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Walkshorts, November 2012

Dan Schwass, left, and George Turner want their Adventure Buddy intentions system approved by Adventure Smart
Adventure Buddy designed by SAR for SAR

Two Nelson men have applied to Mountain Safety Council (MSC) to have Adventure Buddy, a free and monitored online intentions service, become a trusted provider on the Adventure Smart website.

Don Schwass and George Turner, both experienced search and rescue personnel, created Adventure Buddy last year when they saw DOC intended to stop taking outdoor intentions from the public.

Together they worked out the important questions and information police and SAR personnel require in the event someone becomes overdue.

“Adventure Buddy was created to resolve the pressing issue of getting timely, accurate and appropriate information in the search and rescue environment,” Schwass said.  “We are both strongly involved in SAR in the Tasman region and have been involved in numerous searches where the quality and relevance of the information hindered the effectiveness of the search.

“Adventure buddy was designed for search and rescue by people in search and rescue.”

Veteran search and rescue co-ordinator Sherp Tucker tested Adventure Buddy and suggested tweaks to make it better.

Tucker wrote a letter to MSC recommending Adventure Buddy become a trusted provider on Adventure Smart.

“It’s a first class system that asks all the right questions,” he said.

Schwass and Turner receive and check over every intention submitted on Adventure Buddy. If necessary they will contact submitters if any information is unclear.

When they are satisfied, they issue a receipt confirming they have received their intentions along with the day and time the user must confirm they’ve made it out safely. Schwass said it takes 15 minutes at most for a receipt to be issued.

Adventure Buddy also allows users to upload a photo of themselves and their gear which Schwass said can save police crucial time during an SAR operation.

“If we find an item of clothing in the field it can sometimes take half a day or longer to determine if it is associated with the missing person,” Schwass said. “With a photo we can immediately see whether it is or not.”

Adventure Buddy is compatible with smart phone technology, allowing users to complete the form and take photos with their phones. Users can also complete the form on Facebook.

Schwass has been involved in SAR since 1989.

Turner is a police officer and provided important knowledge to ensure Adventure Buddy captures information to assist police.

Schwass and Turner are waiting to hear if MSC will give Adventure Buddy trusted provider status on Adventure Smart.

Check out Adventure Buddy for yourself at

SAR volunteers search for missing airplane
The missing pilots were flying a Ryan B-1 Brougham similar to this. Photo: Archives via Flickr

The missing pilots were flying a Ryan B-1 Brougham similar to this. Photo: Archives via Flickr

An airplane that vanished in 1928 during the first attempt of a trans-Tasman flight has got search and rescue volunteers excited.

Veteran SAR co-ordinator Sherp Tucker is leading an investigation into the missing plane after an elderly pig hunter told him he came upon wreckage while hunting in Golden Bay in the 1960s.

From the information the hunter provided, Tucker believes the man found the airplane flown by Lieutenant John Moncrieff and Captain George Hood from Sydney, but which vanished en route to Trentham.

Tucker said the location where the hunter found the wreckage means whatever it was it would have to have “fallen from the sky” to get there.

The investigation into the missing plane is “a dream come true for a SAR trainer”, Tucker said, because volunteers from the region will have the opportunity to interview people familiar with the flight and other people who may have also found the wreckage.

“[The pilots] are well and truly dead, but the scenario is still well and truly alive,” Tucker said. “There were a couple of families involved in the original sighting and it was a big deal at the time in Golden Bay community.

“We won’t know what we’ll find out until we start investigating.”

Tucker said after conducting a thorough investigation he expects volunteers will conduct a ground search for the wreckage in late February and early March.

Anyone with information about the missing plane can contact Tucker on: 027 570 6098

Hut Pass losing value for northerners
Waitawheta Hut is no longer available to Backcountry Hut Pass holders. Photo: Alistair Hall

Waitawheta Hut is no longer available to Backcountry Hut Pass holders. Photo: Alistair Hall

Federated Mountain Clubs has voiced its concerns to DOC about the diminishing value of the Backcountry Hut Pass, especially for people in the upper North Island.

The Backcountry Hut pass costs $122 for 12 months or $92 for six months and allows holders unlimited accommodation in certain backcountry huts.

But FMC executive member Barbara Morris is concerned DOC may be breaching the Fair Trading Act by selling the pass as many huts described on its website as backcountry huts are not available to pass holders.

“If you buy a backcountry hut pass and then you suddenly find you can’t use it for backcountry huts, then that’s a problem,” Morris said. “Either DOC has to rename the pass or rename the huts, one or the other.”

Morris said of the 11 huts in the Northland, Auckland and Coromandel area, only two – Framptons and Tangihua in Northland – are available to pass holders.

The other nine have all been placed in the online booking system which automatically means the hut pass can no longer be used, even on a seasonal basis.

From November 1, DOC is also included Waitawheta Hut in Kaimai-Mamaku Forest Park in its online booking system, making one less hut available to pass holders.

Wilderness contacted the Commerce Commission to find out if DOC is breaching the Fair Trading Act, but did not hear back before going to print.

Morris said over the last 18 months, FMC has expressed concern about the inability of DOC’s booking system to accommodate the hut pass. She said she can’t understand why it’s taking the department so long to incorporate it into the system. “A private company would have this sorted in about a week or even a day,” she said.

DOC senior media advisor Herb Christophers said the department is moving to a new online booking system to make it easier for more people to gain access to recreation infrastructure.

He said DOC acknowledges that this impacts the value of the hut pass as it stands at present and is developing plans to accommodate various anomalies.

“DOC will be talking to interested parties to develop a process that will recognise the current Annual Hut Pass system while it works towards encouraging wider use of the hut and track infrastructure,” Christophers said.

Vandals wreck havoc at Lake Waikaremoana

DOC Lake Waikaremoana and a local restoration trust are looking for information about a mindless act of vandalism that has caused disbelief amongst the community.
Members of the Lake Waikaremoana Hapu Restoration Trust received a huge shock earlier this week when they arrived at Whareama Peninsula on Lake Waikaremoana to find their rat and stoat traps destroyed.

The Department of Conservation field centre supervisor Dale Tawa said he is also shocked someone would carry out such a selfish act of vandalism.
“The Trust work incredibly hard and this will certainly set their restoration programme on Whareama Peninsula back,” Tawa said. “The kind of vandalism demonstrated here is of a serious nature and is not acceptable.”

Lake Waikaremoana Hapu Restoration Trust stored the traps and boxes on Whareama Peninsula in Wairaumoana (the Wairau arm) of Lake Waikaremoana in preparation for employees to set trap lines in the new kiwi sanctuary.

Trust operations manager Robert Waiwai said the damage to the traps and boxes is very significant.
“A large number of boxes and traps were burnt, while other boxes were riddled with bullet holes and many others were physically smashed,” Waiwai said. “What’s really disappointing is that many volunteers gave their time to help the Trust make and transport these traps across the lake and this thoughtless act has destroyed their work, just like that.”
Waiwai said whoever is responsible would have accessed the area by boat and is likely to have camped at or near Whakenepuru Bay (Stump Bay), a favourite freedom camping area of many visiting boating families.

DOC and the Lake Waikaremoana Hapu Restoration Trust are asking the public to contact the Wairoa police if anyone has any information that could help identify those responsible.

FMC pledges $15,000 to fight monorail and tunnel
FMC’s Robin McNeil hands over a cheque for $1000 to Southland District Council Mayor Frana Cardno (left) and Save Fiordland Chairperson Daphne Taylor

FMC’s Robin McNeil hands over a cheque for $1000 to Southland District Council Mayor Frana Cardno (left) and Save Fiordland Chairperson Daphne Taylor

Federated Mountain Clubs of New Zealand, representing more than 15,000 trampers and climbers, has pledged $15,000 to the Save Fiordland campaign, which is preparing to take legal action should the Minister of Conservation grant concessions for either the Milford Dart tunnel, or Fiordland Experience monorail concession applications.

Already FMC has handed over $1000 to help fund legal research.

The legal funding is unprecedented, but FMC President Robin McNeill said it had little option. “While $15,000 was a lot of money, these projects strike at the heart of everything the Federation stands for”, he said. “These applications should have already been declined under existing DOC statutory plans made with full public consultation. That they continue makes a mockery of democracy.

“If these applications are granted, they will ruin special family tramping and hunting areas. Say goodbye to World Heritage recognition. And because of the precedent they will set, say goodbye to the backcountry throughout New Zealand.”

McNeill said trampers and climbers were not against development for tourism. But development needed to respect and maintain New Zealanders’ natural heritage for everyone to enjoy.

McNeill remained optimistic that DOC would not grant the concessions. In which case the money would still be needed to fight a likely appeal by the applicants against DOC’s decision, he said.

“It’s a mess either way. We’d sooner go tramping than fight legal battles”, he said, “but that’s not a choice right now.”

McNeill said it was critical that the Save Fiordland campaign succeeded and urged all New Zealanders to donate as more than $100,000 may be needed to take a judicial review.

Donations can be made via the Save Fiordland website

Good footwear essential for backcountry trips
Julian Stukenburg's boots were not stiff enough for the terrain he was in and are considered a factor in his death

Julian Stukenburg’s boots were not stiff enough for the terrain he was in and are considered a factor in his death

Otago Southland coroner David Crerar has warned trampers to pack the right gear and wear the right boots when they go into the backcountry.

His warning came in his formal finding into the death of Wellington tramper and Tararua Tramping Club member Michael Taylor.

Taylor, 60, fell on Mt Twilight, Mt Aspiring National Park on December 31 while scouting a route to the summit the group he was with were to take the following day. However, the coroner said trampers need to ensure their equipment is in good condition, adding, “especially their boots, and to concentrate fully on their footing at times where they are exposed to serious or fatal consequences in the event of a fall.”

While Taylor’s boots were well-cared for, the sole units’ edges had been worn away which may have contributed to his fall.

Sergeant Aaron Nicholson from Wanaka Police who led the search for Taylor after he was reported missing, said while it’s impossible to know if the boots were a contributing factor they “didn’t have all the sharp edges around the tread or heels that could be useful”.

“We can’t categorically say he has fallen because his boots have slipped and a different set of boots would have gripped,” Nicholson said. “It’s about being in the wrong position and he got himself into a position where if he did slip, he was going to fall to his death.”

Another tramper who died in Mt Aspiring National Park was wearing the wrong boots for the terrain he found himself in, Nicholson said. Julian Stukenborg climbed to Cascade Saddle in dry conditions but fell to his death when he sidled over snow and ice above bluffs in order, investigators surmise, to reach a better vantage point to take photographs. His lightweight boots were not stiff enough to bite into the terrain.

“He had a pair of very lightweight, soft soled tramping boots,” Nicholson said. “They weren’t sturdy and you couldn’t sidle well in them. When you looked at his boots and thought if someone was specifically going to be walking in snow and ice on steep terrain you wouldn’t take them.”

Nicholson added: “The boots are a big part of it but if you take one step back, the decision-making and staying on top of your game is far more important. Saying ‘I haven’t planned to go across the snow drift or above a steep bit of terrain so I have to think about my gear and how I’m going to do that’.

“If you’re going to be in that backcountry environment you need some good stiff boots.”