Southern Lights Aurora

A Time Lapse from Central Otago, New Zealand

Hello, here is a time lapse taken of the amazing austral auroral display on 27-28 February 2023. As seen from The Snow Farm, Cardrona Valley, New Zealand

Made out of about 180 images taken automatically over approx. 4 hour period. And for this lot I was asleep tucked up in my 4wd camper truck. I’d tied the camera tripod down and it’s weather proof up to a point. And it kept doing a 15sec exposure every 50 secs until the battery went flat.

An image from earlier in the night

Creator and Sponsor of this Site:

Donald from iCommunicate Wanaka is Seeking Employment Aligned with Environmental and Sustainability Values.

Communicating and tech-ing sustainably – because the future is too important to leave to typos and outdated systems

Preserving the Buster Diggings

The Importance of Protecting a Historic and Heritage Landscape in Central Otago, New Zealand

Buster Diggings is a historic gold mining site located near Naseby in Central Otago, New Zealand. The site was active from 1863 to the early 1900s and reached a population of over 700 people at its peak. The Department of Conservation (DOC) now manages the site as an Actively Conserved Historic Place and it is listed several times in the Conservation Management Strategy (CMS), a statutory legal document. Prescriptive in nature. The site is considered to be remarkably intact and of national significance, particularly for its rarity as a high-altitude, alluvial mining landscape. It is comprised of fine cream coloured auriferous-quartz gravels.

Unfortunately, the site is suffering from human impact, primarily from 4wd vehicles and motorbikes, which are driving up the sluice faces for no other reason other than pushing a vehicle to it’s limits. Thus leaving long-term wheel marks or scarring on the surface of the deposits, causing erosion.

Evidence of high risk driving and riding

Using momentum in a four wheel drive to get up a steep slope can be hazardous due to several reasons. One of the biggest hazards is the loss of control if the vehicle fails to make it to the top. In such a scenario, the momentum of the vehicle puts it in a precarious position that makes it difficult or even impossible to control the descent backwards. This can lead to serious accidents, such as a rollover, especially if the slope is steep and the surface is loose or slippery.

Additionally, over-reliance on momentum can put excessive strain on the vehicle’s drivetrain and suspension, potentially leading to mechanical failures. It’s always important to carefully assess the terrain and plan a safe and controlled ascent (or possible descent when traction becomes compromised).

Acknowledgement of the problem

DOC acknowledged this impact many years ago and erected a fence around the main sluice faces at the head of Clarks Gully in 2009. However, stronger protection measures, such as a stronger fence or the use of cameras to identify vehicle users rego (and forward to the Police), could be considered.

More than once the lock on this gate, will I daresay, have succumbed to a bullet many times.


Education plays a crucial role in the success of any management program.

  • By educating the public, individuals are empowered to make informed decisions and take ownership of their role in achieving the desired outcome.
  • This approach is more effective in the long term as it creates a sense of shared responsibility and fosters a culture of sustainability.
  • Furthermore, educating the public also helps to build trust in the management program and its goals, as individuals are better equipped to understand the reasoning behind specific policies and actions.
  • Ultimately, an educational approach leads to a more engaged and invested community, resulting in greater buy-in and higher rates of success for the management program.
  • DOC (Department of Conservation) Interpretation Boards are an effective tool for public education as they provide information and context to the public about the local environment, conservation efforts, and the cultural and historical significance of an area. The boards can also help foster appreciation and respect for the environment, which can lead to greater support for conservation efforts.

In Conclusion

Buster Diggings is a historically significant and rare site in Central Otago, New Zealand, that is currently suffering from human impact. DOC has a responsibility to protect the site and mitigate the risks posed by 4wd vehicles and motorbikes. Stronger protection measures should be considered to preserve the site for future generations to enjoy and appreciate.


Page 51-57 on pdf: The history of the Place is protected and brought to life at the Ngāi Tahu site of Manuhaea Conservation Area at The Neck and at the Buster Diggings actively conserved historic site.

The historic Buster Diggings has to be a protected and actively managed accessible visitor site.


Heritage assessment by DOC

ODT Feb 2019

New Zealand’s clean green image – a couple of points of view

New Zealand's clean green image personified in the Strath Taieri ~ photo Southern Light

For the third summer running now in Mt Aspiring National Park, I interact with many tourists intent on being the overseas equivalent of a New Zealand tramper.

Most know our “Clean Green” marketing ploy is not what it seems, and that New Zealand is perceived as just one big farm. To think otherwise ignores the profound “connectedness” the Internet has on the sharing of information world wide.

We’ve got an awful lot of work to do in some areas to live up to the marketing, but really I hope our motivation is otherwise with more of a flavour of health and well-being!


This aside ‘tho it’s kinda weird that politicians are still stuck in a retro ten to twenty year time warp, totally out of touch with our visitors. The inference being also out of touch with our landscape!

School group at Aspiring Hut
At the end of the NZ school year many schools opt to do a final school camp at Aspiring Hut in Mt Aspiring National Park.  

Also at the same early summer time, there are always a handful of oversea’s groups of student specifically here in the country to study our unique environment. These students are highly motivated also doing volunteer work for DOC ranging from Nelson to Fiordland

In this post I want to present two views – neither particularly extreme. Lets have the good news first:

Water quality good for summer swimming | Otago Daily Times Online News

Taieri River
Upper reaches of the Taieri River in Central Otago ~ photo Southern Light’s Donald Lousley

Water quality in Otago has been good so far this summer, Otago Regional Council (ORC) seasonal recreational water quality testing shows. Three sites have had alert/amber warnings at certain times since the summer round of testing began at the beginning of

Source: Water quality good for summer swimming | Otago Daily Times Online News

… which reinforces my experience that Regional Councils and associated environmental dept’s, ie Environment Southland, many farmers, and New Zealand’s Dept. of Conservation do an extremely good job not only keeping us safe, but in the facilitation of our summer enjoyment. Much of this work goes unnoticed and unsung!

White-faced heron
Healthy rivers also mean healthy habitats for our birds! 

This white-faced heron in the lower Cardrona river-bed near Wanaka is an Australian immigrant which began breeding in New Zealand only in the 1940s, none-the-less the lesson is obvious! ~ photo Southern Light’s Donald Lousley

By contrast, and almost on the same day, we have the below opinion on our “Clean Green Image”. After reading it please leave a comment with your views or experiences in your neighbourhood

Dialogue: An environmental crisis second to none – Environment – NZ Herald News

It’s the time of year to get close to nature. Forest & Bird has thoughtfully released a list of 10 places (“New Zealand’s hidden treasures”) where families can do just that. Except that none of the country’s numerous lakes, rivers or streams are named among them.

The Lord of the Rings actor and New Zealand tour guide operator Bruce Hopkins is not surprised, calling our rivers and lakes “gutter holes” and “sewer pipes”. He slams the “clean green” image behind the 100% Pure New Zealand promotion.

Acting Tourism Minister Paula Bennett has defended it, saying: “It’s an award-winning campaign that is working brilliantly for New Zealand with record growth in visitor numbers.”It’s not, and never has been, an environmental measure.”

Hopkins believes “we are leaning towards being deceptive around how we sell ourselves as a tourist destination”.

Source: Dialogue: An environmental crisis second to none – Environment – NZ Herald News

White heron
White heron – kōtuku  

Rare in New Zealand, with a population of just 100–120 birds, the elegant white heron or kōtuku posed for photographer Donald Lousley last winter at the bottom of the Snow Farm road in the Cardrona Valley.  

Kōtuku have a mythical status for Māori because of their rarity and beauty.


This first good snowfall for the winter

A typical NZ scene – happy sheep that have just been fed and they’re quite oblivious in their thick wool coats to the heavy snowfalls on the mountains.

St Bathans Range in the background
St Bathans Range in the background