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Conservationists recall lockdown on offshore islands

Anna Star with sons Fergus and Quintin doing school work during their lockdown on Te Pākeka/Maud Island. Photo: Supplied

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Kiwi conservationists who experienced lockdowns on New Zealand’s offshore islands have described their experiences to Stuff.

Kāpiti Island rangers Lee Barry and Neil Anderson, who spent 40 days on the island over lockdown, said the sanctuary island turned silent on March 25. 

“It was just the two of us on the DOC-managed nature reserve of Kāpiti Island. There is an area of private land at the north end of the island, where some whānau live, there was about six or eight people up there as well, who we didn’t really have any contact with because they weren’t in our bubble,” they said.

“We didn’t know quite what we were getting into when we said we’d head for the island and just stay there for as long as we need to.”

Rangers Talia Hochwimmer and Emma Dunning had a similar experience on Tiritiri Matangi Island, in the Hauraki Gulf.

Hochswimmer said the resident takahē found the sudden lack of people to be quite stressful.

“They are generally a shy sort of bird but ours are quite used to people. That first two or three weeks, they almost became clingy,” she said.

“They followed us around more, and kept us in their flock.”

In Marlborough Sounds, rangers Em Oyston and Anna Star spent their lockdown on Te Pākeka/Maud Island with their two sons, aged three and six.

“The weird thing was we knew it was affecting a lot of people, the rest of New Zealand, but life wasn’t actually too different for us,” they said.

Skydivers rebuild West Coast track

The Alex Knob Track near Franz Josef has been rebuilt by a team of skydivers.

The transformation was part of the $200 million Kaimahi for Nature fund, which deploys COVID-affected staff into environmental projects. 

Rob Stewart from Skydive Franz and Fox Glacier told Stuff the scheme saved their business and allowed it to keep operating at a reduced capacity.

Stewart’s team of 10 have spent the past couple of months rebuilding the 17.5km track which had become rough and rutted from water eroding sections and falling debris, 

DOC ranger Ian Singleton said.

“Working with skydivers gives you the confidence that they’ll follow good processes to ensure safety as they have that culture in their workplace already,” Singleton said.

Fox Glacier Guides chief executive Rob Jewell said about 20 of his guides had worked on upgrading tracks too, including the Southside Moraine and Copland tracks. 

DOC criticised for moving hut to booking system

DOC’s plan to move Jubilee Hut to the booking system has sparked criticism.

Federated Mountain Club’s southern convener Peter Wilson said the decision to move the popular 10-bunk-hut in Silver Peaks Scenic Reserve to DOC’s online booking system was made without consultation.

“They don’t even tell us – we find out through the DOC internet site,” Wilson told the Otago Daily Times.

Otago Tramping and Mountaineering Club immediate past president Antony Pettinger said the club would have liked the chance to consult.

DOC’s Steve Taylor said he wanted to look into the consultation situation and is happy to talk to anyone with concerns about the hut.

US woman survives two weeks without food

US hiker Holly Courtier is lucky to be alive after spending nearly two weeks lost in Zion National Park.

The 38-year-old was reported missing on October 6 when she failed to return from a walk, CNN reports

Her daughter Kailey Chambers said Courtier hit her head on a tree early in the trip. 

“She was very disoriented as a result and thankfully ended up near a water source – a river bed,” Chambers said in a statement. 

“She thought her best chance of survival was to stay next to a water source.”

Courtier was too weak and disoriented to actively seek out help.

“She was without food the entire time in Zion,” Chambers said. “She was unable to take more than a step or two without collapsing. This prevented her from being able to seek out help. She told me she was so dehydrated she couldn’t open her mouth.”

Courtier is now recovering.