blocks and various new additional water points throughout the camp. The water system will be supplied from new water storage tanks, also to be installed as part of the upgrade.

Kelly says that the upgrades will bring a well needed revamp to the facilities but will not alter the campsites rustic “back-to-basics” camping experience.

The funds for the upgrades involve similar upgrade works to Stony Bay, Fletcher Bay and Fantail Bay campgrounds. These areas will be closed to the public while the work is taking place. The public will be notified when it is underway.

Contact

MIL OSI

Pygmy sperm whale dies at Raglan

Source: Department of Conservation

Introduction

DOC and local iwi made the decision to euthanise a pygmy sperm whale, suspected of stranding itself, at Te Kopua near Raglan.

Date:  18 February 2019

The pygmy sperm whale washed up at Te Kopua, Raglan, on Sunday afternoon was “not comfortable.” This was how local iwi described the whale to DOC marine ranger Garry Hickman as he made his way to the site of the stranded whale with a small crew of DOC rangers.

DOC ranger Pearson Tukua waiting to attach a line to the whale from the coastguard boat
Image: Helen Gurley | DOC

It is suspected that this was the same whale that had been re-floated less than an hour earlier. A local resident who reported the first stranded whale, described markings near the tail which were consistent with the whale on the beach at Te Kopua.

DOC rangers, local iwi and others agreed that it would be kindest to euthanise the 3 m pygmy sperm whale.

“While most of us would have preferred an outcome where the whale swam away, it didn’t eventuate”, said Garry Hickman. “What was necessary had to be done, basically.”

As the tide came in, DOC staff gently nudged the whale out to sea. It returned and became exhausted, ejecting a reddish plume into the water when approached.

It was early evening when the whale was euthanised by DOC staff. By then the tide had come in enough for the Coastguard boat to almost reach the beach and throw DOC ranger Pearson Tukua a line. 

Pearson Tukua put a strop around the tail of the whale and the Coastguard boat towed the whale out to sea, “this was the best thing really because it can just decay naturally at sea.”

DOC would like to thank everyone who helped with the stranding. “We are grateful to the local resident who first reported it, and for the support of Whaingaroa iwi, Raglan police, the Coastguard and the members of the public who helped throughout the day to provide assistance to the whale”.

Contact

MIL OSI

Three reasons why plastics won’t save the oil industry

Source: Greenpeace New Zealand

As electric vehicles and cheap solar panels cut into the demand for petroleum-based fuels, an increasingly desperate oil industry has been banking on plastics to drive future demand growth.

Here are three reasons why the logic behind this is flimsier than a cheap plastic bag.

Bad press: The petrochemical industry has been aware of the general problems with plastic pollution since at least the 1960s and that the oceans are filling up with plastic garbage since at least the 1970s. It is only recently, however, that this has been in the media spotlight. Plastic has turned into a real monster. We used to see litter as annoying, and dirty, but not really as a menace to our health and to our planet. Now, images of turtles caught in plastic rings, or whales full of single-use cups and bags washing up on our shores are impossible to ignore. Reports of plastic in our drinking water and even in our poop are turning people off plastic. For far too long, corporations have put the onus on individuals to recycle away their trash, but people are starting to realize that industry needs to clean up the mess they created — and stop producing throwaway plastic for good.

Regulations on the way: All this attention is leading to bans on single-use plastics popping up all over the place. Last fall, the European Union took a historic stand against single-use plastic pollution banning some of the most problematic throwaway products, including cotton buds, straws, cutlery and food and beverage containers, and ensuring producers are held accountable for the costs of single-use plastic pollution. Plastic straws as well as foam take-out containers and cups will soon be banned from Vancouver as part of its zero-waste strategy. NZ has banned single-use plastic bags. It seems like only a question of time before most countries get on board and realise that in order to curb plastic pollution, we need to ban problematic and unnecessary single-use plastics, incentivise a shift to more sustainable product delivery systems and hold corporations accountable for the full lifecycle of their products. Industry beware. Even BP admits these new rules could reduce the future demand for oil, and they have a long history of lowballing the potential growth of alternatives to what they sell.

Successful action on climate change makes plastic more expensive: This one is a bit more convoluted, so bear with us (longer version here). When oil companies drill for oil or natural gas, they are extracting a whole range of chemicals. The most valuable components of oil are turned into gasoline, diesel or jet fuel, while the most valuable component of natural gas (methane) is used in power plants or for home heating. Plastics are made from the leftover bits that aren’t particularly good fuels. If these bits weren’t turned into disposable bags, bottles and cups, then industry would have to pay to dispose of them.

In short: plastic is cheap because we burn a lot of fossil fuels. If we burn less gasoline, diesel or natural gas (and meeting the Paris climate agreement requires phasing out fossil fuel use by mid-century), then there won’t be such a glut of waste products to turn into plastics. This becomes a virtuous cycle because as the cost of making plastic rises, alternatives become more attractive.

So by bringing your own reusable coffee mug, or bugging your local coffee shop or supermarket to ditch single-use plastics, you’re doing a lot more good than you think. You’re not only helping to save our oceans, you’re also telling oil companies hoping that the booming single-use plastic industry will pick up the slack and keep profits up, to think again.

Want to help end the Age of Oil?

Ask the big corporations to Break Free from Plastics.

This blog was co-authored by Philippa Duchastel de Montrouge, from Greenpeace Canada’s Oceans & Plastics campaign and adapted slightly for New Zealand.

MIL OSI

Fire risk being closely monitored across the top of the South Island with some tracks closed

Source: Department of Conservation

Introduction

DOC is closely monitoring conditions and will keep areas open wherever it is safe to do so but will be closing some tracks as fire risks increase.

Date:  15 February 2019

DOC Northern South Island Regional Operations Director Roy Grose says the priority is keeping visitors safe. 

“DOC is working closely with Fire and Emergency NZ and local tour operators to ensure people entering conservation areas understand the risks and know what to do if fire occurs.

“We’ve closed some areas based on a range of risk factors including terrain and vegetation types, and DOC’s ability to evacuate and communicate with visitors.

“Making sure the public have good and accurate information is key. We are working hard to make sure the DOC website remains updated with any changes,” says Mr Grose.

In the Abel Tasman National Park, the Coastal Track remains open but there are closures to interior tracks and some campgrounds are closed due to extremely dry conditions. All hunting permits have been cancelled.

“We are confident that along the Abel Tasman Coastal Track we can manage the risk including our ability to evacuate people.

“If people see smoke they should head immediately to the beach. Dial 111 if you have coverage,” says Mr Grose.

The road through Molesworth is closed. Members of the public can still access Molesworth by joining a guided tour as concessionaires carry special firefighting equipment.

It is expected that a diversion will be put in place on the ridgeline of the Queen Charlotte Track between Kenepuru and Torea Saddles next week. The campsite at Moawhitu on D’Urville Island has already been closed and other remote campsites in the Sounds may also close next week.

In the Nelson Lakes, Teetotal has been closed to vehicle access and West Bay campground may be closed early next week.

“Everyone visiting tracks and campgrounds needs to be taking every precaution to guard against the fire risk that includes a total ban on lighting fires and no smoking. 

“Gas cookers should only be used in cooking shelters or on flat bare earth or rock surfaces”, says Mr Grose.

If you see smoke anywhere call 111.

Other key closures

Temporary track closures

  • Gibbs Hill Track
  • Falls River Track
  • Abel Tasman Inland Track

Temporary campsite closures

  • Tinline Great Walk Campsite
  • Anapai Great Walk Campsite
  • Mutton Cove Great Walk Campsite
  • Taupo Point and access track

Temporary hut/shelter closures

  • Castle Rock Hut
  • Awapoto Hut
  • Wainui Hut including access through Wainui Saddle and Birds Clearing
  • Holyoakes Shelter
  • Moa Park Shelter

The Caanan Campsite and surrounding tracks, eg Rameka, Harwoods hole and Rawhiti Cave remain open.

Contact

MIL OSI

Over 100 ducklings make for a loved up Valentine’s Day

Source: Department of Conservation

Introduction

DOC rangers and volunteers have been given a lovely Valentine’s Day gift with more than 100 whio ducklings sighted on a recent survey in the Whirinaki Te Pua-a-Tane Conservation Park in the central North Island.

Date:  14 February 2019

DOC Ranger Jacob De Vries says a recent survey confirmed at least 107 ducklings had hatched on the rivers in the park. “Considering there are only an estimated 3000 whio left in the world, over 100 whio chicks in one security site is an outstanding result.”

The work to survey the ducklings wouldn’t have been possible without some help. Six volunteers along with Beau the detection dog and his handler DOC ranger Andrew Glaser all spent long stints wading through the crystal-clear and ice-cold rivers.

Volunteer John Black was so committed to counting ducklings he even spent New Year’s Eve at Central Whirinaki Hut. “Whio are masters of disguise who look just like stones in the river until they move. Seeing new chicks is really rewarding – they are little fluff balls that never stray too far away from their parents,” said John.

The good results can be attributed to the increasing number of adult breeding pairs in Whirinaki Forest and the support of Genesis, which through ongoing support is enabling DOC to double the number of whio breeding sites, boost pest control efforts and enhance productivity and survival for these rare native ducks.

Genesis General Manager Corporate Relations and Whio Forever committee member, Emma-Kate Greer, said that these results show real progress is being made in restoring whio numbers in predator protected security sites. “What an amazing Valentine’s Day present for this hard-working DOC team. These whio ducklings are living proof that the team’s diligence, care and energy in protecting this species is paying off.”

There are currently 38 adult breeding pairs, and hundreds of kilometres of traplines in Whirinaki to protect vulnerable nesting mothers and ducklings from the threat posed by introduced pest species such as rats and stoats. Without pest control, nest cameras show that nearly 95% of female whio are killed while sitting on their nests.

In addition to trapping, the Whirinaki also benefits from regular pest control operations. Because the Whirinaki Forest is an ideal environment for whio, when pests are managed the population grows rapidly. As these ducklings grow-up they may travel to adjacent forests and repopulate areas that no longer have whio, further helping the species’ long-term success.

The Whirinaki Forest is one of the best places in the world to see whio. The majority of the park’s easy tramping tracks follow rivers and pass directly through the security site. In particular, the Whirinaki Track and the Moerangi Track offer overnight experiences, backcountry huts, and plenty of opportunity to see whio.


Background Information on whio

Whirinaki

  • Whirinaki Te Pua-a-Tāne Conservation Park is one of eight ‘whio security sites’ in New Zealand
  • 1800 DOC200 traps protect the Whirinaki Whio Security Site; the traps are checked every two weeks
  • Whirinaki Forest is home to 51 endangered species including short-tailed bats, kaka, kakariki, kiwi, and rare plants
  • Whirinaki Forest has 155km of tramping tracks, nine backcountry huts, and two MTB tracks
  • Whirinaki is jointly managed by DOC with Te Runanga o Ngati Whare
  • The whio is a threatened species of native duck that is only found in New Zealand’s fast flowing waters. Featured on New Zealand’s $10 note and with an estimated nationwide population of less than 3000 birds, whio are rarer than kiwi
  • Whio are adapted to live on fast-flowing rivers so finding whio means you will also find fresh, fast-flowing water with a good supply of plants and underwater insects
  • This makes whio important indicators of ecosystem health – they only exist where there is quality fresh water and an abundance of life

Whio Forever

  • Genesis has a strong historic association with whio through the Tongariro Power Scheme and in 2010 this association grew through the establishment of Whio Awareness Month (March).
  • Today, Genesis and DOC continue their partnership through the Whio Forever Project, which aims to secure the future of whio in the wild and ensure New Zealanders understand and value whio in our rivers.
  • The support of Genesis and the work of DOC has enabled the Whio Recovery Plan to be implemented

Conservation issue

  • The whio are predated by stoats, ferrets and cats with the largest impact during nesting time when eggs, young and females are vulnerable, and also when females are in moult and can’t fly.
  • Extensive trapping can manage these predators and work in key whio habitats by DOC and Genesis on the Whio Forever Project has already seen an increase in whio numbers
  • Whio cannot be moved to predator-free islands like other species because of their reliance on fast-flowing rivers.
  • Pairs occupy approximately 1 km of water – so they need a lot of river to sustain a large population and they fiercely defend their territories, which makes it difficult to put them with other ducks in captivity.
  • They are susceptible to flood events which, destroy nests, fragment broods and wash away their valued food source.

Contact

MIL OSI

Is Wellington home to a new biodiversity hotspot?

Source: Department of Conservation

Introduction

Citizen scientists have recorded nearly 2,000 marine species at Wellington’s Taputeranga Marine Reserve.

Date:  13 February 2019

More marine species have been recorded by citizens at Wellington’s South Coast marine reserve than in New Zealand’s most internationally famous dive destination the Poor Knights Marine Reserve.

Nearly two thousand observations have been reported by citizen scientists in the ten-year-old Taputeranga Marine Reserve, as part of an online project hosted by iNaturalist. Curated by Department of Conservation marine scientists, the project has clocked up nearly 350 recorded species in Taputeranga, compared to less than 200 for the Poor Knights.

Knowledge of what’s in our oceans is low compared to that of dry land, but marine scientists estimate that as much as 80 percent of New Zealand’s indigenous biodiversity is found in the sea. While many of our marine fish are found in other countries’ seas, many of our benthic (bottom dwelling) marine species are found only in New Zealand.

Clinton Duffy, Technical Advisor for DOC’s Marine Ecosystems team, says that it is unclear why there is such a difference between observations at the Wellington site and those in eight other marine reserves, including the sub-tropical Poor Knights.

“None of these other projects have had anywhere near the number of observations posted in Taputeranga, despite active promotion and higher populations in the Auckland region.

“One credible theory is that there are just more nature geeks in Wellington!

“The truth is, it probably reflects Taputeranga’s urban location, including its proximity to Victoria University, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research and several dive shops.”

Whatever the reason, there is no doubt that photographs coming out of the marine reserve and reported to iNaturalist highlight the stunning marine life that occurs off Wellington’s south coast.

Some of the unusual finds include a rare deep-water species called a half-naked hatchetfish, (argyropelecus hemigymnus), and the hula skirt siphonophore (physophora hydrostatica), a relative of jellyfish and corals.

Colin Ryder, Chair of Friends of Taputeranga Marine Reserve, says his group has always felt that Taputeranga is more ecologically interesting and diverse than its better-known northern counterparts.

He says there is still much more to find as some areas of the reserve are yet to be covered.

“The scary thing is that intertidal organisms dominate the records, and coverage of the deepest parts of the reserve is almost non-existent. So we’re probably just scratching the surface – in manner of speaking!”

Species usually harvested for food, such as paua, rock crayfish, blue moki, tarakihi and blue cod, appear to be thriving in the marine reserve, judging by the size and number seen in some of the images sent to iNaturalist. Large schools of trevally are also being photographed.

“This is proof that when fully protected, even for as little as 10 years, marine environments can recover and flourish.”

Colin is encouraging Wellingtonians and visitors to have a look for themselves.

“Go to the iNaturalist NZ website to get inspired. Then visit the marine reserve, get into the water and go exploring with a camera so you can post your photos and help discover what’s hiding in the deep.”

Contact

MIL OSI