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Environmental education 'road show' hits the road


Environmental education 'road show' hits the road

* Wasp problems

* Orange fronted parakeet eggs transferred

* Motunau Island cleared of boxthorn

* River floodplain survey first

* Keep an eye out for rock wren

* New Poulter Hut

* New Plateau Hut

* Survey for Canterbury mudfish

* Jacks Hut and Godley Head get funding for restoration

* Artists invited to apply for Wild Creations residencies

* Coming up

Environmental education road show hits the road

An environmental education partnership 'road show' got underway, with the first showing at Temuka School on Tuesday May 20.

The road show has been put together by education staff from DOC, Environment Canterbury, Christchurch City Council and the Coast to the High Country programme.

"The aim of the road show is to let teachers in the Canterbury region know what's on offer in the way of environmental education programmes, resources and teacher support for environmental education," said Annette Hamblett, Community Relations Officer, DOC Canterbury.

"It has been confusing in the past to understand what each central, regional and local government agency does for environmental education, particularly now that we work in partnership on many projects, alongside the Christchurch College of Education. "There are six members in the group, and at least two people from two of the organisations will take part in the presentation for each school or group of schools visited."

The actual road show consists of a 15 minute Powerpoint presentation outlining what environmental education is, what each organisation has to offer and how this all ties into the wider picture.

Temuka Primary School was the lucky school to be first to see this presentation, given by DOC Education Officer Chandra Littlewood and Ecan Environmental Education Co-ordinator, Phillipa Gardener.

"Feedback from all the teachers was very positive. They were impressed with how many options there were available to them, and how approachable and useful government educators were," said Ms Hamblett.

"After this initial success, the roadshow will now continue over the next two terms, covering a selection of schools over the Canterbury region, targeting school cluster group meetings where possible and speaking to staff or syndicate (class level groupings) meetings. At least 20 presentations will be given over the next two terms."

Wasp problems

April was a challenging month for South Canterbury DOC staff with continuing reports of wasp nests in the Mt Somers Walkway and Sharplin Falls areas. Recreation staff from the Raukapuka office based in Geraldine have dealt to 15 nests this season, following reports from trampers (including safety watch reports) and other users of the conservation estate. In one case a hunter was hospitalised after stepping onto a nest that had fallen from a tree. Other nests have been in ground holes and the standard rotten stump as a preferred location.

New Zealand has some of the highest densities of common and German wasps in the world. They have no natural predators here, our winters are mild and there is plenty of food for them.

Wasps pose a particular ecological problem in beech forest such as that found around Mt Somers, as they are big consumers of honeydew. Honeydew is produced by a native scale insect and is an important food for native birds, bats, insects and lizards.

Wasps also prey on insects and have even been seen killing newly-hatched birds.

Orange-fronted parakeet eggs transferred to safe haven

By Jack van Hal and Petrina Duncan

"Project Orange" rangers, North Canterbury area

New Zealand's rarest parakeet recently passed a major milestone with the successful re-location of five eggs to Te Anau Wildlife Park from the South Hurunui Valley in North Canterbury.

Orange-fronted parakeets (Cyanoramphus malherbi) are found only in the Hurunui and in the Hawdon Valley in the Waimakariri catchment.

An accurate population estimate has been difficult to get, as sightings of birds are extremely rare, especially since a severe rat irruption reduced their numbers. It is thought to be anywhere between 100-200 individuals. They are now in the highest threat category, "Nationally Critical".

All efforts were concentrated on establishing a safe population on predator-free Te Kakahu o Tamatea/Chalky Island. Chalky was chosen over other predator - free islands with similar vegetation, because of the absence of red and yellow-crowned parakeets there.

DNA studies and captive breeding programmes have shown that these parakeets can hybridise, and readily breed together if numbers are low. Curiously, these same DNA studies show that orange-fronts are most closely related to red-crowns even though they look much more like yellow-crowned parakeets.

This season, our efforts were concentrated on nest searches and egg re-location to establish the island population before it was too late. From October 2002, we searched extensively in both valleys, trying to establish the distribution and size of the two parakeet populations.

A desperate search for nests, with help from conservancy staff, was finally rewarded in mid-February, when one incubating pair of orange-fronted parakeets was found in the Hurunui. They were nesting in a hole 18 metres up a red beech tree and had three eggs when first inspected. A total of five eggs were eventually laid.

The tree was climbed on a perfect day, warm, calm and cloudless. All five eggs were removed, candled and flown in an incubator via helicopter and plane to Te Anau. Four of the five eggs hatched in March. Despite both foster parent birds (red-crowned parakeets) dying soon after, the four chicks fledged successfully after Easter, thanks to much intensive hand-feeding and sleepless nights by Hannah Edmonds. For the time being "Hurunui", "Daffy", "Gilly" and "Olympia" will remain in Te Anau until further eggs are found and there are 20 birds for release. Any fewer might cause them to fly off Te Kakahu. These are highly social birds and a reasonable number will hopefully avoid hybridisation with yellow-crowned parakeets that may still arrive on the island. The battle is not over yet but at least we have gained a few miles on the long road to recovery.

Motunau Island visit

DOC biodiversity staff from the North Canterbury Area office made their annual visit to Motunau Island in early April, to do boxthorn control.

The island is one of the few seabird islands left on the east coast of the South Island. It is home to more than 3,000 white flippered penguins, about 20, 000 fairy prions and lesser numbers of white-faced storm petrels and sooty shearwaters.

Motunau Island used to be covered in boxthorn that ensnared seabirds as they came ashore to their burrows. Over the years, intensive eradication has been carried out by the Hanmer Field Centre staff.

Boxthorn is a densely branched evergreen shrub that can grow one to six metres high, with rigid branch spines forming a box-like arrangement. It is an aggressive coloniser of sand dunes, gravel, coastal shrublands and pasture, waste places, roadsides.

It was encouraging to find few boxthorn plants remaining from last year when this year's team arrived, and of course none were left by the end of the visit.

It is physical work, as the best way to get rid of boxthorn is to cut it off at the trunk and paint the stump with herbicide mix.

The island was nearly deserted at this time of year, although some late moulting penguins and large sooty chicks were still present.

River floodplain survey

A team of contractors surveyed river floodplain plant communities in braided rivers of the Upper Waitaki Basin in early April, for Project River Recovery. This was the first fully comprehensive survey of braided riverbed plant communities undertaken in Canterbury. It will provide descriptions of plant communities' characteristic of the braided river systems being managed by Project River Recovery. When the data has been analysed, it will be used with other resource information, to make decisions on future management priorities in the riverbeds.

A total of 738 plots were described over some 33,000 hectares of riverbed. Vascular and non vascular (mosses and lichens) plant species were recorded in height and cover classes, as well as a range of site characteristics such as landform features and substrate sizes. An estimated 300 plus species were recorded; at least 23 of these are of special botanical interest. Threatened plant records of note included extensive populations of Luzula celata; good populations of Isolepis basilaris; and an interesting form of the native broom Carmichaelia australis, which may be genetically distinct. Looking at the distribution of communities between river systems, and relationships with environmental variables and site characteristics will provide an interesting challenge over winter.

Keep an eye out for rock wren

Climbers venturing into remote areas of Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park can now contribute to the conservation of a special alpine bird.

DOC Ranger Kerry Weston of Aoraki / Mt Cook has produced a 'rock wren field survey booklet', that is being to be distributed to all huts/shelters throughout the park. The booklet contains background information on this unique alpine bird and provides a questionnaire for climbers out and about in rock wren habitat to record sightings.

The rock wren or piwauwau is New Zealand's only true alpine bird, spending all of its life at altitudes above or within the level of sub alpine vegetation. They are most commonly found at altitudes between 1200 and 2400 metres, hopping amongst boulders, scree slopes and herb fields.

Rock wrens are currently threatened within their natural range in the Southern Alps/Kä Tiritiri o te Moana. There has been a decrease in reported sightings over the last 10-20 years, and it is suspected that they may now be in serious decline.

It is hoped that these surveys will provide at least some idea of present numbers and distribution within the park.

New Poulter Hut

A new hut in Arthur's Pass National Park is now ideally positioned to serve at least four popular tramping routes in the area. The new Poulter Hut has been placed on the true left of the confluence of Minchin Stream and the Poulter River and is a category 3 hut (one ticket $5). This ten-bunk hut replaces the old six-bunk Trust Poulter Hut and now has a fireplace for added comfort.

Visitor assets programme manager Ronan Grew says the high performance coloursteel exterior cladding provides a hut life of at least 50 years.

"There is a wrap round decking on two sides and a clear verandah roof at the front of the building which is a good spot to rest and admire the view. We used colours for the roof and walls to blend in with the tussock river-flats landscape," he said.

This new hut is the second to be built in Arthur's Pass National Park as a result of the Government's funding package for Outdoor Recreation Facilities announced in May 2002.

New Plateau Hut

The most popular hut used by mountaineers attempting to scale Aoraki / Mt Cook is to be removed and replaced with one twice as big.

Plateau Hut was built in 1964 but is now often overcrowded and has deteriorated so badly that it will be replaced rather than restored. The proposed new hut will be on the same site, on the rock knoll beside the grand plateau. There will be no hut available for three months during the construction period scheduled for early next year.

Survey for Canterbury mudfish

Local people in the Hororata area, North Canterbury, are helping DOC to help track down populations of an unusual native fish.

The Canterbury mudfish / kòwaro is one of our rarest native fish, and a toanga species to Ngäi Tahu. It is listed as nationally endangered, the second highest threat ranking. Its range and population have declined greatly with drainage of wetlands throughout the Canterbury Plains and is now restricted to northern and central Canterbury.

The mudfish is most well known for its ability to survive summer droughts, by burrowing into the soil and remaining there, still able to breathe, until substantial rains come to refill their wetland homes. Mudfish have been found burrowed into the soil over a metre deep!

The survey for the Canterbury mudfish kicked into gear when the autumn rain arrived, and mudfish were coming out of their burrows to spawn. A call for landowners with springs, streams or ponds on their property, who would be happy for DOC to put in some traps for mudfish has generated some positive results.

The autumn surveys have so far revealed several new mudfish sites - increasing its known distribution at Hororata. Unexpectedly, these sites included water-races, as well as the Hororata River and small drains and streams around the district.

Jack's Hut and Godley Head fortifications to be restored

Jack's Hut in Arthur's Pass and Godley Head fortifications in Christchurch are to be restored as part of a budget initiative to ensure the long-term survival of significant historic sites, Conservation Minister Chris Carter announced on 7 May.

The Government will set aside $15.2m in the Budget to protect New Zealand's heritage assets, of which $4m will be used to restore key historic sites throughout the country administered by the Department of Conservation.

Mr Carter said; "Jack's Hut in Arthur's Pass and Godley Head in Christchurch are two of the sites that have been identified for immediate work. These sites have been chosen for restoration because of their historic and cultural significance, their contribution to our national identity and their potential to provide a memorable experience for visitors."

"Located on New Zealand's highest altitude main highway, Jack's Hut built in 1879 is a rare surviving example of a roadman's cottage. All early highways were maintained by roadmen who lived with their families in cottages placed along the section they were responsible for. As the motor age and mechanisation arrived, the roadman role disappeared."

Mr Carter said that Jack's Hut had deteriorated badly and now required full and thorough restoration.

Godley Head fortifications would o see a $120,000 upgrade to restore gun emplacements and electric lighting to enable visitors to safely explore the underground tunnels.

"Godley Head is ranked in the top ten of New Zealand's coastal defence sites. In its heyday the fort was staffed by over 400 men and women and was a self-contained community," Mr Carter said.

"The development of Godley Head as a significant new public recreation area is a cooperative project with the Christchurch City Council and community groups."

He said the development would also include the installation of interpretation panels for visitors, and the adaption of the main store building to safely house an anti-aircraft gun on loan from the Ferrymead Trust.

Artists invited to apply for Wild Creations residencies

Artists interested in undertaking the 2004 Wild Creations artist-in-residence programme, part of an exciting partnership between Creative New Zealand and the Department of Conservation, have until 29 August to submit their written proposals.

This is the second year that the Wild Creations programme has been offered. It aims to foster links between conservation and artists by encouraging them to create work inspired by New Zealand's unique places, people, stories and natural environment.

Last year, one of the three inaugural artists selected to undertake the Wild Creations residencies was writer and performer Jo Randerson. She described her six-week residency at Te Angiangi Marine Reserve and Cape Kidnappers in the Hawke's Bay as "an absolutely brilliant time".

"Being in these new and inspiring locations, plus having the time and space to work, has been no end of benefit to me," Randerson said. "I produced more work than I ever thought possible and I now have a special attachment to this part of New Zealand."

The residencies are open to artists working in any art form and cultural tradition. The Department of Conservation hosts the artists during their residencies and Creative New Zealand provides a stipend of $5000, plus up to $1000 for travel and materials, to each artist.

There are 20 potential locations throughout New Zealand and artists are expected to select their preferred site before submitting their proposal. Three artists will selected by the end of November.

An information pack is available from either the Department of Conservation or Creative New Zealand. Artists should contact Anne McLean (04-471 3182 Email: amclean@doc.govt.nz) or John McDavitt (04-498 0702 Email: johnm@creativenz.govt.nz).

Coming Up

Northern Associates Liaison Meeting

Thursday 12 June 2003, 5.30pm, 5th floor conference room, DOC, 133 Victoria Street. For more information contact Gnome Hannah-Brown, (03) 371 3706 or ghannah-brown@doc.govt.nz .

Mueller Hut opening

Saturday 5 July, 2003

A grand ceremony to celebrate the opening of the new Mueller Hut and the launch of 50th Anniversary celebrations of Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park will be held at the Glencoe Lodge, Aoraki / Mt Cook. Keynote speaker, Sir Edmund Hillary.

For more information contact Shirley Slatter, 03 435 1185 or sslatter@doc.govt.nz

Conservation Week

4-8 August 2003 - "Our Places, Our Stories"

"Nga whakanikoniko o te Ao Tawhito"

(The strands of our history are woven into the tapestry that is our heritage)

A listing of events will be available soon. Keep an eye on the DOC website for details on what is happening around the country at;

http://www.doc.govt.nz/Community/002~Events/Conservation-Week/008~2003/index.asp

Conference on Urban Biodiversity

22-24 October 2003 Conference of the Royal NZ Institute of Horticulture (in association with the CCC, Evan, Landcare Research and PGG). Held at Chateau on the Park, Christchurch. "Greening the City: Bringing Biodiversity Back into the Urban Environment."

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