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Snow: to eat or not to eat?

Snow is edible, but it’s not always clean. Photo: Matthew Cattin

A wrap of the biggest stories and best writing about the outdoors from New Zealand and around the world. 

Snow should be cleaner than rain, but can we drink it? That depends, according to Outside magazine.

“During the formation of ice crystals, few impurities fit into the crystal,” hydrologist and biogeochemist Fengjing Liu said, but as it falls to earth, snow can pick up pollutants.

“In some studies, snow appears to maybe even be a better collector of heavy metals and other pollutants in the atmosphere than rainfall, because it has a larger surface area and slower velocity,” researcher Jordy Hendrikx said. 

Both agree it’s generally safe to eat fresh snow in small quantities, but warn the longer snow sits, the more chemicals it accumulates.

Location matters too, with snow in urban areas likely to be more polluted than in wilderness areas.

“The thing you do need to think about is: the air masses that are moving around [bringing in weather and snow] are coming from a long way away,” Hendrikx said. This means the air in a pristine environment may have passed over pollution on its way.

So what’s the solution? If you’re going to eat snow, you may want to boil it.

Renovations coming for Aspiring Hut

Historic Aspiring Hut will receive a $100,000 refurbishment.

Owned by New Zealand Alpine Club, the iconic stone hut is situated in the Matukituki Valley in Mt Aspiring National Park. 

The Otago Community Trust Grant will assist with the cost of the upgrades, The Wanaka Sun reports.

The hut will receive an internal refit, earthworks to reduce dampness and a wastewater system upgrade.

“The east wall of the hut will also be extended, bringing the total bunk number up to 38 (from 29). For both its history, heritage and high usage, the renovation of this hut is very important for recreation access to the Aspiring region,” NZAC general manager Karen Leacock said.

Big pest project for South Westland

A $45 million project to eliminate possums, rats and stoats in South Westland has been launched, Stuff reports.

The project will cover a 100,00ha area from Ōkārito lagoon to the Southern Alps and is touted as Aotearoa’s largest and most ambitious predator-free project yet.

It will expand on Zero Invasive Predators’ (ZIP) work in Perth Valley, which removed pests with 1080 and traps, and kept them out with natural barriers like rivers and mountains.

Environment minister Kiri Allan said the project will create up to 50 jobs in the area, which has been hit hard by Covid.

“[This] support will allow locals affected by the pandemic to remain in South Westland while helping to carry out a ground-breaking project, which will both protect and restore the area’s natural heritage,” she said.

DOC’s Mark Davies said eliminating pests would protect New Zealand’s rarest kiwi – the rowi – and many other taonga, including kōtuku, kea, and the recently rediscovered Ōkārito gecko.

“The difference for our native wildlife will be immense. Our taonga species such as rowi, which have been brought back from the edge of extinction, will be able to thrive in the absence of predators,” he said.

New survey to study Waitākere kauri

Kauri surveys have begun in the Waitākere Ranges.

Led by Auckland Council, the surveys will monitor kauri dieback, and for the first time be extended to include healthy trees.

Auckland Council’s Lisa Tolich, said the council has been able to get an idea on how many individual kauri trees are in the ranges, and draw a sample of trees to survey.

“We are giving 3500 kauri in the Waitākere Ranges a full health check and will continue monitoring these specific trees for years to come,” she said.

“The trees have been randomly selected from the overall population so field teams don’t know going in whether they’ll be assessing healthy or diseased trees.

“This is important because it means we can build a picture of what’s happening across the entire population – not just the areas where we know the pathogen is already present.”

The first phases of the survey will be available in late 2021 or early 2022.