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Canterbury Conservancy News Email Newsletter


Canterbury Conservancy News

Email Newsletter

June-July 2002

* Frogs flee fungus

* Ellengowan Scenic Reserve extended

* Tree daisy rediscovered in Canterbury

* Hotel Beetle!

* War waged on wallaby

* New car park at Mt Hutt

* Rain and snow swamps backcountry

* Avalanche forecasting on web

* Ripapa's big guns 'cover-up'

* Successful start to Possum control

* YHA 70th Anniversary

* Seeking tree planters for Quail

* Conservation Week

* Coming up

* Frogs flee fungus

49 endangered native Archey's frogs from Whareorino Forest near Te Kuiti were transferred to Canterbury University in an effort to save them from a killer fungus.

Dr Bruce Waldman of the university's zoology department took delivery of the frogs and hopes to establish a successful captive breeding programme.

Dr Waldman said that introduced and native frogs were being killed by the deadly amphibian chytrid fungus.

"To lose Archey's frogs to disease would be a disaster comparable to losing tuatara. Saving them is a matter of international concern," said Dr Waldman.

New Zealand native frogs are some of the oldest and rarest species on the planet. There are three native frogs species - Archey's, Hamilton's and Hochstetter's frogs.

"These frogs lived when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Basically they are living fossils."

It is hoped the 49 frogs from Whareorino will quickly establish themselves in the captive environment and start breeding within three years of transfer.

* Ellengowan Scenic Reserve extended

The Nature Heritage Fund has secured an area of outstanding ecological diversity at Hickory Bay, Banks Peninsula, as public conservation land.

The purchase of nearly 300 hectares of land alongside the existing 22 hectare Ellengowan Scenic Reserve will make the new merged reserve the largest scenic reserve on the Peninsula.

"The inclusion of this area into the reserve network will create one of the most outstanding conservation areas in the Akaroa Ecological District," said Dave Forrester, Statutory Land Management Officer for the Department of Conservation.

"Most reserves on the Peninsula are small, protecting only small remnants of a single plant community," said Mr Forrester. "An important feature of this new reserve is that it contains in one area a range of plant communities that are highly representative of those that were once widespread on the Peninsula."

He said the new reserve featured a striking volcanic lava dome surrounded by bush gullies and spurs. Plant communities included dense snow tussock grasslands, regenerating native scrub and thin-bark totara forest on upper hill slopes. The threatened shrub Coprosma wallii, as well as two plant species endemic to the peninsula are found here - Hebe strictissima, and Heliohebe lavaudiana.

"The new reserve provides seasonal habitat and food sources for a number of forest bird species such as the threatened Banks Peninsula kereru, as well as korimako/bellbird, pipiwharauroa/shining cuckoo, miromiro/tomtit, and kakaruai/robin," said Mr Forrester.

"Being so close to other protected areas like the nearby Hinewai Reserve increases the value of the new reserve, as it enables species such as kereru to forage much widely."

He said the area would be managed by the Department of Conservation and priority will be given to removing the wilding pines scattered across the property.

* Tree daisy rediscovered in Canterbury

An endangered species of tree daisy, previously thought to be extinct in South Canterbury, has been found on Craigmore Farm.

Local Geraldine nurseryman and Forest and Bird Society member Peter Keller discovered the rare Olearia hectorii trees while out seed collecting, and reported his find to the Department of Conservation. With the support of the landowners Peter and Fiona Elworthy, a survey was undertaken, and more than 80 trees were recorded.

DOC Ranger Kennedy Lange said, "I was blown away when I first saw them and when Nick (Christchurch Conservancy Botanist Nick Head) saw them he could not believe it!"

Nationally there are only around 3000 of these trees left, in Marlborough, Otago and Southland. From here, DOC hopes to carry out further surveys on similar habitat sites in South Canterbury, in consultation with landowners. The Elworthys are seeking DOC's advice on how best to protect the plants on their property.

Forest and Bird member Fraser Ross also recently revealed his discovery of a population of the rare native nettle Urtica liniarfolia in the South Canterbury region. Finds like these highlight the valuable contribution individuals and groups can make to the conservation of endangered species.

* Hotel beetle!

A beetle once thought to be extinct now has its own high-rise hotel complex, after DOC staff installed native fence posts in Te Moana Gorge near Geraldine.

The beetle, which belongs to the family Carabidae, hadn't been seen since the 1940s, until in1993 a local farmer found one, and took photos before releasing it.

DOC Ranger Kennedy Lange has since found the elytra (wing cases) of the beetle in the Te Moana Gorge near Geraldine but has not been able to catch a live specimen.

"This is a really exciting find," said Kennedy, "But there is not much mature native forest in the area, to provide suitable habitat for these beetles."

With the help of Invertebrate Ecologist Alison Evans, fence posts made from native timbers were placed in the three areas where wing cases had been found. Each post was numbered and its position recorded using GPS. The posts will be turned and checked every few months.

Alison said the posts will provide habitat for the beetles, as well as act as a monitoring tool. "Hopefully it will help us to determine how many beetles there are in the area," said Alison.

"This is the first time that this method has been used in a conservation context to manage a threatened beetle species," she said. "Kennedy and I are very optimistic that we will get some beetles inhabiting the posts."

Not much is known about this particular species, Megadromus antarcticus subspecies 1. (Coleoptera: Carabidae). It is a large metallic green ground beetle, approximately 40 mm long. Its relatives are known to burrow under logs and into the soil to a depth of half a metre. It was previously ranked as category X (extinct) but in the updated ranking system it is now listed as "Data deficient".

* War waged on Wallaby

Following the heavy snows that fell during June, DOC staff in Twizel joined forces with Ecan and Target Pest Enterprises Ltd to wage war on wallabies.

The group spent two days doing aerial wallaby control in the Hunters Hills and Kirkliston Range conservation areas. The control operation within the Hunters Hills Conservation Area netted a tally of 74 wallaby, while the operation within the Kirkliston Range netted 332 wallaby, all up a total of 406.

The last time an operation such as this was conducted after the heavy snows of 1995.

* New Car Park for Mt Hutt

DOC staff from Geraldine spent time recently up at Mt Hutt, but instead of skiing, they were hanging out in the car park.

Programme Manager Maurice Bootherstone and Ranger Michael Cradock visited the Mt Hutt Ski Area while construction was underway for a new car park. The car park was being built to cater for an extra 200 vehicles in an area about two km below the ski-area administration site.

Mt Hutt operates under a concession, which is an official authorisation in the form of a lease, licence, permit or easement, to operate commercially on public conservation land.

Well-run concession operations provide opportunities for public enjoyment of areas, conservation education and environmental protection. A concession also helps to ensure that services and facilities provided are appropriate and of a suitable standard. The department plays a monitoring role, which meant that while construction was underway, Ranger Cradock was on hand to keep an eye on things, to ensure that key areas of native vegetation were either trans-located or protected during the work.

* Rain and snow swamps back country

Heavy rain and snow in June caused considerable damage to tracks and facilities, and Department of Conservation staff warn that tracks in some areas still need attention.

Areas around Arthur's Pass and South Canterbury were hardest hit, as the rain caused soft ground to slip and the weight of snow broke or bent trees across the track.

"Most roadside areas have been tidied up but it may be months before we reach the more remote sites," said Bryan Jensen, Waimakariri Area Manager.

"Beech forest usually gets hammered by snow but it is particularly bad this year." Arthur's Pass had one of the wettest Junes on record. The heavy rain soaked the ground and softened earth around tree roots, which made them extremely vulnerable to the snow that followed.

"We have placed signs at over 40 track entrances to warn of the potential risk to walkers. Many trees have snapped part-way up, or have toppled to become hung up in other trees. Dead standing spars that have become water logged are probably even more dangerous as they are likely to fall with little warning," said Mr Jensen.

DOC staff in Geraldine continue to work on opening tracks in mid Canterbury which were closed after the June snowfall. The Fern Walk in Peel Forest Scenic Reserve is now open, after 45 person hours were spent to clear it. Other tracks now open are Sharplin Falls, all the Talbot Forest tracks and Big Tree Walk at Peel Forest. "Several large matai and totara trees have lost big branches and it may be many years before some areas recover from this to return to their former glory," said Programme Manager Adrian Cogle.

Around Twizel, some of the more popular walking/tramping tracks in the Ohau Conservation Area suffered an unusually high amount of damage following the snows. The upgraded access to the historic Freehold Creek via the existing Parsons Creek track has suffered some damage along with tracks in the Temple and Huxley Valleys. Signage is due to be replaced on the Parsons Creek access track while OK Vegetation Ltd, Twizel is set to begin track vegetation clearance in the North Temple Valley. This company has a record of successful vegetation control for Project River Recovery and a lot of experience of track clearance under previous DOC funding regimes. If the weather holds, the major tracks in the Temple, Hopkins and Huxley Valleys should undergo vegetation clearance prior to the beginning of the tramping season.

Meanwhile, Aoraki/Mt Cook got off lightly during June's snowstorm. Short walks were generally icy but passable, while deep snow and avalanche risk precluded tramping on the three major walks.

In North Canterbury, all tracks are open but the rain created plenty of slips and mud on tracks in the Lake Sumner Forest Park area and the St James Walkway.

For information on track conditions call your local Department of Conservation office.

* Avalanche forecasting on the web

With the onset of winter in Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park, the SAR (Search and Rescue) project has begun its avalanche forecasting for the and this is updated everyday. It is a good information service for anyone using the back country during the winter, and it covers the Aoraki / Mt Cook area and Mackenzie Basin. The winter SAR team also does avalanche transceiver training on a weekly basis and is part of the winter response group which provides SAR coverage for the wider Mackenzie Basin and ski fields.

A useful site for checking climbing conditions in the Arthur's Pass region is . This site, designed and managed by Graeme Kates, has online avalanche risk reports, latest weather reports (from Graeme's own weather station), accident reports, mountain conditions and a photo gallery of most of the peaks in the park.

Graeme Kates is author of the 'Arthur's Pass National Park Mountaineering Guide' and the sixth edition of this guide is also available on the website.

* Ripapa Island's big guns 'cover-up'

A "cover-up" operation has recently been completed for the big guns on historic Ripapa Island in the Lyttleton Harbour.

Protecting the historic Armstrong disappearing guns from the forces of nature and weather provided a challenge for Ranger Murray Lane, but he was up to the task.

Ranger Lane created neat corrugated 'hats' to sit above the slits in the steel plates that cover the guns. These new 'hats' have been designed to be easily removed when required, as well as protecting the guns from the elements.

Ripapa Island is a historic reserve as it was the site of a fortified pa, and a quarantine station, as well as the site of Fort Jervois, which was built in 1886. Two 6" and two 8" Armstrong hydro-pneumatic guns were installed in 1889 during the 'Russian scare' to provide defence for Lyttelton Harbour. The huge 8" guns defied the efforts of a scrap dealer to remove them after WWII, and remain semi-intact on the island.

* Successful start to possum control

A new possum control programme in Huxley and Temple forests, in the Ohau Conservation Area, is underway to help save an endangered tree nicknamed 'pit pat'. The forests contain the rare plant Pittosporum patulum and are some of the best places in the country for native mistletoe/pikirangi. Possums have invaded these forests relatively recently (1970s) and plant monitoring has shown that they are damaging beech trees as well as more palatable species.

The first possum control operation in this area has been completed and found to be very successful. Some 2300 ha of mountain beech forest received treatment using cyanide baits. It was hoped that a post control trap catch rate of 5% would be achieved, but expectations were exceeded when a 0.7% rate was measured.

This project is funded under the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy (2000) for the next three years

* YHA 70th Anniversary

New Zealand native trees supplied by DOC's Motukarara Nursery featured prominently in the 70th Anniversary celebrations of YHA, as a symbol of the organisation's clean and green philosophies.

70th Anniversary dinners were held throughout the country for YHA branch members during June. Everyone who attended a dinner received a native sapling as a personal thank you gift, for giving up their time and effort to build the YHA in New Zealand over the past 70 years. A copy of the DOC publication "Creating a native garden" was given out with each tree.

Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in Christchurch received the trees that guests weren't able to plant. Students from Catholic Cathedral College planted 57 of the native saplings in the predator-proof area being prepared for Willowbank's kiwi.

The links between DOC and the YHA were originally forged through hostels like the one in Arthur's Pass being located in or near national parks. The partnership between DOC and YHA has been strengthened over the years in projects such as YHA sponsoring the rubbish bags for the "pack it in, pack it out" message, and the New Zealand Young Conservationist Award.

* Seeking tree planters for Quail

The tree planting season on Otamahua/Quail Island is again underway. A further 5000 plants are being planted on the island during July and August. The planting is going well, but the Trust wants to ensure the project is a community project, and this means involving as many people as possible in the planting programme. Volunteer numbers are down somewhat on the last two years and they are calling for others to consider coming over to the island to join in on a planting day.

"Get a group together and make the day all the more enjoyable," says Alison Ross of the Trust. "The work is not arduous and it is very satisfying to return in a year or so to check the progress of the trees you planted, as well as catching up with friends you have planted trees with in previous seasons."

Planting days for August are as follows:

Saturdays: 3rd. & 10th August

Sundays: 4th & 11th August

Transport to island is free for tree planting volunteers. Black Cat launch departs 'B' jetty, Lyttelton 9.30am and returns 3.30pm. Bring lunch, a cup and a spade or grubber if possible. Tea and coffee provided. Please contact Anna at 384-3592 or Alison at 328-8350 to book a ferry seat or email Alison at

DOC staff joined Otamahua/Quail Island Ecological Restoration Trust members one frosty Friday in early July to do a little tree planting. Nearly 30 DOC staff participated in what has become an annual 'team-building' event.

The group planted a variety of Hebe, Coprosma, Pittosporum and even the odd tötara, into receptive ground, thanks to the rain which had fallen in the days before. As one of the trust members said, "Friday was a most enjoyable day, a leap forward in Trust/DOC relationships and co-operation."

* Conservation Week 2002 - Nga Maunga Körero

Everyone is talking about mountains during Conservation Week in Canterbury this year, in celebration of the theme 'Nga maunga körero - the language of mountains'.

DOC, Christchurch City Council, ECAN and various community groups have put together a programme of activities to get Cantabrians out and about on their home-town hills.

"We are connected to and are affected by mountains in more ways than we can imagine," says Sarah Mankelow, Community Relations Officer for DOC.

"Even here on the flat-lands of the Canterbury Plains - we have the Port Hills to the east and Southern Alps/Kà Tiritiri o te Moana to the west.

"They influence our weather by changing the temperature, rainfall and the wind. Our water and rivers are sourced from the mountains, and they define the Canterbury landscape."

Christchurch City Council will be leading guided walks around the Port Hills and the Summit Road Society is running a guided bus tour for Conservation Week.

"Christchurch City would not be the same without the Port Hills forming a rural backdrop to the urban landscape. They are a unique 'wild place' so close to the city that we can explore by car, foot, bike or even by parapont!"

Arthur's Pass and Aoraki/Mt Cook National Parks are hosting several evening talks in their visitor centres around the mountains theme.

"Both of Canterbury's two national parks are in the Southern Alps; a recognition of their beauty and unique biodiversity, and their historic and spiritual significance. Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park contains 19 peaks over 3,000 metres, including New Zealand's highest mountain, Aoraki / Mt Cook. To Ngài Tahu, Aoraki represents the most sacred of ancestors, from whom Ngài Tahu descend," says Ms Mankelow.

Guided tours of Kura Tawhiti (Castle Hill Conservation Area) are also being run during the week. More details are below, under "Coming up".

* Coming up

3-11 August 2002 Conservation Week displays

Victoria Park Visitor Centre, Port Hills

7.30am - 4pm

Evening talks "Nga maunga korero"

Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park Visitor Centre

Phone (03) 435 1186 for details

Sun 4 August Evening talk by Graeme Kates

"Language of mountains - climbers perspective"

Arthur's Pass National Park Visitor Centre

7pm. Bookings (03) 3189 211

Guided walk Sugar Loaf 'Te Huru-o-Kahukura' Led by Port Hills Rangers 10.30-12.30pm.

Bookings 941 6844

Sat 10 August Guided tours Kura Tawhiti (Castle Hill)

Ngäi Tahu interpreter - Joseph Hullen 10am - 12pm and 1pm - 3pm. Bookings (03) 3189 211

Guided walk Whitewash Head - Taylors Mistake

Led by Coast Care rangers 1pm-4pm.

Bookings 941 6847

Evening talk by Dr Mark Yetton, the worlds

foremost authority on the alpine fault. Arthur's Pass National Park Visitor Centre

7pm. Bookings (03) 3189 211

Sun 11 August Guided bus tour Summit Road Society

Commentator John Jameson, grandson of Harry Ell

$20 incl. lunch. 9.30am-5.00pm. Bookings 942 4857

Sat 3rd & 10th August Volunteer tree planting; Otamahua/Quail Island

Sun 4th & 11th August 9.30am start - ferry free. Phone Anna 384 3592

Wed 4 September Recreation Users group meeting, 7.30pm, 3rd Floor,

133 Victoria St

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