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Season’s last Te Araroa Trail walker reaches Bluff

Jono Hartland finally finished the TA - and raised $35,000 for charity in the process. Photo: Jono Hartland

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This season’s final Te Araroa Trail walker has made it to Bluff.

Kiwi walker Jono Hartland walked the trail in honour of his best friend Eddie, who he lost to suicide in 2017.

“We were only mates for two years, but there should have been another 50 on top of that,” Hartland told Stuff.

Hartland was in Nelson Lakes National Park when he found out about the lockdown, and had to spend two months in Golden Bay.

The delay saw him restart in much colder conditions than most TA walkers endure, including -7℃ weather on Stag Saddle, and deep snow. 

“It was like nothing that I’d really experienced before, snow that deep and at that altitude, it was difficult,” he said.

“I was waking up and it was well below freezing, the motivation to get out of bed in some of those basic draughty huts in the mountains was very low. You just have to kick on and put one foot in front of the other.”

Hartland raised $35,000 for the Mental Health Foundation and the Suicide Prevention Trust on his journey.

Milford Sound businesses in trouble

Businesses are on the brink in Milford Sound after a horror year, reports RNZ.

Covid has been the latest in a string of misfortunes to strike the area, including floods and earthquakes.

Cruise Milford operations manager Hamish Egerton told RNZ travelling New Zealanders gave the businesses a boost over school holidays, but numbers have dropped off again.

“Numbers have been really, really pleasing, but of course, that’s over so we’re going to be potentially falling into the precipice now,” he said.

Egerton said there will not be the summer surge in visitors the region usually gets, so many businesses have laid off staff and are “running bare skeleton”.

Southern Discoveries operations manager Wolfgang Hainzl told RNZ the school holidays were a morale and financial boost, but staff numbers will still have to be cut. 

“We are here to stay but it will be a bit challenging. I think if we can get the Australian bubble going, it would be fine.”

Real Journeys general manager Paul Norris is staying positive.

“We think it’s going fine and Milford will always be Milford and will always be an iconic destination for Kiwis and hopefully the international tourists when they come back again in the future,” he said.

Another Hauraki Gulf Island becomes predator-free

Rakitū has become the latest island in the Hauraki Gulf to be declared predator-free.

The 300ha island, which lies off the eastern coast of Great Barrier Island, was checked over by predator-seeking dogs last week, which confirmed its status.

“This is a major milestone because it is the last DOC administered island in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park to be made pest-free,” minister of conservation Eugenie Sage said.

“Rakitū will now join more than 40 existing pest-free islands in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, including Rangitoto, Motutapu, Motuihe, Tiritiri Matangi and Hauturu.

“These pest-free islands provide a safe haven for threatened native wildlife including takahē, kākāpō, kokako, kiwi, geckos, skinks, bats, wetāpunga and tuatara.”

Meanwhile, a kiwi social enterprise has floated the idea of a National Park in the Hauraki Gulf. The Rangitoto National Park, which would include Rangitoto motu and three other islands, would recognise the values and wildlife of the area, Rewild Aotearoa researcher Paul Hughes said.

“Putting a new National Park in Auckland’s front garden, centre stage, also helps to say to New Zealanders and tourists that we’ve got other nationally significant areas you can enjoy as well,” he said.

Conservation strategy launched to save hoiho

Conservationists are hoping to turn the tide on 2019’s Bird of the Year; the hoiho.

The nationally endangered yellow-eyed penguin has endured a series of poor breeding seasons and the government, iwi, NGOs and rehabilitation groups have launched a five year action plan to try and boost the species.

The proposal includes surveying hoiho nest sites on Rakiura to identify nest numbers and locations, expanding hoiho tracking and increased investment into research of disease.

“The strategy will set the direction for halting the decline of hoiho on the Aotearoa/New Zealand mainland,” conservation minister Sage said.

Explore Hillary’s Antarctic hut in VR

A virtual reality experience is giving Kiwis the chance to explore Hillary’s historic hut at Scott Base, Antarctica.

The experience was launched by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate in Otara, South Auckland, last week, and will be available through the trust’s VR app

The app allows users to virtually tour the hut’s five rooms, and explore hundreds of artefacts from Antarctic exploration. 

The hut was built in 1957 by Edmund Hillary and his team, before he embarked on an expedition to the South Pole.