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December 2011 Issue
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Walkshorts, December 2011

Te Araroa Trail officially opens

After 17 years of nationwide effort and 700km of new track Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae will officially open the Te Araroa Trail on December 3 in Wellington.

The ceremony, which is open to all, will begin at 10am at Shorland Park, Island Bay, where the North Island section ends at the seashore – an approximate midpoint of the 3000km trail. The Te Araroa Trust is organising simultaneous opening ceremonies for the trail’s northern start, at Cape Reinga, and its southern end at Bluff.

Te Araroa – which means The Long Pathway – links New Zealand’s most spiritual, historic and scenic locations, from Cape Reinga in the north to Bluff in the south.

Te Araroa Trust chief executive Geoff Chapple said the trail takes its place alongside the world’s great trails, such as the Pennine Way and the Appalachian Trail, and is expected to generate millions of dollars a year, much of it in provincial communities.

However unlike overseas trails, Chapple said Te Araroa doesn’t just follow a single geographical feature – “its key feature is New Zealand itself”.

“New Zealand has all the diversity of a continent packed into two islands, so Te Araroa offers more variety than other long trails,” Chapple said. “You walk along east and west coasts, across farmland, through forests, over volcanoes, and sidle alongside the Alps.

“But unlike most of the backcountry tracks in New Zealand, Te Araroa also gives you the chance to meet the people – it goes through over 60 towns and six cities.

“It’s not just a physical trail but a trail that tells the history and culture of New Zealand.”

– A special Te Araroa Trail feature will run in the January 2012 issue of Wilderness

Graeme Dingle awarded for work with youth

Veteran adventurer, award winning author and youth worker Graeme Dingle came out tops at the 2011 Outdoor Excellence Awards in Wellington last month.

Outdoors New Zealand awarded Dingle the supreme award for his commitment to the wellbeing of young Kiwis through the development of the Outdoor Pursuits Centre in 1973 and in 2004 co-founding the Foundation for Youth Development (FYD).

The supreme award, sponsored by SPARC, recognises dedication, commitment and significant contribution to outdoor recreation and outdoor education in New Zealand.

Outdoor New Zealand chief executive Paul Chaplow said Dingle was an easy choice to receive the highest accolade of the Outdoor Excellence Awards.

“Graeme has lived a life of contribution to outdoor recreation and outdoor education as well as being an accomplished adventurer himself,” Chaplow said. “Dingle was the first to climb all the European North Faces in one season, and the first to traverse New Zealand¹s Southern Alps in winter.

“He’s been involved in numerous Himalayan expeditions and spent two years circumnavigating the Arctic. He has guided thousands of people on a variety of outdoor adventures.”

Dingle told Wilderness he was “deeply humbled” to receive the award, while surrounded by so many other great outdoor people present at the event.

He said he is proud every year FYD has 20,000 young people, generally from low decile schools, going through its programmes that range from six months to eight years in length and predicts it will be 50,000 by 2020.

FYD runs four programmes designed to build self-esteem, promote good values and teach valuable life, education and health skills.

Game Animal Council to shift the way pests are seen

The new Game Animal Council bill has conservationists worried because it seeks to reframe introduced game as ‘valued resources’ instead of pests.

The legislation will see the responsibility for managing some herds of game animals – including deer, thar, chamois and wild pigs – on public conservation land transferred from DOC to the new council, to improve hunting opportunities for those animals.

The bill was introduced to Parliament in October and is part of the National-led Government’s confidence and supply agreement with the United Future Party.

United Future leader Peter Dunne said the bill is the result of the Party’s long-standing commitment to improve the way deer, tahr, chamois and wild pigs are managed.

“United Future believes these animals deserve to be recognised as valued introduced species rather than the pests government policy has historically considered them to be; importantly this Bill does that by finally giving them their deserved status as game animals,” Dunne said.

Deerstalker Association of New Zealand’s advisor to the national executive Matthew Lark said the new council will offer NZDA many advantages.

Lark said the Council will create a new culture in New Zealand that shifts the way wild game animals are perceived from a liability to a valued resource.

“The council will be able to work on realistic management solutions to long-standing problems, rather than one bogged down in a historic anti-game culture as still thrives in some sections of DOC and regional councils,” Lark said. “It will give one loud voice to Government, into which NGO’s like NZDA can pour their messages.”

However, Forest and Bird, the Green Party, iwi and Federated Mountain Clubs (FMC) have criticised the bill, saying it could undermine conservation and create an un-level playing field for different backcountry users.

FMC President Richard Davies said FMC, which has many members who’re hunters, strongly supports recreational hunting on public conservation land.

“However, this bill will alienate ordinary hunters and trampers while catering to fee-paying international visitors,” Davies said, referring to the fact the main source of revenue for the Council will come from export trophy levies. “This bill removes the level playing field that previously existed for all those who love our public conservation lands and favours one small group,” he added.

Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations secretary Hugh Barr, who is a keen hunter and former NZDA advocate, was one of five people on a committee looking at the feasibility of the new council.

Barr supports an organisation similar to Fish and Game to oversee the interests of big game hunters in New Zealand, but said the bill tabled in Parliament is biased towards commercial interests rather than recreational ones.

“It’s biased in two ways towards commercial interests at present; the make up of the council and most of its funding stream will come from the commercial side of hunting,” Barr said.

Te Runanga o Nagi Tahu iwi stated in its submission on the new council three reasons it opposes the bill.

“Firstly, due to the process which has not considered iwi interests, secondly, over the potential delegation of control to a non-Crown agency which leads to iwi having no clear input into management of culturally significant mahinga kai, and thirdly over the potential costs to sustenance hunters, especially noting that the proposed Council appears to have an over-representation of commercial interests involved,” the iwi’s submission stated.

Green Party conservation spokesperson Kevin Hague said documents released under the Official Information Act show the Minister of Conservation and Government agencies such as DOC are worried about the bill.

“The Minister for Conservation, The Treasury, The Department of Conservation, and many other Government bodies are opposed to the Bill because it directly undermines the purpose of the Conservation Act, pest control programmes, and New Zealand’s clean green brand,” said Hague.

In its regulatory impact statement for the Bill, DOC said it was a “solution without a problem” and that it would have a high regulatory burden, high costs, and not be “aligned to the current wild animal control regime and legislative framework”.

Forest and Bird conservation advocate Claire Browning said conservation would be undermined by transferring DOC functions to the new council, because it would manage the herds for different purposes and have a “vested interest in sustaining pest animal populations”.

“Having two different organisations administering different pests on the same land will lead to confusion and conservation will suffer,” Browning said.

Community steps in to save Matai Bay Hut

An eleventh hour proposal by a group of Tennyson Inlet residents in the Marlborough Sounds has halted the removal of the 41-year-old Matai Bay Hut.

Godsiff/Matai Bay is located north-east from Duncan Bay in the Tennyson Inlet and is only accessible by water.

Tennyson Inlet resident Linda Booth said locals want to keep the hut because it’s the only one on the Pelorus Sound and offers a real wilderness experience.

“It’s in a superb setting, situated in virgin native bush and surrounded by strands of nikau palms,” Booth said. “It’s quite unique and would it would be sad to lose it as a true wilderness experience for future generations.

“Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.”

DOC decided to relocate the hut to incorporate it as the warden’s quarters of Nydia Lodge after it was seriously damaged by vandals during Easter. It is also prone to flooding.

Nelson said moving the hut to Nydia Bay would allow DOC to change Nydia Lodge from having a sole occupancy arrangement to a normal hut booking system during the summer months.

He said Matai Bay Hut is not well patronised and, with tightening funding in the department, does not offer a good return.

“We have to be careful how we spend our funding,” Nelson said. “By moving it to Nydia Bay it would help to open up the Nydia Track to mountain bikers and walkers so we’d get a lot more people out into the scrub.

“As far as bang for our buck goes, it’s a better plan.”

However, Nelson supports the residents’ proposal to keep the hut where it is: “We’re going to make it as easy as possible for them to take it over.”

DOC will be meeting the residents on November 29 to discuss the legal, health and safety and building issues.

“We’ll be talking them through a management agreement clause by clause so they know what they’re getting themselves into,” Nelson said.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing app

If you’ve ever wondered why the Tongariro Alpine Crossing’s Emerald Lakes are emerald then try downloading the new Pocket Ranger smart phone application to find out.

Project Tongariro, a Turangi-based community group, worked with DOC to create the application to transform how visitors to Tongariro National Park get information.  

Last month the two organisations launched Pocket Ranger which, among other things, provides route information on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (TAC), explains why the Red Crater is red and provides users with important safety and conservation messages.

DOC’s Tongariro conservancy community relations officer Dave Conley, himself a smart phone user, came up with the idea for the application a year ago.

Around 60,000 people walk the TAC every year and Project Tongariro has worked out 30 per cent of them, or around 18,000, own a smart phone.

Conley says the Pocket Ranger will enhance their experience by helping them connect with the landscape and its stories without leaving any visual impact.

“We’ve worked with Project Tongariro in the past on other interpretative jobs, everything from signs to books and displays, but this is a breakthrough in the way visitors get the information and the stories, on the spot, out in the park,” Conley said.

Marketing co-ordinator for Project Tongariro, Kim Manunui, says the application, which cost $40,000 to create, has two main functions.

“It’s a research and planning tool for visitors investigating the Crossing and the local area and a ‘ranger in your pocket’ when actually walking the Crossing, giving essential info such as weather and backcountry links and stories about points of interest along the track,” Manunui said.

The application also provides mapping and information about the local area including accommodation, activities, transport, guiding and dining. Project Tongariro hopes to generate income from the application by selling listings on it to local businesses.

Manunui said the current version is only the first release and new functions will be added over time.

An updated version, available in early December 2011, will have video clips with audio for each section of the Crossing and will include a Quick Response (QR) code reader. QR Codes will be placed on existing track markers at points of interest along the way and when scanned with a smart phone the QR Code will lead users directly to the related information or story.

Manunui said the Pocket Ranger can also be used as a ‘template’ or easily adapted for other great walks, national parks, cycle ways and mountain biking tracks.  

“This means other organisations can purchase the template for their own purposes for a fraction of the cost,” she said.

Conservation briefs

Aerial hunting investigation

Parliamentary Commissioner for Environment Jan Wright is investigating aerial trophy hunting on public conservation land. She told National Radio it seemed an anomaly that film makers are unable to get a concession to shoot a movie on DOC land, but hunters can chase an animal down in a helicopter and then shoot it with a rifle.

New tunnel for Southland parks

DOC and Southland District Council Mayor Frana Cardno are urging New Zealanders to make a submission on a proposed concession to construct a tunnel between Mt Aspiring and Fiordland national parks. The proposal requires the construction of about 150m of new road in Mt Aspiring National Park and an 11.3km tunnel under the Humboldt and Ailsa Ranges.

Cold end for snails

A faulty fridge is being blamed for the death of 800 native giant land snails that were relocated from the Stockton Plateau in 2006 to make way for Solid Energy’s open-cast coal mine. The snails were living in temperature-controlled rooms in the Hokitika when a malfunction dropped the temperature from the required 10 degrees to zero. Forest and Bird’s Nic Vallance said the deaths were avoidable and proved keeping native wildlife in fridges does not work.

Skills best taught by mum

The first takahe chick born this year at DOC’s Burwood Takahe Rearing unit will also be the first to be reared by a real mum rather than a hand puppet. DOC Takahe Programme Manager Phil Tisch said although using puppets helped prevent human imprinting on chicks, allowing chicks to remain with parents means they are able to pick up skills which would increase their own success in rearing chicks in the wild.

Expedition on hold after near-fatal avalanche

A successful ascent of Aoraki/Mt Cook turned to disaster when an avalanche swept over Sarah Wilson and Cat Shand during their descent of the Linda Shelf.

The climb to the summit went without problem, but slow progress meant they couldn’t get off the mountain before a storm from the south-east closed in.

Wilson said the storm created “treacherous conditions” on their decent of the Linda and reduced visibility to such an extent the pair was forced to communicate by tugging on their rope.

Realising they couldn’t continue, they opted to dig a snow hole rather than shelter in a nearby crevasse because they feared an avalanche might cover it.

As they were about to go to sleep they heard the stirring of the avalanche. “Then we heard this ‘omph’ above us and I said ‘Oh no’ and a few moments later we were buried,” said Wilson.

Wilson was lying down at the time and the avalanche buried her completely. She described the experience as like being “encased in concrete”. Fortunately Shand was kneeling and stood up when the avalanche hit and was only buried up to her waist.

Realising 47-year-old Wilson had just minutes to live, Shand furiously dug through the hardening snow with her bare hands to find her friend.

“I didn’t know what had happened to Cat, I couldn’t hear, I thought she’d been buried too,” Wilson told Wilderness. “If she’d been buried, we would have been dead.

“I was on my last breath, which is not a good place to be.

“I panicked and was shouting and the irony of that is Cat needed to hear me so she could work out where my head was. It was a pretty good moment when her hand came through and pulled the snow away from my mouth so I could breathe.

“Cat is a real hero”

Cold, hypothermic, with no dry clothes and their kit still buried, Wilson and Shand made haste digging their gear out and sheltering in the crevasse. They were able to get their stove going and change into dry clothes. Wilson is proud they walked out on their own accord the following day.

The injuries received to their hands while digging through the snow have temporarily scuttled Wilson and Shand’s CooktoCook expedition. After climbing Aoraki/Mt Cook via the Hooker Face, they were to cycle 660km from Mt Cook Village to Picton where they would finish the adventure with a sea kayak paddle across Cook Strait to Wellington.

“One of the reasons I do these big adventures is because it makes me take my own medicine,” Wilson said in an interview with Wilderness before the expedition began. “I’m encouraging my clients to push their limits and for me this expedition will push mine.”

Wilson and Shand are determined to finish the journey in one or two months once their hands have fully healed and they are able to properly grip their handle bars and paddles.

– Josh Gale