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Latest Edition of @DOC

Featured in this edition of @DOC: * Peel Forest Visitor Centre gets new lease of life * Schools celebrate Sea Week * Fire threatens homes * Fire fighters meet Prime Ministers * Kakariki eggs adopted out * Amuri School pupils versus the 'purple peril' * Seedling makes for special site * Fire helps with beetle find * Godley Head revisited * Argentine ants eradicated * Pest fish surveys * Visitor Assets * Shangri-la of native plants found * Down by the sea for Canterbury Conservation Day * Northern NGO meetings change * Conference on 'Urban Biodiversity' * Coming up * Peel Forest Visitor Centre gets new lease of life The former DOC Visitor Centre in Peel Forest, near Geraldine is to become a strong focus for environmental education and an important community resource.

The Department of Conservation is to transfer control of the former Peel Forest Visitor Centre and Park Headquarters to the Timaru District Council. The statutory land management unit of the Department of Conservation has worked through the logistics, which involved selling the buildings to the council, as well as re-classifying the reserve as a Local Purpose (Community Facility) Reserve, to be vested in the TDC.

"It's a win-win situation for everyone," said Dave Forrester, community relations supervisor SLM. "The department, the council and the community all benefit from the deal. The council intends to operate an environmental education centre on the reserve with the existing tenant staying on. They also plan to trial a recycling facility on site. The sale of the buildings means a cost saving to DOC in ongoing maintenance costs, and the associated depreciation and capital charges. This frees up more funds for hands on conservation work."

Schools celebrate Sea Week

'Celebrate the Sea!' was the theme for Sea Week 2003 (March 10-16), and it certainly wasn't hard to find something to celebrate about on the Canterbury coast this year.

DOC and Environment Canterbury worked together this year to assist schools in their celebrations. Chandra Littlewood (Education Officer Conservancy) and Sian Carvell (Education Officer Environment Canterbury) ran two school programmes aimed at years 4-6, each focussing on a different part of the Canterbury coastline.

Waipara School in North Canterbury were the first lucky participants and although the weather prevented them from actually visiting the sea, the beach came to them instead. Activities included a scavenger hunt of natural and unnatural things found at the beach, looking at why sand dunes are important, as well as some artistic displays of what the students liked most about the coast.

The South Canterbury programme was held at Washdyke Lagoon and two local schools as well as one from Temuka took part. Dramatic talent was revealed as the students put on performances of rocky shore creatures, listened to the 'tunes' of the beach and discussed issues surrounding this part of the coast. There was even an influx of tasty brown fish which strangely sparked immense competition and enthusiasm! All those who participated enjoyed themselves, learnt plenty and found something new to celebrate about the sea.

* Fires threaten homes Even the North Canterbury Area Manager was on the front line, as a fire swept through broom and grasslands beside Dyers Pass Road, Governors Bay on Monday 3 March. DOC fire fighters, High Country Fire Team members, fire fighters from Christchurch City Council, three local volunteer brigades, as well as fire service and army personnel, were all involved in fire suppression, aided by three helicopters.

The fire started on the road verge, within the one km margin of a small conservation area, bringing it under DOC's rural fire authority. It swept rapidly uphill over the tinder-dry scrub and tussock, threatening three houses.

Over 60 fire crew worked hard to contain the blaze, which drew spectators along the Lyttelton Harbour roads. Police cordoned off Dyers Pass Road, and diverted traffic along the Summit Road or back through the road tunnel.

The blaze was contained just before nightfall, and a mop-up crew completed the fire suppression over the next few days. The fire burnt through around 12 hectares of broom and grasslands.

A second fire on Dyers Pass Road started about 2am Wednesday morning, only 70 metres away from the first that threatened homes on Monday.

The second blaze burnt through one hectare of broom and recently planted native trees within a local reserve. It was treated as a separate fire, which started under suspicious circumstances.

A DOC crew was patrolling the first fire until about 1am Wednesday morning. An hour after they left, the second fire started about 60-70 metres up Dyers Pass Road from the original burn. Local NZ Fire Service crews were called out, followed by city council staff and local volunteers. Both fires were mopped up and declared out in the next few days.

A week later, on Monday 10 March, DOC staff assisted the Christchurch City Council at a fire in tussock above Sumner. The reservoir at Godley Head was opened to assist filling the monsoon buckets, which had earlier been dipping into the sea to obtain water. * Fire fighters meet the Prime Ministers Representatives of DOC's Australian fire suppression team were flown to Wellington to meet the Australian and NZ Prime Ministers on Monday 10 March. Three travelled from Canterbury; fire fighters Ranger Murray Lane and Community Relations Officer Sarah Mankelow were joined by Technical Support Officer Fire Tony Teeling, who played a critical role in managing the deployments of DOC staff on a national scale.

Overall, a total of 30 DOC staff from around the country went across to Victoria, Australia, to help fight the bush fires which ended up burning over 1.3 million hectares. Paul Devlin, Port Hills Ranger with the Christchurch City Council, also did a tour of duty. * Kakariki eggs adopted out New measures are being taken to make a last ditch effort to save an endangered parakeet found only in Canterbury.

The orange-fronted parakeets or kakariki are found only in the Hurunui and Hawdon valleys. The small population has got even smaller after a severe hammering from rats and stoats over the last few summers. Rangers Jack van Hal and Petrina Duncan have spent many hours trying to locate nests this year, but have had difficulty finding birds to track.

To ensure the survival of this species, it was decided to trans-locate any eggs, if found, to an aviary in Te Anau. The birds would be reared then taken to the safety of predator-free Te Kakahu o Tamatea /Chalky Island down south.

Finally on Thursday February 13, a parakeet nest with eggs was located in the Hurunui Valley, with adults in incubation mode, and another pair were observed mating.

All five eggs were removed and flown in an incubator, via helicopter and plane, to Invercargill and delivered to Te Anau Wildlife Park. After candling to determine the ages and conditions of the eggs, they were put under red-crown parakeets to incubate and foster. All five eggs were alive and looking well during the candling procedure.

"The latest news is that four of the five eggs have hatched," said Ranger Jack van Hal in late March. "The chicks are looking strong with pin feathers beginning to grow. Their immediate fate is still to be decided as four is not really enough to transfer to Te Kakahu. They may stay where they are for a while." * Amuri School pupils versus the 'purple peril' Students at Amuri School in Culverden took on the 'purple peril' in their school grounds in February, with the help of visiting DOC and Ecan staff. The wicked weed, purple loosestrife, otherwise known as the purple peril, was the focus for talks, games and then a final 'tug-o-war' as 31 eleven-year-olds got stuck into eradicating it from their school grounds.

DOC staff Chandra Littlewood (Environmental Education Officer, Conservancy), Anna Paltridge (Weed Surveillance Officer, Conservancy), Wayne Beggs (Ranger, North Canterbury) and Terry Charles (ECan) first spent the morning talking with the students about weeds, with particular emphasis on the 'purple peril'.

An informative discussion on weeds was followed by a fast-paced game of 'greedy weedy' led by Chandra. The run/walk tag game cleverly showed the children how the evil 'purple peril' takes over flax and raupo wetland habitats.

Next it was off to the school wetland where the children took part in the removal of two very large purple loosestrife plants, which had apparently been there for 14 years! Wayne and Terry began to cut off the seed heads while the children helped bag the cuttings. Then it was time to call in the truck. The 'purple peril' was roped up to the truck and slowly pulled out of the ground. But the elusive 'purple peril' proved too stubborn for the truck so the school children were called upon. A tug-of-war effort with children versus the 'purple peril' began. The children mustered up all the strength they had and finally the 'purple peril' gave in. The second plant was tackled by the children in the same manner with equal success. Amuri school children 2 - 'purple peril' 0.

Due to the vast amounts of seed purple loosestrife produces and its potential to re-sprout from broken root fragments, the DOC/ECAN team will be back next year to monitor the 'purple peril' to ensure that it does not re-establish in the Amuri School wetland. * Seedling makes for special site For a number of years a community of healthy Muelenbeckia astonii plants has flourished in a site known only to a select few botanists. Canterbury Conservancy botanist Nick Head recently located the site and with ranger Anita Spencer carried out an inspection in mid-February.

At least 30 large healthy plants were found, as well as a flourishing seedling - the first natural seedling found in the wild. The intact shrubland also contains prostrate kowhai and numerous other natives.

Situated on private land owned by a timber company, the site was due to be crushed and planted in pine in March. Thanks to DOC staff intervention and ensuing discussions with the company, this has been postponed.

Discussions are ongoing, and it is hoped this area can be preserved as a covenant or acquisition, with preferably a reasonable setback area. * Fire helps with beetle find A large carabid beetle, which was presumed to be extinct, has been found in the Te Moana Gorge, South Canterbury, thanks to a recent fire in the area.

The Category X (presumed extinct) carabid beetle, Megadromus antarcticus sub-species 1 had previously not been seen alive since 1993. It was considered a sub-species, only known from five specimens, and more collections were required before the taxonomic status of this taxon could be determined.

Several searches in the region over the last three years have revealed only a few body parts. But a recent fire in the area removed ground cover vegetation, making the chances of detection much greater. During the mop-up phase of the fire, a rural fire crew member found a live specimen and showed it to fellow fire fighters. They were surprised at its size - up to 40mm long - and its metallic green colour.

The beetle was released, and after the ash had settled, the area was searched by DOC staff. One dead but intact specimen was found, as well as one large, live female. These were sent to Canterbury museum entomologist Peter Johns who is working on the taxonomy of the Megadromus genus. After examination, the dead specimen was accessioned into the museum collection and the live one was returned to the Te Moana Gorge.

Further conservation work on this species will be dependent on the outcome of a new monitoring method designed by DOC invertebrate ecologist Alison Evans and ranger Kennedy Lange. The method involves the placement of old fence posts made from native timbers in suitable habitat. The posts provide habitat for beetles such as Megadromus as well as a monitoring tool. The taxonomic status of the beetle is also a critical factor in determining its threat and conservation needs. However, more specimens are required to verify the beetle's true identification. * Godley Head revisited Three former WAACs (Women's Auxiliary Army Corp) and a historian stepped back through time, when DOC staff led them up to Godley Head recently.

Canterbury Conservancy historic officer Ian Hill, the Conservancy historic officer and Programme Manager Gnome Hannah-Brown accompanied the group to look at the WWII observation posts high on the hills above Godley Head, where the ladies had once done 'tours of duty'. The WAACs are all in their eighties's, but their wartime memories were still pretty sharp.

They were delighted to revisit the area they had spent so much time working at during the war, and were able to help with information on what equipment was used there. New interpretation is being prepared for the Coastal defence battery which is getting some 100,000 visitors a year, which means in the near future, visitors will be able to share in the stories that are whispered in the walls.

* Argentine ants eradicated It's a small and sneaky problem, but DOC, Christchurch City Council and Environment Canterbury joined forces this summer to take it on. Over the last few months they have been trialling an eradication programme to rid Riccarton of Argentine ants, using an experimental insecticide bait.

The Argentine ant, Linepithema humile is one of the world's worst pests.

The ants are a major threat to biodiversity as well as being an invasive household pest. It is native to Argentina and Brazil and has been in New Zealand for approximately 10 years. Argentine ants are a light to dark honey brown colour only about 2-3 mm long, and like to march in multiple lines rather than single file like other ants. The best way to distinguish Argentine ants from the similar-looking Darwin's is to squash them - Darwin's have an acrid smell, where as Argentine ants don't smell.

After obtaining permission from householders in Riccarton, a control area of 13 hectares was treated with the experimental bait called Fiprinol. The active ingredients are similar to those used in pet flea collars, but ten times weaker - about the strength of household fly spray. The green bait was delivered in a protein/sugar paste every few metres throughout the control area, which extended past the known infestation to include a buffer zone for hard-to-find nests.

The baiting programme was completed by early March, and a follow-up survey showed that the main infestation had been reduced to a few hot spots. A follow-up survey next summer will confirm the final outcome of the programme, which is looking so far to be very effective. A follow-up baiting programme over a small area will probably need to be repeated next summer to ensure total success. * Pest fish surveys The South Island pest fish survey finished up this summer with a call to the public to help stop the spread of pest fish and weeds.

The call follows DOC searches in recent months for four pest fish species: Gambusia affinis, koi carp, rudd and catfish. The searches in Canterbury, the West Coast, Nelson and Marlborough found no new populations of gambusia, koi carp and catfish but four new rudd populations were discovered - two in Canterbury and two in Nelson.

Martin Heine, manager of the DOC South Island pest fish survey, said while it was good news that few new pest fish populations had been found in this summer's survey there was concern that pest fish and other species were still being moved about in some places.

"With public help we can prevent pests becoming widespread in South Island waterways and curb the environmental damage they cause. Fish can't get from one catchment to another on their own; people have a hand in moving them. Fishing gear and boats should be cleaned before use elsewhere and aquariums should not be emptied into water bodies."

Canterbury DOC Technical Support Officer Sjaan Charteris said it was good news for Canterbury that only two further populations of rudd were found this summer. Both of these were well within the known range of rudd as identified from last year's surveys.

"The two new populations were found in Tai Tapu, south of Christchurch city," says Ms Charteris. "Outlying populations found in last year's survey have now been confirmed, and we can now be confident that we have identified the current spread of rudd. A few further surveys are planned in North Canterbury and Waimate for next summer to fill in a few gaps." "In Canterbury, we are already meeting with landowners, local government and other key parties to work out where we go from here with possible management options," says Ms Charteris.

The population of rudd in Timaru's Centennial Lake first found last year, was surveyed again and confirmed. A containment exercise has been launched to ensure the rudd does not escape downstream, and DOC is working through an eradication plan with the Timaru District Council.

DOC will also seek the advice of a national pest fish advisory group, an independent body of New Zealand freshwater experts. Consultation will take place with Fish and Game and other interest groups for future management options. * Track and hut updates North Canterbury Area New all-access toilets have been installed at the Boyle car park end of the St James Walkway in Lewis Pass, and in the Kaituna Scenic Reserve on Banks Peninsula. These new facilities replace old, dysfunctional toilets that did not meet the new service standards.

The proposed Motukarara to Little River Rail Trail has been base-line surveyed by a contractor, and the information entered into VAMS.

The following huts in North Canterbury have received their annual inspections; St James Huts, Hope Kiwi, No. 3, St Jacob, Top Hope, Magdalen, Rockeby, Doubtful, and Doubtless Huts. Lake Guyon and Three Mile Huts have been painted, and the plumbing in Hurunui Hut has been upgraded.

Tracks maintained in North Canterbury include Mt Isobel, Port Robinson, Tweedies Gully, The Doubtful and the St James Walkway from Ada Pass to Boyle Flats. New netting has been installed on swing bridges and new signs installed on the St James and Nina Valley Tracks.

Waimakariri Area This year's hut renewal maintenance programme was completed in January, with Locke Stream Hut the last to be finished, with repairs and a new coat of paint.

In Arthur's Pass National Park, Goats Pass, Carrington and Locke Stream Hut, radios have all been upgraded to the new ES radio frequency band. Repairs also carried out to Goat Pass and Hamilton Hut.

A new toilet and larger vault has been installed at Edwards Hut, and new steps fitted to the hut veranda. Tenders for the construction of the new Poulter Hut closed at trhe end February, and construction is programmed for April.

Track maintenance has been carried out on the Harper Pass route, the Binser Saddle and Lower Mingha tracks, the West Harper section of Cass-Lagoon Saddle Track in Craigieburn, and Grey River Nature Trail, and Red Pine Track in the foothills area. The Ashley Waterfall Track in the foothill forests has been closed and all structures removed. The track has become badly eroded and as it crosses private land, is not a priority track to keep open.

Raukapuka Area

Remedial hut work has been completed at the Lawrence and McCoy huts. The work at the Lawrence Hut involved replacing the old cast fireplace with a new Pioneer wood burner stove, providing a metal top for the cooking bench, some minor fabrication, painting the hut inside and out and repositioning the toilet. Renovation and upgrading has taken place at McCoy Hut which is at the head of the Clyde Valley. New fireproof mattresses have been exchanged for the old ones at both locations. Track clearance is completed in the reserves from Peel Forest Park to Kelcey's Bush. Some of this work is left over from the July snowfalls where tracks were only opened but did not have caretaking completed. Drains have been cleared and spring growth cut back. Some signs have received a fresh coat of paint and work will now concentrate on clearing a back log of minor tasks to other signs and structures and some re-benching.

Aoraki Area

The re-construction of Mueller Hut is progressing well with the construction contractors experiencing a spell of very co-operative weather. All materials for the hut are expected to be on site by the end of this week. The sub-frame and half the superstructure have been installed and it is expected that the entire hut will be closed in within another week. Completion date is well on track for late April.

The outstanding deferred maintenance work from last year has been completed with various items being tidied up at Barron Saddle Hut. Items include a new tie down system, new ventilation system, new mattresses and a drainage tray inside the front door. The contractor carrying out this years' deferred maintenance work at Kelman Hut has made his first site visit and is currently organising the materials required for the work. He will be on site in early April.

The contract to build a new toilet at Tasman Saddle Hut has been let and the contractor has made his first site visit with the engineer to shoot the levels. The toilet is currently being pre-fabricated and will be on site mid - April. A site visit was also made to Empress Hut to survey a new toilet to be installed next summer.

Tenders for the design and contract administration of the new Plateau Hut have been received and evaluated. The decision is awaiting sign off and will be announced later this week. A site visit to survey the site will be made sometime in the next two weeks.

Seasonal staff have been very busy with hut inspection/maintenance trips. Trips to Sefton Bivvy, Hooker Hut, Copland Shelter, Murchison Hut, De La Beche Hut and Plateau Hut have all been carried out with various clean up and maintenance tasks carried out. There are two more trips scheduled, one each to Tasman Saddle and Kelman.

Seasonal staff have also been very busy on the tracks. Track maintenance tasks have been carried out on the Hooker, Red Tarns, Bowen Bush and Blue Lakes Tracks. The team are currently re-surfacing the first third of the Kea Point Track and re-forming the section of track across the Kitchener Fan. The route from the Hooker Glacier up the moraine wall to the toe of the Copland Spur has also been marked. * Shangri-la of native plants found A treasure house of rare and endangered plants was recently discovered by Department of Conservation staff in the Waimakariri Gorge.

"This is a very exciting discovery," said Stephen Phillipson, Biodiversity Programme Manager. "It is a diverse, self-maintaining, community and contains a significant number of rare and endangered shrubland plants. These plants are so rare they don't have common names. It's extremely important for plant conservation nationally."

"We have records from 1936 that indicate Helichrysum dimorphum, an everlasting daisy with a scrambling habit, was found here in the wild. A brief look at this site in 2002 found two plants," said Mr Phillipson.

"Until now the known wild population of this plant stood at around 300." Rangers climbed to the top of a cliff in the gorge to discover a dense and diverse shrubland containing 90 H. dimorphum plants, 20% of which were juveniles.

Closer inspection also revealed thickets of the rare Coprosma wallii and a number of C. obconica, another very rare and endangered plant. "A large number of Carmichaelia kirki were also seen, including a substantial number of juvenile plants. So many young seedlings indicated an extremely healthy population," said Mr Phillipson.

"We also found a small-leaved Olearia and two 1.5 metre high Teucridium parvifolium, a golden bushy shrub, also highly endangered and rare." This botanist's bounty shows very little sign of browsing animals; and no sign of hares or rabbits. The site is naturally protected by sheer cliffs on two sides and beech forest above.

"This is a nationally significant shrubland as it is healthy, self-maintaining in its regeneration processes and relatively large. This is also the only wild H. dimorphum population on DOC administered land, making it very important."

"A survey in the near future will assess the size of the shrubland and estimate the numbers of endangered plants within it. After that we will be back every year to check the site." * Down by the sea for Canterbury Conservation Day Canterbury Conservation Day April 2003 is all out to sea this year, as we turn to the coastline for inspiration and focus. Canterbury's coastline has many special and unique features, plants and landscapes and issues surrounding use, and Sunday 13 April will be the day to celebrate them. We have a great line up of guest speakers this year;

Keynote speaker Wade Doak will be talking to us about marine reserves. His talk is titled "Tomorrow in the Sea and he will be discussing New Zealand's international obligations to preserve biodiversity and why networks of marine protected areas are the principle ways to achieve this in the sea. He will present the concept of 'wet libraries'; marine reserves within daily travel of every school, as a necessary educational resource for an island nation.

Guest speaker Dr David Bergin is a senior scientist at Forest Research, in Rotorua.

David will be drawing on his knowledge and experience working with the Coastal Dune Vegetation Network to bring to us an overview of the value of coastal vegetation and dune ecosystems, and the threats they face.

Guest speaker Dr. James R. Goff has over 14 years of experience in studying natural hazards. He has worked all around the world, and his experiences ranges from landslides and coastal erosion in Canada, to floods in the European Alps, to earthquakes and tsunamis, cyclones and coastal damage in the South Pacific and New Zealand. James' talk is titled "Tsunamis - Things that go splash in the night". Tsunami is one of the more extreme coastal hazards we face; his statistics will blow you away!

Practical workshops will be presented by the City Council's Coast Care unit on planting in sandy places, while Marine Watch will show us just how to rescue a stranded whale. An activities corner will keep young and not so young busy and we also hope to have a demonstration of Ngäi Tahu flax work through out the day. Displays and stalls aplenty will also be there, including the Environment Centre, Scorpio Books and Wild Places, and plenty of Canterbury native plants for sale, including some special deals on coastal plants.

A copy of the programme is available from DOC in Christchurch, the nursery or on the DOC website at; http://www.doc.govt.nz/Community/002~Events/Canterbury-Conservation-Day-Po ster.asp The North Canterbury Area and the Conservancy has decided to discontinue them in their present form and instead will hold two general liaison meetings a year, to which a broader cross section of associates will be invited.

The first of these meetings in their new format will be on Thursday 12 June 2003. The agenda will consist of items requested by associates and a report from the North Canterbury and Waimakariri Area Managers. Agenda items will be called for in mid May.

You can still keep up to date with DOC activities on a more regular basis, by being on the circulation list for the Conservancy e-mail newsletter, @DOC. This newsletter is distributed every two months. E-mail: Sarah Mankelow at smankelow@doc.govt.nz The Royal NZ Institute of Horticulture is hosting a conference later this year, supported by the Christchurch City Council, Environment Canterbury, Landcare Research and Pyne Gould Guinness. It is being held at 'Chateau on the Park', Christchurch, on 22-24 October 2003.

The important role of cities as a repository for biodiversity is increasingly recognised within New Zealand and overseas, along with the need to focus on sustainable development, triple bottom-line accounting, and the function of green environments in maintaining community health and cohesion. In New Zealand, recent reports by the Parliamentary Commission for the Environment and the Ministry of the Environment have drawn attention to these issues. The conference will be based on these and other themes, with an emphasis on practical outcomes.

The conference will be held in the Garden City of Christchurch, where there is much collective expertise on urban biodiversity. Complementing our local experts will be several world authorities on the Greening of Cities, Landscape Architecture, and Town Planning to act as keynote speakers.

These topics are very timely as the Christchurch City Council puts into place its Biodiversity Strategy, which will be unveiled at the conference. Keynote speakers include: Dr Morgan Williams, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Wellington, New Zealand

Professor Chris Bains, one of the UK's leading environmental campaigners, and an award-winning author and broadcaster Mason Tan, Landscape Architect and Director of Mace Studio, Singapore For more information see http://www.rnzih.org.nz/page/conference2003.htm

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