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Canterbury Conservancy News Briefs Dec – Feb 2000

 Launch of environmental education programme
 Black Stilt (kaki) summer release
 Dolphin Research
 Beech Forest Phenomenon
 Kiwi Listening Survey
 VAMP up-date
 Structures in North Canterbury and Waimakariri
 Penguins moved to Banks Peninsula
 Good Conservation Outcome for Tekapo
 Ngai Tahu Summer Programmes
 Loch Katrine Gate Up-date
 Entomological Studies
 Up-coming Events

Canterbury on the cutting edge of Conservation Education

Canterbury’s new action oriented environmental educational programme will be launched in Christchurch in March by international head of World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Claude Martin. This is exciting news for the organisers who have been working on the programme since 1995 and have seen their efforts come to fruition.

DOC is one of the supporting partners in the programme set-up with funding sourced by the WWF, in conjunction with the Christchurch College of Education, and also supported by the Canterbury Environmental Trust, the Canterbury Regional Council, and the Christchurch City Council.

Australian “Wild Man” educator Phillip Green considers this experiential based programme on the cutting edge of environmental education. “This is a first in terms of the partnership approach taken between agencies with environmental education responsibilities and NGOs. It’s also quite unique to have an experiential based programme take place over three days with pre-visit activities built in as well as post-visit actions.” Phillip has links with environmental educators around the world and was a Winston Churchill fellow in 1997, investigating environmental education in the USA.

nvironmental Education teacher, Toby Johnson, who will be running the “coast to the high country” programme from Christchurch to Craigieburn, is now in place and based at the Christchurch College of Education.

Toby has been spending the last few weeks planning and organising the pilot programme. After consulting with Waimakariri and North Canterbury Area Community Relations Officers, Annette Hamblett has worked with Toby on possible DOC topics, issues and sites for inclusion in the programme, and gathered together appropriate resource material for these.
The project will be piloted with Years 7 and 8 at St Patrick’s School on 9 March.

Largest kaki (black stilt) summer release

One of New Zealand’s critically endangered birds, the black stilt (kaki), received a helping hand from the Department of Conservation when 27 juveniles were released into the wild in January.

Local DOC staff, runholders and Girl Guides released the three-month old juveniles into a protected wetland in the Mackenzie Basin, where they were free to really test their wings for the first time.

Kaki Recovery Programme Manager Dave Murray said it was only the second summer, following a successful release last year when nine of the 10 birds survived the winter. “90% of those survived the winter and showed that releasing young birds in summer was an option for us. This has enabled us to run the aviary facilities at full capacity knowing that we do not need to provide facilities for all the juveniles over the winter.”

Only 4% of chicks raised in the wild survive to join the breeding population, whereas around 30% of captive-raised chicks survive in the wild. Mr Murray said he believed the survival rates had risen because of two management changes. “Firstly we have provided supplementary feed for the first month after release, by which time they have weaned themselves off the handouts and are completely feeding from the wild. Secondly we have added iodine to their diet prior to release.”

The need for iodine supplement was identified during autopsies of eleven sub-adults that died just after their release in September 1998. The 27 juveniles will be closely monitored for the first critical month following their release. After that they will be routinely monitored along with the rest of the kaki population.

Dolphin research

American marine scientist Greg Stone returned to Banks Peninsula in the last few months to continue with his Hector’s dolphin research. Dr Stone and Akaroa field centre supervisor Al Hutt have been surveying and observing Hector’s from Akaroa Harbour to Birdlings Flat. They were also down in Timaru talking to fishermen and observers about using pingers on fishing nets.

Dr Stone commented on the dolphins behaviour around Timaru as being a little skittish in a good, wild animal way, compared with the dolphins in Akaroa who are accustomed to being around boats and interacting with humans.

At the same time Dr Stone was in New Zealand, his research team was in Akaroa observing dolphin behaviour from a cliff top perch to determine what kind of impact boat activities will have on the dolphins.
As part of the two year study American researcher Cynthia Nichols of New England Aquarium and four students were scanning the harbour for dolphins, charting the animals’ positions using a theodolite, and noting their behaviour.
Ms Nichols says the data collected would be analysed by statistician Dr Jenny Brown of Canterbury University and written up in a report by June.

Cyclic phenomenon in Hurunui Mainland Island
Beech forested areas throughout the country have been experiencing a most unusual cyclic phenomenon, and Canterbury is no stranger to this trend. For the past two summers, beech trees have been flowering and seeding prolifically. Usually with mast years, the mice numbers rise because of the abundance of seed. However, once the mice numbers return to normal, the stoats resort to the birds as an alternate food source.

Mast seeding occurs once every five to seven years says advisory scientist Andy Grant, so having heavy flowering two years in a row is very unusual.
At this point scientists are not sure what effect this extra seeding will have on the food chain system, but it is certain to boost the mice population, and subsequently boost the stoat population.

“During this season, we’ve observed that the mice numbers have not dropped as anticipated, so we’re not sure what the consequences will be.”
Stoat control in the Hurunui Mainland Island and the Hawdon Valley would continue longer than planned, he said.

Other activities in the mainland island included vegetation monitoring in the north branch. A fence has been put in to exclude stock, deer and hares. Monitoring specific plots will help determine what kind of impact the animals have on the area.

Possum gut sampling is also on the menu in the north branch this summer, says Hurunui Mainland Island project manager Wayne King. “This involves monitoring the possum’s diet before poison is laid in the area and then comparing their diet after a period of poisoning. By reducing the possum numbers the forest will re-generate, and therefore the possums’ diet will change because there will be more palatable plant species in the area.”

Kiwi Listening Survey
In January a team of kiwi listening volunteers went into the Lewis Pass to listen for the haunting night calls of the threatened great spotted kiwi (roroa).
The trampers spent two hours each night in pairs on the hillside above the valley, listening for the birds, recording the direction the kiwi calls came from, and the sex of the birds.

The survey was part of the Kiwi Recovery programme sponsored by the Bank of New Zealand. It repeated the one that was done in 1994-95 in beech forest in the upper Nina Valley near Lewis Pass.

Volunteer leader Lesley Shand says enough kiwi calls were heard to assume there was the basis of a viable population, but it was difficult to determine the age structure of the population and if they were having breeding success.
There are three discrete populations of roroa, of which the largest extends from Kahurangi National Park to the Buller River. The second population is in the Paparoa Ranges, and the smallest population is in the Southern Alps between Arthur’s Pass and Lewis Pass. As part of the Kiwi Recovery Programme permanent count stations have been set up in the South and North Branch of the Hurunui River in the Hurunui Mainland Island and in Arthur’s Pass National Park
The current population estimate for the roroa is about 20,000 birds, and the only place in Canterbury where the roroa is actively protected is in the Hurunui Mainland Island in Lake Sumner Forest Park. Intensive predator control of stoats and ferrets, as well as possum removal (which disturb nesting kiwi and damage vegetation) is part of the project’s integrated management approach.

DOC ornithologist John Kearvell says juvenile kiwi up to nine months old are unable to defend themselves which is why you need to get rid of predators as well as restore the forest home of roroa.

Up-date on Visitor Asset Management Programme in Canterbury
In the last eight months the Canterbury Conservancy has put a great deal of effort into providing information about the VAM programme and the possible implications it could have for each area in Canterbury. For the Waimakariri Area, recreation users and DOC have had 11 meetings to discuss the best possible outcomes for the recreational sites.

North Canterbury Area is just starting to hold regular meetings with a sub-committee of user groups, and South Canterbury areas will be meeting in March to discuss the VAM programme in their area.

The decision to release the “possible outcomes” for recreational sites on an area by area basis, has prompted much discussion with user groups. Many recreation users have expressed concern over the future of visitor facilities (structures, backcountry huts, tracks, signs, roads and carparks, amenity areas, visitor centres, campgrounds and campsites) because it is unclear whether the facility base currently under DOC’s management can be sustained into the future.

So far, the VAMP process is about a quarter of the way through in Canterbury. Structures such as the bridges, boardwalks and viewing platforms have gone through the VAMP process, and as a direct consequence $330,000 has been added to the Canterbury Conservancy. This will be specifically targeted for visitor structures management.

Huts, tracks, campgrounds and visitor information signs will all go through this programme and it is possible these too may attract more resources.
Maintenance and repairs in North Canterbury and Waimakariri
North Canterbury
 The handrail and structural work that was required on the Haylocks Bay ladder has been completed.
 Starting in March a boardwalk section on the St James will be replaced, and redundant boardwalk sections will be taken off. The useful parts will be recycled.
 Some redundant bridges from the River will be shifted to new sites in the Aida Pass area.

 All tracks originating from the road in Craigieburn Forest Park and Arthur’s Pass National Park have received their annual maintenance (windfalls removed, vegetation cut back, track re-formation where required)
 Extending into the backcountry, some of the more popular back country tracks such as Cass Lagoon Saddle track and the Andrews Valley track have received their annual maintenance.
 Work on the Upper Waimakariri Valley track is underway.
 One of the most significant jobs undertaken, has been the removal of human waste from the category 2 huts : the Edwards, Hawdon, Carrington and Goat Pass. Over two days 9500 litres of waste was airlifted out of the sites for disposal.
 Bealey hut had its fireplace removed because the adjoining landowner was concerned about fire hazards. The exterior cladding has been repaired, and the interior and exterior walls are in the process of being painted
 A number of hut inspections have been carried out especially in the Poulter Valley and the Upper Wilberforce Valley.

Rare penguins moved to Banks Peninsula

Forty six endangered white flippered penguin (korora) chicks have been airlifted from remote Motunau Island to start a new life at Harris Bay, near Godley Head. This move was part of the Port Hills 2000 project.
The little white flippered penguin - only 30 cm tall, is unique to Canterbury and one of three penguin species listed as ‘endangered’. It is now more at risk than the yellow-eyed penguin (hoiho), whose rating has improved from ‘dangerous’ to ‘vulnerable’ thanks largely to a great public awareness campaign.

The 50 day old fledglings were kept in their burrows to let them settle for a night, then let out to make their way to the sea. Their first entry to the water imprints ‘home’ in their brains, and they will return to Harris Bay.
World penguin authority, Dr Chris Challies who has studied penguins for 25 years, hopes the new chicks will boost the colony of 21 breeding pairs at Harris Bay, and provide an educational and conservation resource. Over the next 13 years it is hoped to establish a colony of 300 breeding pairs at Harris Bay and nearby Boulder Bay.

Since 1980 the white flippered colony on Banks Peninsula has been decimated to less than a third of its numbers and predator-proof fencing and predator trapping will be carried out to assist the survival of these endearing birds.
While on the subject of penguins, Akaroa field staff report that two hoiho chicks, have been successfully fledged on Banks Peninsula this year. These chicks, last weighing in at a healthy 4.9kg and 5.9kg, have been banded. They are the only two chicks of this vulnerable species that are known to have survived this breeding season in the Banks Peninsula area.
Good conservation outcome for Tekapo

The Conservancy Statutory Land Management (SLM) staff recently concluded lengthy negotiations with Mackenzie District Council over the re-development of Tekapo township. Over the last four or five years the Council has been engaged in extensive consultation with locals and other interested parties regarding its plans for the township. The success of these plans relied quite heavily on Council obtaining freehold ownership of some relatively small areas of recreation reserve.

Coincidentally the Conservancy has for many years been trying to find a mechanism to protect valuable wildlife habitat at the Cass delta, and at the site of the Twizel Areas' major habitat development project at Mailbox Inlet. Both areas are situated on the western shores of Lake Tekapo.

The outcome of the negotiations is that Council will gain freehold title to the camping ground and ice-skating area which are already subject to long-term leases. It will also acquire an area immediately behind the current commercial centre that is needed for parking and as a through route for buses.

In exchange the Conservancy will acquire ownership of the Cass delta and Mailbox Inlet areas. Although the areas do tend to be slightly larger than is really necessary for habitat enhancement and protection, the current grazing practices are sympathetic to conservation needs and are likely to continue.

Ngai Tahu Summer Programmes

To celebrate summer and New Zealand’s cultural diversity, guided walks were held at Aoraki/Mount Cook and Castle Hill (Kura Tawhiti) during the summer by Ngai Tahu interpreter Marlene Mason.

Employed by the Department of Conservation, Marlene spent two weeks in Aoraki conducting guided walks twice a day in January. Marlene also took people on tours around Kura Tawhiti during the weekends in February. On a daily basis about 25 people accompanied Marlene during her ‘roving interpretative walks’ of the area, where she explained Ngai Tahu values and their association with the general area.

Kura Tawhiti is of special significance to the Ngai Tahu Hapu (sub tribe) of Ngai Tuahuriri. Their association with the area stretches back many generations. They made seasonal food gathering trips from Kaiapoi to the interior. Some of the food gathered in the Torlesse Range beech forest included kiore (polynesian rat), kakapo, kiwi, kea, kaka, kukupa (wood pigeon) and fern root. Another reason the Ngai Tuahuriri made annual trips into the interior was to secure their boundaries. Their territory extended from Kaiapoi near the coast inland to the main divide of the Southern Alps.

In Aoraki/Mount Cook the local hapu had similar food gathering traditions. Being from Te Umukaha (Temuka), Ngati huirapa made a spiritual pilgrimage to Aoraki
almost every summer. While in the area the iwi paid homage to their ancestors, Aoraki and his brothers. The tapu associated with Aoraki is significant to the tribal value and the recent Ngai Tahu settlement Act provides a special protective mechanism called a topuni that provides a public symbol of Ngai Tahu manawhenua and rangatiratanga.

Loch Katrine gate update

Since DOC restricted access to the area north of Loch Katrine, many four-wheel drivers have used the booking system to gain access. It is a simple process to ring the Department in advance, book the time that access is needed, and obtain the current lock combination.

Despite the publicity given to the restricted access, some people are still driving up to the gate and ringing DOC on their cell phones to obtain the combination number. This could cause problems for some users, as the phone number is staffed only during office hours: 8:00am - 4.30pm, Monday to Friday.
The limit of 10 vehicles per day is working well, as club bookings are open for negotiation with DOC, and no problems have arisen.
Entomological Studies – by Euan Kennedy

Six species minders from around the Conservancy acquired new entomological skills in early December. Phil Crutchley (Aoraki Area) contracted Rowan Emberson and John Marris from Lincoln University’s Department of Ecology and Entomology to conduct workshops in basic insect collection, storage and identification skills. The course lasted four days: two in the field, reeking of ethyl acetate, and two in the laboratory, bristling with pins.
Day and night, collection techniques were trialed around the Mt Cook village, making a tiny dent in the local insect fauna. The place was peppered with pitfall, Malaise and light traps.

Rowan and John laboured the crucial points about labelling and packaging of field samples before everyone moved down to Lincoln University for sessions in sorting and taxonomy. This might have been considered the least rewarding part of the course, but in fact it proved to be revelatory.

First, we all discovered how woefully fat-fingered we were when it came to pinning delicate insects out for display. Second, the world of insects really only began to reveal its incomparable diversity through the floodlit lens of a microscope. The articulation of a beetle’s exoskeleton was matched for beauty by the delicate tracery of venation on the wings of a bumblebee. Sorry, a Bombus terrestris.

A quick traversal of taxonomy concluded the course. Rowan and John are assembling an idiot’s guide to insect identification for Canterbury Conservancy. We idiots were used to give the guide a dry run. By and large, we did fine which is no mean feat because insect identification down to genus level demands many more skills than bird and plant bunnies have to employ.

This was an excellent introduction to entomology. Not only did it offer practical skills easily applied for survey and monitoring, but it demystified what would otherwise remain an intimidating world of insect complexity. More importantly, it ignited an interest in a species dimension overshadowed by interests of longer standing.

Up coming events
Motukarara Nursery will be holding its annual Open Day on 16 April. This year the Open Day will be called Canterbury Conservation Day to celebrate Canterbury’s biodiversity. Over the last 10 years the Open Day has grown in size and diversity to include a number of organisations such as the Christchurch Environment Centre, Forest and Bird, city, district and regional councils, Historic Places Trust, Addington Bush Society and Scorpio Books.

Their stalls have highlighted different aspects of conservation, so it seemed fitting to call the Open Day something that reflected the wider scope. Nursery manager Jorge Santos said native plants would still be the main focus of the day, but other conservation issues and projects around Canterbury would also be highlighted. “It’s a way of heralding all the conservation initiatives happening around Canterbury, while also bringing people together for the nursery’s annual event.”

Well known New Zealand artist Nancy Tichbourne will be giving a talk at Canterbury Conservation Day about planting natives and exotics together. Nancy draws much of her experience from her passion for gardening and painting. For more information please contact: Jorge Santos (03) 329 7846

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