A new challenge in life

A few months ago I was surprised to learn I’d been appointed to the Otago Conservation Board, a statutory body. This had quite a flow to it so I decided it must have meant to be!

The first thought I had was “goodness, Otago is a really large and diverse place”. For it spans east west from the sea in the east of the South Island that hosts a very wonderful bunch of species, to the very large and extensive mountains including Mt Aspiring National Park, with the brown (now turning green), of Central Otago in-between.

Otago Conservation Board members 2019
The board members up the Matukituki Valley on a familiarisation field trip. The valley is an important entry point to Mt Aspiring National Park.

If you’d like to understand more about the role 15 such boards have in New Zealand Conservation then >> What conservation boards do

Otago’s Aramoana Ecological Area – The Spit and Pilot’s Houses

A few months ago I was privileged to be appointed to the Otago Conservation Board. Such appointments are made by the Minister of Conservation. The first duty of a member is to work to achieve the statutory interests of the board.

Members are not representatives for any cause or organisation. Board meetings are public, and organisations can ask to be heard at them.

There are 15 Boards in NZ and each one is independent of any other body, and have a statutory obligation to represent the public interest in DOC’s work, and conservation in general within their region by advising DOC and the New Zealand Conservation Authority on planning and strategic direction.

A board can be requested by DOC to advise on issues like biodiversity, the use of public land, and concessions (a business may apply to use such land for their operations).

One of the first ones I became involved with was commenting on some old historic dwelling in the Aramoana Spit near Dunedin. In this case the owners of the houses have applied for a concession for them to stay on Conservation Land. They were built maybe 80 years ago, predating not only DOC, but goodness what other land designation.

Some field trip notes and images

Aramoana Spit, Otago NZ
The view along the spit – north is to the left. The 4 dwellings are at the far end, 3 of under the large trees. Note that 40 years ago the dunes were further to the left – right up to the tide line in fact. This is also the most popular beach for locals swimming.

Aramoana Spit, Otago NZ. Salt Flats
On the other side of the dunes, to the south towards Dunedin, there are very extensive salt mudflats.

Access to Aramoana Spit
The locked access road to the dwellings sidles along the south side of the dunes, with the very extensive salt mud flats on the right. It seems perfectly placed to not interfere with the local wildlife, which at the moment consists of sea lions in the dunes near the houses, and not penguins. Perhaps they’re not compatible?
Aramoana Spit, Otago NZ
There are a few gullies through the dunes that lead to the beach from the access road. Yes, those are dog prints.

Rainbow Tairoa Head from Aramoana Spit, Otago NZ
Great views of Tairoa Heads. The first dwelling on the extreme right – the 3 far more substantial houses are under the trees…

Bach, Aramoana Spit, Otago NZ
I loved the kiwiana style, and btw this is not one of the pilot’s houses. At this point there is an imaginary line between dunes and sea lion habitat to the photographers right, while at the left starts a different vegetation zone comprised of seemingly of a bit less sand.

Pilot's House, Aramoana Spit, Otago NZ
The second pilot’s house really close by, with path to the beach…

Shed and garage, Pilot's House, Aramoana Spit, Otago NZ
More kiwana

View south from Pilot's House, Aramoana Spit, Otago NZ
At this point the environment to the south, towards Dunedin is no longer salt marsh

Roof with lichen, Pilot's House, Aramoana Spit, Otago NZ
This roof faces the sunny north!

Wilding Pine, Pilot's House, Aramoana Spit, Otago NZ
Out on the spit, as opposed to the dunes, we have a few invasive species

Beach Chairs, Pilot's House, Aramoana Spit, Otago NZ
One way to enjoy the view north

Sea lion pup asleep at Aramoana
Sea lion pup asleep in the dunes

At the time of publishing here a submission has been sent to DOC of the Board’s recommendations, but at this point I don’t know what the outcome will be.

Exploring the Catlins – New Zealanders playing as tourists — part 3

This is the last of three series of a roadie trip down what is known as the Catlins, in Coastal Otago

catlins, oyster catchers
Part of large gathering of oyster catchers at Papatowai
catlins, kiwiana caravan
Classic kiwana at the car park to Jacks Blow hole
catlins, sea lion
Sea lions enjoying the sun
catlins, sea lion
catlins, wood pigeon
Kererū
catlins, sea lion
Sea lion feeding at Waipapa
catlins, black oyster catchers
The black oystercatcher is quite conspicuous
waipapa lighthouse in the catlins
Waipapa point and lighthouse
catlins windswept trees at slope point
So typical of the wildness of coastal Southland
fortrose southland
View from Fortrose
waituna wetlands
The awesome Waituna lagoon – one the largest in New Zealand, and refuge to countless biodiversity
flax flowers at waituna lagoon
Flax flowers at Waituna
waituna lagoon
More kiwana at Waituna lagoon

Read Part 1 here >>

Exploring the Catlins – New Zealanders playing as tourists – part 2

Prior to this five day trip down the length of the coastline south of Dunedin known as the Catlins, my knowledge was limited to widely spaced out experiences such as an outdoor first aid course at the largest town Osaka, a school trip to a camp at Pounawea, a marvellous tramping and bushcraft training trip onto and along the Wapati Beach [at the end of which lurks the huge Cathedral caves, and we’d not had time to get to them], and much more recently assisting with road surveying at the southern end of the area in the vicinity of Curio Bay.

Well you may think that all the above words summarise “the Catlins”, but no, in-between is a wealth of interesting areas steeped in a history rich in seafaring endeavours, waterfalls, caves, timber milling and farming. Now days tourism especially in the summer “season” is a big thing though.

This “fill in the gaps”, scoping the flora and fauna trip for me bought up a lot of feelings I found fascinating. Maybe there is little outright poverty in this area that hosts something like a hundred or two rainy days a year, but under the hood of the vibrant summer tourism season, just getting underway there was evidence of a hand-to-mouth existence not easily found where I live in Wanaka.

As the trip unfolded it was great to see few tourism operations that exhibited  a shallowness, and come across museums, cafes etc. and people that were real, what I call, Kiwi’ana.

The Cathedral Caves Walk is across Maori [Kāi Tahu descent] freehold land and is managed by a trust that charges is a small fee for the use of the car park and access to the bush track, beach and caves, during low tide only, in-between late October [spring tides may delay the opening a few weeks] and May..

Cathedral Caves Walk, Catlins, NZ

Cathedral Caves Walk, Catlins, NZ
Cathedral Caves are located in cliffs at the northern end of the Waipati Beach. Two sea-formed passages together measure just on 200 metres, with a height measuring up to 30 metres! Access is by a 1km walking track that descends through podocarp and kamahi coastal forest of the Waipati Beach Scenic Reserve. Upon reaching the beach, it’s a 10 minute walk to the Caves.

Cathedral Caves Walk, Catlins, NZ

The walk to the caves was really enjoyable, but all too soon it was time drive further south…

Stinkhorn, and flies attracted the rotten meat smell emitted from this plallus shaped fungi…
Stinkhorn fungi and flies, Catlins, Otago, NZ

Maybe not good to meet if you’re in bare feet enjoying the beach…
Crab, Catlins, Otago, NZ

I’ve never seen a spoonbill feed before and was rather amazed to observe them swinging their upper body through 180 degree while their beak is in the water – presumably it sort of sifts what passes through, or over the tongue…
Spoonbill feeding, Catlins, Otago, NZ

Red bill gulls resting…
Red bill gulls, Catlins, Otago, NZ

On the Mclean Falls track...
Podocarp Bush, Catlins, Otago, NZ

Mclean Falls…
Mcleans waterfall, Catlins, Otago, NZ

Mclean Falls again…
Mcleans waterfall, Catlins, Otago, NZ

One more article [#3 of 3] to come about this region – the images are prepared and I hope to write up 300 words + in the next week.

Read Part 1 here >>

The SPCA’s anti-1080 policy isn’t just naive, it’s dangerous | The Spinoff

I’ve known for years that the cost and logistics of managing and eventually eliminating the introduced predators that are killing off our native bird species is not possible with trapping alone, and that even if it was we would not have enough people in New Zealand to do the job, man, woman and children included, yet many think we can.

Which gets pretty weird, but maybe this is because an estimated 80% percent of the population are urban dwellers. Then another factor is that 70% don’t think we have a problem!

Well we do! Here is one of the main culprits [by the way in less damp terrain the humble hedgehog is also, along with the stoat and feral cat, up there high on the list of the most efficient killers of birds].

This dead stoat was retrieved by myself high up on the track to Cascade Saddle in Mt Aspiring National Park after the application of 1080 in the West Matukituki Valley in 2014. The “find” was rated so useful by the Dept of Conservation that a 4wd vehicle was dispatched immediately on recipient of my radio call, and the body taken out to Wanaka and then sent off for a pathology report. Such is the detail sought after and attended to by DOC!

Dead stoat poisoned by 1080

And so here we have below some mind boggling figures for trapping just a small portion of New Zealand’s native bird habitat –  published today in response to a highly publicised statement by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals:

The SPCA’s suggestion that trapping could replace toxins is totally naive. Let’s look at the logistics:The Department of Conservation is looking at treating 1 million hectares of conservation land with 1080 this year. To do just 250 hectares of trapping, targeting multiple species as 1080 does, you’d need to cut trap-lines 45km long, in grids through the forest. Let’s multiply that by just the conservation land in Northland alone. (116,000h/250h) * 45km = 21,000 km of trapline – which is enough to wrap halfway around the planet. Then you’d need 420,000 rat traps,

Read More at the Source: The SPCA’s anti-1080 policy isn’t just naive, it’s dangerous | The Spinoff