The Tararua on TV

Even if you’re not into hunting, the latest episode of NZ Hunter Adventures (Ep 9, Series 3) is probably of wider interest.

It’s viewable online on Choice TV’s website for the next 3 weeks, free registration required.

The episode features an expedition into the Tararua Range, with Derrick Field of the Ex NZ Forest Service group, which in modern times has taken over the maintenance of several of the range’s back-country huts. It’s definitely worth a watch if you’ve interest in the history of the range.


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Floyd Pond: A New Tararua Lake

There’s an interesting report on Stuff this evening about a landslide in the upper Tauherenikau catchment of the Tararua, which has created a new lake in the catchment surrounded by the Dress Circle and Alpha. The new lake was reported by Floyd, Joe Nawalaniec, Franz Hubmann and Paul McCredie, so kudos to them.

There’s a suggestion that the landslide might have been caused by the mag 7.8 earthquake in November, although as yet this is unconfirmed. The same earthquake created many new lakes in the south island, but this would be the first reported in the north.

Its stated location is lat -40.968234, long 175.296307 lat -40.969645 long 175.295829, which converts to a grid ref of around 5462230 5462074 (northing) and 1793222 1793179 (easting) when expressed in NZTM. With Topo50 maps that translates to BP33 932 621 (on BP33 Featherston).

The group is informally naming it Floyd Pond, after the dog. It’ll most likely now become a new destination for some of the more adventurous and skilled visitors to the range.

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DOC’s Comments on Funding

Lou Sanson, Director-General of DOC, was on TV3/Newshub this evening. He was talking about the possibility of charging for entry to certain National Parks. The angle of the report from Samantha Hayes was that New Zealand should charge more for stuff because everyone else does.

Numbers of tourists have been straining DOC’s ability to cope with managing their effects on the lands it manages, and so this has been a recurring topic in the last while. I’ve written about it in both December and March of 2016, and there’s been plenty of ongoing debate since.

A couple of things in this item really didn’t sit well with me.
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Protecting Paradise, by Dave Hansford (my thoughts)

Before I launch into this, I’ll insert a word for one of the best presentations I’ve ever seen on how the world’s going, and the impact we’ve had on it.

Less than a week before his death in May 2001, Douglas Adams gave a brilliant talk at the University of California titled “Parrots, the Universe and Everything“. He conveys many of his experiences and insights on extinction, mostly derived from his time producing the BBC’s Last Chance to See radio series in 1989. Adams’ 2001 talk is helpfully preserved online by Ted (link above) and I highly recommend it. He’s an excellent and humorous speaker yet his points are serious and well made. If you’ve limited time, jump to 26 minutes for his amusing experiences with the Kakapo, which he declares as a favourite of all the animals he saw.

Now, onto this largely unrelated book…


The full title of the book is Protecting Paradise: 1080 And The Fight To Save New Zealand’s Wildlife. It’s authored by Dave Hansford, published by Potton & Burton, and was released in October 2016. The publisher’s website seems to claim 250 pages, but the main text of the printed edition actually finishes on page 265. This is followed by 2 pages of acknowledgments, 6 pages of appendix, 31 pages of references and a 14 page index. That’s around 318 pages total. The 265 pages of regular text is divided into 22 chapters, averaging around 11 to 12 pages each. The book retails for $34.95, but it’s often possible to get discounts if you shop around, or check if the local library has it.

265 pages might sound daunting at first, but it well written. Chapters are well structured without being too long. Editing is of high quality. It’s easy to read. It’s not necessary to have a scientific background.

If this review isn’t enough, you’ll find an alternative review at SciBlogs, plus the author’s been interviewed by Jamie Morton of the NZ Herald and by Wallace Chapman on RadioNZ.


Protecting Paradise has been touted as a book about use of the 1080 toxin in New Zealand. 1080 is primarily used by the Department of Conservation for controlling rats, possums and stoats on the conservation estate, and by OSPRI (formerly the Animal Health Board) for controlling bovine tuberculosis, which largely spreads through possums. Right from the front cover it’s clearly framed as a 1080 book, yet it’d be a disservice to the author’s efforts to suggest it’s only about 1080, because the book is not a just raw explanation of 1080 and what it does. Rather, Dave Hansford has produced a comprehensive guide to the history, present and future of pest impact and pest control in New Zealand, including its social impacts.

It’s mildly ironic that a large component of conservation in New Zealand is about killing things. Explaining 1080’s role and workings in pest control is well covered, but it’s appropriate that the Protecting Paradise narrative goes well beyond this. The author’s spent large parts of the book examining what is increasingly becoming a social and ethical issue in New Zealand. Alongside the objective analysis, he’s spoken to a wide range of people to draw a picture of how pests, pest control and 1080 affects them, and what it means to them.

Lane read my mind, fixed me with a level stare: ‘Would you drink that water, knowing it had 1080 in it?’ I said that I wouldn’t, and I meant it. I don’t share his blanket antagonism to 1080, but most of us might empathise with his experience. We all carry the caution gene. What’s more, we like to think that we carry a sense of natural justice: there’s something understandably disturbing about a Government dropping poison from the air—against the express wishes of some—around our homes and across our treasured spaces. That’s powerful, almost Orwellian, imagery, and it’s a potent anathema.

—page 76.

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It’s about the spending as much as the funding

Last March I expressed my views here on calls to add more charges in various forms to parks and their facilities, and particularly on differential charging for tourists.

Recently this topic has been refreshed in media. It might be because the NZ Tourism Industry Association (the main association of subscribing businesses who charge tourists for experiences) having released a report arguing that there should be more privatisation in the operation of public assets, and suggesting more money should be raised directly from their users. The report is announced here, which includes a download link for a 24 page executive summary.

Here’s some more random and recent coverage on the topic, all from Fairfax: Kiwis risk losing an ‘unalienable right to wild places’ (23 Dec 2016), Dominion Post Editorial (27 Dec 2016) – Yes to a tourist tax, Tramping group fights plans to charge tourists for using Great Walks (30 Dec 2016).

Great Walks have been singled out in the popular media discussion, with much made of the point that Great Walks “lost” around $3 million last financial year. The Tourism Industry argues that DOC runs them inefficiently, and that much could be gained with forms of privatisation.

In my March 2016 post I’ve already expressed most of my views and reasoning around charging for access. On the Great Walk thing, I’d just add that since their inception, Great Walks were never intended to make a profit. There are multiple intents with Great Walks, but part of their purpose was to attract the masses of visitors to a few very specific places where so many people could be more easily managed.

It’s safer, and often more enjoyable, for people with lower skill and experience levels. At the same time much of the visitor pressure is lifted off the rest of the network. If costs get too high, there’s a higher incentive for people to disburse through all the other random places which are harder for DOC to predict and preempt their management for higher visitor numbers. That’s especially a risk when everyone’s so easily trading secrets in the internet forums and back rooms of backpackers about the best next place to go which authorities haven’t yet caught up with.

It should be about the spending

Something I didn’t address in my previous post is that I think much of this discussion is being misguided from the start. Reports and discussions and social media threads are mostly considering methods of funding DOC, or funding the Conservation Estate if not DOC. Maybe it’s about whether there should border taxes or entry fees or conservation passes or increased facility fees. Anything to make up for the lack of public funds which we’re providing! Talking about funding sources, though, doesn’t actually address the question of how much money is needed, nor what we could expect from it.

My own view is that New Zealand’s issues, at least when it comes to spending, are largely about how much we, as a population, value the land and what’s in it.
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Is this normal?

On Friday 22nd October, 2016 (last couple of paragraphs):

Pouakai Hut

Meanwhile, police also rescued two people who had got lost on the Pouakai track on Friday.

The pair were reached at Pouakai Hut on Friday afternoon, and were walked out on Friday evening, a police spokeswoman said.

Then, on Thursday 17th November, 2016:

Search and rescue staff have headed up to Pouakai hut to rescue two trampers that were “cold and wet and a little bit lost”.

A police spokeswoman said they had called emergency services after becoming stuck at the hut on the top of the Pouakai Ranges in Egmont National Park near Mt Taranaki.

The spokeswoman said staff were preparing to head up to the pair at 1.30 on Thursday afternoon and would walk them out of the park.

The pair had food and water, and were not in immediate danger, she said.

Here is Pouakai Hut on a map.

I’m not a Taranaki local but I’m there frequently enough that I’m not a complete stranger to Pouakai Hut or the Pouakai Range. It’s a 1.5 to 2 hour walk up, for the reasonably fit, from the end of Mangorei Road. Most of that walk is under trees, and virtually all of it is artificially stepped and boardwalked.

When I read about the first event I was surprised that someone could reach Pouakai Hut and still require help. Maybe it was just bad timing when asking for help, or being exhausted having somehow become lost amongst the heavily artificially tracked Pouakai Range. Less than a month later, however, it’s apparently happened again. Two people found their way to Pouakai Hut and, somehow, didn’t feel capable of getting themselves down.
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LINZ seeking feedback on Topo Map Production

New Zealand has a great official mapping system in place, thanks to Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) having a mandate to produce and maintain consistent, national topographic mapping. Since 2009, this mandate has materialised in the Topo50 and Topo250 map series’, respectively 1:50000 and 1:250000 scale maps. Topo50 maps, in particular, are frequently used for tramping.

As of Tuesday, however, LINZ is seeking feedback on the future production and prices of paper maps.
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More Group Coordination Problems

From the Herald about a week ago:

Three young men took a wrong turn at the Red Crater Summit and wound up heading along a ridge to Mt Tongariro’s summit in 70km/h winds, with icy rain falling, snow underfoot and visibility at just 10 metres. Meanwhile, the main group carried on and the leader did not realise until they got to the Ketetahi Shelter, that three of her group were missing.

On the ridge, one of the students turned back, leaving the other two still ascending the mountain. Some time afterwards, the cold and wet pair realised they were lost and running out of strength, with hypothermia beginning to set in.


[Professional guide Terry] Blumhardt dug a trench in the ice and put up an emergency shelter and the trio force-fed the hypothermic young men with sugary food, electrolytes and hot drinks and wrapped them in foil blankets in an attempt to revive them.

Once they had warmed up a little and after two RARO rescuers had arrived, the group attempted to get the stricken students off the mountain.

The visibility made a helicopter rescue impossible and so the rescuers had to half walk, half drag the young men down to Central Crater to get them out of the wind, then walked them further down the mountain to below the cloud cover…


[Former police senior constable Cliff] Jones estimated the temperature on the ridge was well below zero. He said if help had not arrived, they would have died and it was touch and go whether they could even get the young men walking again and off the mountain before dark.

“This is one of the closest I have seen for a long time.

“These people haven’t got the relevant experience or possibly the relevant training to be carrying out what they’re doing.

“Somebody needs to be taken to account. They bloody near caused the death of two boys there yesterday.”

This incident has also been covered by Stuff. Unfortunately with the educational institute (Te Wananga o Aotearoa) not saying much except that they’re running an investigation, media coverage seems to have been relatively minimal.

Nobody died, thankfully, and thus the coroner’s not involved, so there’s no guarantee that results from that investigation will ever be released in a public way. There’s also no guarantee that it’ll even be an appropriately run investigation for adequately assessing what happened and what needs addressing. Hopefully we’ll see the institution pressed for answers in due course.
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Something to listen to

I’ve not yet read Laurence Fearnley’s Going Up Is Easy, but it’s on my reading list. It’s the biographical account of Lydia Bradey as the first woman to ascend Everest without oxygen, and the only New Zealander to do so.

Last Monday, Radio NZ began playing a 10 part audio adaptation of her story. It’s narrated by Lydia Bradey herself, and began playing on Monday as a daily part of Kathryn Ryan’s Nine to Noon programme. The episodes will show up here as they become available over the next two weeks.

Also of interest will be Kathryn Ryan’s interview with Lydia Bradey, from June 2015.

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One Way Communication

There was a report a couple of days back of some people being rescued in Kahurangi National Park, having activated a personal locator beacon.

The three women […] had been tramping on the Leslie-Karamean track when they became stranded on Sunday by the rising waters as they attempted to get to the Venus Hut.

After retracing their route, they sheltered at Thor Hut overnight before reassessing their situation. With river levels still rising on Monday morning, the women activated their emergency locator beacon. […]

Rescue helicopter pilot Barry McAuliffe said the women set off the beacon so people meeting them at the end of the track didn’t consider them overdue.

“They were just worried about their deadline at the other end and if they weren’t there at the end then all hell would have broken loose,” he said.

There’s been some criticism in social media about whether this was an appropriate activation. From that description is reads as if they were most likely safe at a hut.

Exact guidelines for appropriate PLB use are ambiguous. The NZ Radiocommunications regulation which grants a general licence for broadcasting signals on 406 MHz states that it’s only legal to send a signal under that licence if safety of life or property is threatened. The Mountain Safety Council states that PLBs “must only be used in life threatening situations“. Maritime New Zealand’s Beacons page has a lengthier explanation (abbreviated below):

A distress beacon is an emergency device to be used when assistance is required to ensure the safety of lives e.g. any life threatening situation or when a serious injury has occurred – it is not a taxi service!

Situations can deteriorate rapidly, however, if you are unsure about when to activate the beacon, it is better to activate it and get help – don’t wait until it’s too late!

When considering activating your beacon please remember that carrying out a rescue can be extremely dangerous not just for the casualty but for the rescuers as well, particularly if the rescue is carried out at night or in poor weather conditions. If your situation is not life threatening and you are in a safe and secure position it may be prudent to delay activation of the beacon until daylight or the weather conditions improve.

In other words, the agency that’s mandated as a first responder to PLB activations in New Zealand states that it might be acceptable to activate a PLB if you think the situation may get worse. That makes sense.

The pilot quoted above suggests that the activation was appropriate, and without a full context beyond a media that’s often incomplete and inccurate with this type of thing, it may be worth giving the party the benefit of the doubt. This is certainly a good opportunity to discuss some of the wider issues around PLB activation, though.
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