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DOC Team Return to Raoul

2 May 2006

DOC Team Return to Raoul

Four survivors of the volcanic eruption on Raoul are on their way back to the island this week to finish the last six months of their contracts.

Department of Conservation Warkworth Area Manager Rolien Elliot said the department had decided that with advice from GNS Science it was safe to continue a work programme on the island outside of the eruption zone.

“GNS Science has advised us the activity on or close to the island has declined significantly over the last two weeks and we consider our robust safety and evacuation plans will allow the team to safely continue their important work.”

The four DOC staff, Evan Ward, Lynda McGrory-Ward, Melanie Nelson and Morgan Cox, will join the other survivor, Jim Livingstone, already on the island, to continue the weed programme, meteorological work and make sure island biosecurity isn’t breached.

Jim Livingstone and two other experienced rangers, Liz Whitwell and Shane McInnes have been on the island since the eruption maintaining the DOC field station, as well as monitoring seismic and volcanic activity. Mr McIinnes and Ms Whitwell will be handing over their duties to the incoming team and returning to New Zealand.

Ms Elliot said that having staff on the island was also important to gather data on seismic activity and lake levels to enable experts to monitor parameters that may indicate future volcanic activity and therefore enhance the safety of the Raoul programme.

“Safety of the staff is our top priority. Their work on the island will be restricted to the area outside the crater rim and caldera area, and lake level monitoring will continue to be done from the more distant viewpoint at Mount Moumoukai. No attempt will be made at this stage to enter the eruption area where Mark Kearney went missing on the day of the March eruption.”

A four month volunteer programme due to start on Raoul in May has been postponed. Ms Elliot said the department’s priority was to have a core team in place that had considerable knowledge and experience of the island.

Raoul Island erupted on 17 March in the area of the Green Lake. Lake levels are now falling and earthquake activity has declined.

ENDS

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