Conservation Taranaki - December 2012

Read the December 2012 edition of Conservation Taranaki - Like no other newsletter.

You can also download the newsletter: Issue 19, December 2012 (PDF, 1261K)

On this page

A great season for whio in the Park
Maui’s/Hector’s dolphin biopsy sampling
Assistance is welcomed
DOC assists with Government House Visitor Centre
A new era for kiwi conservation
The charge of the spray brigade
Keeping rats at bay
Where More Wild Things Are
Stent Road…more than just surf
A coastal workshop for teachers
Rahotu School helps protect the dotterel
Releasing the trees at the Mangahinau Stream
New date for microgrom surfers!
Spotswood Primary helps out with nesting boxes
Take a look at TERRAIN
Possum Control in the Moki Forest
DOC’s fire fighters ready for the summer
Say hello to Didymo Denise!
Out on the tracks
The power of snow… and doughnuts
Big shed, no wood
Camphouse features in exhibition
Summer walks with DOC and the New Plymouth Tramping Club

A great season for whio in the Park

Whio family in Egmont National Park.
Whio family in Egmont National Park

It’s been the best year yet for whio in the Egmont National Park with 23 ducklings located so far. Emily and Kelly from the biodiversity team began walking the rivers in September and with males guarding nests more eggs could well have hatched. The monitoring continues.

The trap network is being maintained and upgraded to a high standard with 326 old traps replaced with stainless steel ones over the winter months. More than 750 pests were trapped from September to November and the East Taranaki Environment Trust (ETET) services and maintains the 480 trap boxes outside the park boundary. Trap checks also continue for a line of boxes in farmland, protecting a pair of whio living on the Manganui River.

With new pairs breeding successfully in the captive breeding programme, up to 20 juveniles are expected to be released into the Park from February 2013. With support from the Central North Island Blue Duck Conservation Charitable Trust, the whio recovery programme in the Egmont National Park is looking good.

Maui’s/Hector’s dolphin biopsy sampling

Wellington Kapiti Area Office ranger Hawea Tomoana holds the Maui's dolphin he made especially for the training day.
Wellington Kapiti Area Office ranger Hawea Tomoana holds the Maui's dolphin he made especially for the training day

In late November Marine Ranger Callum Lilley, along with several other North Island staff, met in Wellington to train in the taking of biopsy samples from small dolphins. The technique involves firing a light plastic dart fitted with a stainless steel tip to take a small skin and blubber sample. Special approval is required to undertake this work and the Area now has two staff members that can take samples.

Skin and blubber samples are extremely important in helping to inform management decisions about the critically endangered Maui’s dolphin. With fewer than 100 left in the wild, the samples help answer questions such as:

  • Are the dolphins sighted off Taranaki Hector’s or Maui’s dolphins?
  • What is the sex ratio (male to female) of the dolphins?
  • What proportion of females are pregnant?
  • How far are individuals moving?
  • Could there be interbreeding between Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins?
  • How healthy are individuals? (By analysing levels of toxins and the detecting presence/absence of disease).

Assistance is welcomed

If you are lucky enough to see a Maui’s / Hector’s dolphin we would welcome your help:

  1. On sighting the dolphin/s take a GPS coordinate and photographs. Remember too that many cellphones have cameras.
  2. Call DOC immediately (Bryan Williams +64 27 4458 268 or Callum Lilley +64 27 206 5842, or 0800 DOC HOTline +64 800 362 468).
  3. Where possible, stay in the vicinity of the dolphin, but don’t get too close. On arrival, DOC will take a biopsy sample.

Information on identification of Maui’s dolphins and appropriate boating behaviour around marine mammals can be found on the DOC website:

DOC assists with Government House Visitor Centre

Kay Davies shows the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall through the new Visitor Centre after the official opening.
Kay Davies shows the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall through the new Visitor Centre after the official opening

It’s been a busy year for Kay Davies, our Visitor Centre Supervisor and for Herwi Scheltus the Landscape Design Architect from the Conservancy. They’ve been project managers for the new Government House Visitor Centre, a gift for Her Majesty the Queen from the people of New Zealand to commemorate her Diamond Jubilee.

Some of the out buildings were used to create the Visitor Centre which has spectacular views of Government House and gardens. Kay and Herwi were responsible for the refit along with the displays and education programme which will encourage students to learn about the role of the Governor General in New Zealand’s constitution and the significance of Government House to the nation.

Schools will have the opportunity to begin their tour in the Visitor Centre with its interactive displays, photos and audio visual displays and then they can tour Government House itself. It’s also hoped that public tours can be scheduled in the future. “Designing this was a lot of fun,” said Kay “and a good example of government inter-agency co-operation and skills sharing.”

A new era for kiwi conservation

Rotokare Trust Project Co-ordinator Kara Prankerd holds one of the four kiwi released at Lake Rotokare recently.
Rotokare Trust Project Co-ordinator Kara Prankerd holds one of the four kiwi released at Lake Rotokare recently

A big crowd celebrated the release of four male, North Island brown kiwi recently at Rotokare’s pest-free sanctuary. “It’s a cost effective and ecologically viable way of boosting kiwi numbers throughout Taranaki and beyond,” said Sue Hardwick-Smith, chairwoman of the Taranaki Kiwi Trust.

"With this new project, we will be able to hugely increase the number of kiwi we release to sites such as Egmont National Park and bush areas where pest control is taking place."

With the help of an Air NZ jet these kiwi flew 700 km from Christchurch's Orana Park before touching down at New Plymouth airport. They met about 160 people gathered at the Rotokare Scenic Reserve and a blessing from Ngati Ruanui elders followed before the birds were released at strategic locations around the reserve.

"These birds will become the founder population for the Kohanga Kiwi," said Rotokare Trust chairman Mike Weren. “We’ll try to catch or rear 30 unrelated kiwi over the next two years and eventually people should have a good chance of bumping into one in the reserve.”

Funders for this important $100,000 project include OMV, Harris Taylor, Feats and DFE Pharma - all of whom had "adopted a kiwi".

The charge of the spray brigade

On the lookout for climbing asparagus.
On the lookout for climbing asparagus

Asparagus scandens is a climbing vine which can smother native forests. It affects the forest floor and understorey up to a height of about four metres and it’s growing in the Kaitake Range. That’s why a knapsack carrying spray team has been out there for the past 10 summers or so. Once established, climbing asparagus can prevent the growth and regeneration of native species.

It’s been a successful operation with very little of the weed now in many places. There are still pockets of growth however and our team of students, mostly from Otago University this year, are hard at work spraying the bright green, spiky leafed climber.

We spot spray with Roundup but if you have a small amount of climbing asparagus you can pull it out by hand. Dig it up and remove the tubers too or they will resprout. Place them in a sealed black plastic bag, leave the bag in the sun and those tubers will be dealt a fatal blow!

Keeping rats at bay

Around 10,000 birds live on Ngā Motu/Sugar Loaf Islands and while the outer islands are rat free the cunning rodents can easily sneak across the sand to the inner islands at low tide.

The bait stations on Mataoro/Round Rock, Pararaki/Seagull Rock and Motuotamatea/Snapper Rock are replenished once a month over the summer months to keep eggs and chicks safe. The baits are wired on inside each station to prevent the rats from scurrying away with a whole bait. Instead, they nibble and then wander off and a little later they feel a bit crook…

Where More Wild Things Are

With sponsorship from Port Taranaki we had an early summer Seaweek this year, beginning with a “Where More Wild Things Are” day overlooking the Sugar Loaf Islands and the Tapuae Marine Reserve. Organised by Nathan Hills and the education team at Puke Ariki, everyone met the wild things that Captain Cook saw during his journey past the Sugar Loaf Islands.

The now rare Cooks Scurvy Grass was one plant. It was once collected by the dinghy full to ward off scurvy symptoms like bulging eyes, loose teeth and corkscrew hair! The seals and dolphins, whales and seabirds all had their time in the sun and spot prizes like our wind up skin divers found ready homes.

DOC helped out, as well as the Nga Motu Marine Reserve Society, the Mimi School penguin protectors and folk from the Grey-faced Petrel Trust.

Stent Road…more than just surf

Moturoa School students plant a home grown Lepidium flexicaule at the Stent Road herb field.
Moturoa School students plant a home grown Lepidium flexicaule at the Stent Road herb field

Lepidium flexicaule is a nationally threatened coastal species usually found in coastal turfs. It also grows on rock stacks, outcrops, headlands, cliff faces and amongst boulders. It’s found in Auckland, Coromandel, the Firth of Thames, and Wellington. It’s on the Chatham Islands and from Cape Farewell to Greymouth in the South Island and in 2003 L. flexicaule was discovered at one site on the South Taranaki Coast.

A significant population grows at Stent Road but it’s a popular beach so the plant is easily harmed by stock, vehicles and people. It’s a good thing then that under the guidance of Bill Clarkson, the students at Moturoa School grew the plants from seed and helped DOC staff plant them across the river from the present population. Great work Moturoa School and thanks for your help!

A coastal workshop for teachers

Kirsty and Nikki from Huirangi School explore their rock pool in preparation to a school trip early in the new school year.
Kirsty and Nikki from Huirangi School explore their rock pool in preparation to a school trip early in the new school year

Kevin Archer from the Taranaki Regional Council (TRC) began this workshop at Kawaroa and had teachers exploring the rock pools using some handy resources. Later, at the new Marine Information Centre we looked at more opportunities available for coastal studies. Barbara Hammonds and Elise Smith from the Nga Motu Marine Society shared information about coastal plants and opportunities for transect studies along the shores of the marine reserves. We also saw how the data the students collect, can now be displayed on the TERRAIN website.

Andrew Hornblow from Bright Sparks, showed us the innovative and thrifty ways that data can be gathered electronically. Some great examples are in the nesting boxes behind Chaddy’s and Gusto. In one, a tiny video camera transmits pictures to a screen at Chaddys. Kevin at the Oceans Alive Dive Centre showed us his amazing underwater video from Seal Rock in the Tapuae Marine Reserve and DOC’s underwater baited video showed how data is gathered in the marine reserve.

Rahotu School helps protect the dotterel

Ella from Rahotu School adds a fresh egg to a trap.
Ella from Rahotu School adds a fresh egg to a trap

The parents and students from Rahotu School are helping DOC protect the rare New Zealand dotterel that live along their coastline.

This endangered shorebird lives on sandy beaches and sandspits or feeds on tidal estuaries and they’re only found in New Zealand. There are only about 1700 birds left so they can do with all the help they can get and while most live further north, a small population enjoys life on the Taranaki coast.

With a colouring that blends in with the background of sand, shells and dune vegetation these little birds are hard to see. Eggs are laid in a shallow scrape in the sand and they’re camouflaged so easily stepped on. Stoats, rats, cats and hedgehogs add to the danger so these pests are targeted in a 40 box trapline that snakes through the farm adjacent to their habitat.

It’s this trapline that the Rahotu community is helping out with and because dotterel like to live among the pingao, a native sandbinding plant that is also quite rare, we’ll try to grow and plant more pingao next year.

Releasing the trees at the Mangahinau Stream

Manukorihi Intermediate students give a helping hand to trees they planted earlier in the year.
Manukorihi Intermediate students give a helping hand to trees they planted earlier in the year

We’ve released the trees planted in our first planting at the Mangahinau Stream in Waitara. It’s a regionally significant wetland, providing an important habitat for whitebait spawning. With weeds competing with the tidal rushes and introduced grasses the eggs from our freshwater fish are at risk. Room 7 at Manukorihi Intermediate is leading a restoration project helped by DOC and the TRC. The Friends of the Waitara River, Landbased Training, the Community Council and the Manukorihi hapu all helped with this year’s planting.

Our next job is to hit some of the trees clogging up the stream such as willows and Japanese walnut. We’ll do that early in the new year.

New date for microgrom surfers!

Rain and big swells forced a postponement to our Seaweek Microgroms Surfing Competition at Fitzroy Beach with Surfing Taranaki. It will now be held at:

Fitzroy Beach Saturday 19 January 9 am – Midday

It’s for primary school-aged children and families with an under 13 event, an under 11 and an under 9 event. Just turn up at the Surf Riders Club, Fitzroy Beach, by 9 am, to enter. Mums or dads can push surfers off to give them a head start!

There’ll be some coastal care displays, activities and prizes during the morning. We’ll finish with a beach clean up and barbecue at the surf riders club.

Spotswood Primary helps out with nesting boxes

Penguin box makers.
Penguin box makers

Nesting boxes can be handy for little blue penguins, especially when natural cover is a little sparse. The entrance tunnel offers protection from dogs and the box itself is spacious and dry. It’s a good place to raise chicks. The kids from Spotswood made some beauties recently and together we placed them at a city beach where footprints indicate the penguins are coming ashore. They made some extras too and these were placed at coastal spots further north.

Take a look at TERRAIN

Elise Smith gives another penguin box a GPS point.
Elise Smith gives another penguin box a GPS point

Penguin boxes and the traps that protect them now have GPS points. Mimi School for example looks after a trap line along Wai-iti beach, a place where a lot of penguins come ashore.

Elise Smith from the Nga Motu Marine Reserve Society has been gathering and compiling this data for the TERRAIN website - You’ll see the information and sightings on a map and you can enter your own data. For example any records for a particular area, especially historic ones will help build a picture of the little birds and their range.

Possum Control in the Moki Forest

A possum control operation over the 10,275 hectares of the Moki Conservation Area took place in late October. Non toxic pre feed baits were dropped first followed by 1080. The drop went very smoothly thanks to Becks Helicopters and a member of the public health team walked the Rerekapa Track to check on sign standards and the sowing rate. This Medical Officer of Health team audit and the one from the Department of Conservation showed that everything went according to plan.

Earlier in the year another successful operation was carried out over the Hutiwai Conservation Area.

DOC’s fire fighters ready for the summer

Staff from a number of area ofices met at the Kuripapango DOC base near Napier recently for a series practical fire fighting exercises. We used portable dams and a series of pumps and hoses to relay water from streams, rivers or ponds, to the fire. This workshop also covered the use of fire fighting hand tools and the monsoon bucket carried by helicopters.

The annual pack test for fitness has been done over the last couple of weeks too. It’s a quick walk along the coastal walkway carrying a 20.5 kg pack over 4.8 km in less than 45 minutes. Lighter people carry a little less. Everyone passed with flying colours so with our newly honed skills and fine levels of fitness we’re ready for a fire…not that we really want one!

Say hello to Didymo Denise!

Denise with students from Manukorihi Intermediate.
Denise with students from Manukorihi Intermediate

Denise Goodman is our Didymo ranger this summer. She’ll be out and about promoting the “check, clean and dry message,” among the public as we strive to keep didymo and other freshwater weeds out of Taranaki.

Didymo, also known as rock snot isn’t in the North Island yet but it’s become a real pest in the South Island. Denise will be working on the mountain to remind trampers and other visitors about the need to wash items such as boots and she’ll be at popular spots on rivers and lakes taking the message to boaties, kayakers and fishers. Pest fish are on Denise’s radar too!

Out on the tracks

Engineer Frank Kerslake checks out the site for the new bridge.
Denise with students from Manukorihi Intermediate

You’ll keep your feet dry on the Kaiauai Track soon with bridge plans being drawn up. A steel beam bridge with a wooden deck will cross the stream about 40 minutes from the car park, just past the deviation on the Kaiauai Track. And just before the shelter a swing bridge will cross the Kaiauai Stream.

Summit climbers will stay dry in the new loo too near Tahurangi Lodge. The last one was showing signs of wear. At times it was wetter in than out!

The power of snow… and doughnuts

Heavy winter snow put a few unwanted bends in the old structure on the Fanthams Peak Track but a new staircase has been built and strengthened by Mike Johns, Visitor Assets Ranger. The snow hasn’t a chance. For a burst of energy Mike ate one last doughnut before final strengthening work.

Big shed, no wood

The nearly empty woodshed at Pouakai Hut.
The nearly empty woodshed at Pouakai Hut

With a new boardwalk along the Mangorei Track the Pouakai Hut has become a popular place. It’s attracting plenty of visitors which is great but the firewood is disappearing a tad quicker than it should be. 
It’s best to avoid stoking up the burner during the day and then cooking on it. You need that wood to keep you warm on bitterly cold nights.

Camphouse features in exhibition

A couple of prefabs stand on the grass opposite Puke Ariki and they house an exhibition about prefabricated buildings in New Zealand. The historic Camphouse is featured and it’s thought to be the first of New Zealand’s prefabs. It’s certainly the oldest building in any of New Zealand’s national parks.

The historic Camphouse.
The historic Camphouse

This building was designed and built in Melbourne, with pieces marked for a simple reconstruction in New Zealand. It formed part of the military barracks on Marsland Hill, New Plymouth from 1860 to 1881 and provided temporary housing for immigrants from 1874. By 1891 accommodation was needed at North Egmont and after a sled ride and some reassembling, the Camphouse was ready for guests.

Summer walks with DOC and the New Plymouth Tramping Club

DOC offers five walks in the popular summer walk programme and the New Plymouth Tramping Club is helping us out with two - the Kapuni walk and the Pouakai Puffer. You need to register for three of our walks and you do this through the New Plymouth District Council, +64 6 759 6060. A list of all the walks can be found in the Council’s Guided Walks booklet.

Summer walkers.
Summer walkers

To the source of the Kapuni

  • Saturday 26 January 10am - 3pm.
  • A medium grade walk.
  • We’ll head along the new boardwalk to Wilkies Pools then it’s a rock hop up the Kapuni to its source. You might get your feet wet but it’s a good walk and there’s even a chance for a dip in Wilkies Pools.
  • We’ll meet outside the Dawson Falls Visitors Centre.

Alpine Flowers Wander

  • Wednesday 30 January 10am - 4pm. Medium grade.
  • Love to see the alpine flowers but can’t climb that high? We’ll transport you by vehicle to the alpine meadows. Registrations are essential and remember this trip is especially for plant enthusiasts that can no longer make the climb.
  • Meet at the North Egmont Visitors Centre.

The Twilight Goldrush

  • Thursday 7 February, 5.15 - 8.30pm. Medium to hard.
  • Walk to the Boars Head Mine, the site of Taranaki’s mini goldrush. After a short sharp climb we cross farmland until we reach the bush. We’ll enter one mine and see a second though it’s a bit too dangerous to enter this one. If the weather plays its part we should see a brilliant sunset on our return. It’s about 1½ hours, there and back.
  • Meet at the end of Weld Road, off State Highway 45 south of Oakura and bring your torch.

The Pouakai Puffer

  • Saturday 16 February, 8am - 4pm. (Postponement date Sunday 17th).
  • Hard. Walk time – Around 7 hours.
  • Catch the bus from New Plymouth to the start of the Mangorei Track and walk to the Pouakai Hut on the recently upgraded track. Rest and see the stunning views before heading across the plateau. You’ll pass the tarns and climb Henry Peak before descending into the rainforest to meet the bus again at the Kaiauai car park. It’s not quite as far as last year’s Pouakai Traverse but it will get you puffing.
  • Make sure you are reasonably fit!
  • Meet at the Bus Centre, Ariki Street.  The bus leaves at 8 am and you need to register first. Cost? $5 for the bus.

Whitecliffs Walk

  • Saturday 23 February, 9.00am – 3.30pm. (Postponement date Sunday 24th).
  • Medium to hard.
  • Board the bus in New Plymouth for a walk along part of the Whitecliffs Track. We’ll head across farmland first and climb to enjoy spectacular views over the Parininihi Marine Reserve. Hear about the reserve and the Ngati Tama Parininihi Protection Project before heading downhill to the Wai Pingao stream for lunch. From there it’s a short stroll down to the surf and we walk back along the beach to the bus. Register early. It’s always a popular walk.
  • Meet at the Bus Centre, Ariki Street, ready to leave at 9 am and bring your sunhat.

For all the walks bring a backpack, raincoat and warm clothes. Wear some good footwear for walking and a sunhat. Bring your water bottle, some food, a camera and any personal medical requirements. Don’t forget that woolly hat too if you come on the Alpine Wander. Last year it was cold up there!

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