Friday, July 30, 2010
We drove about an hour North through the mountains to a town called Greytown where a group has been working for the past four years on restoring their local stream. The group is involved with planting native trees to protect the Papawai stream from the nutrient runoff in surrounding farmland. The spread of invasive species like crack willows and sediment build up has caused the stream to change its course in a number of places and so the community has come together to ensure that this area is protected and well taken care of for future generations to enjoy. Everyone has gotten involved; landowners, the town council, local Maori, and students form the local schools. The project manager took us down to the stream to check out the beautiful clear water that has returned as a result of the fencing (to keep livestock out) and replanting (to help restore the banks and filter the runoff). While we were there some eels came and fed on some breadcrumbs that he dropped into the stream. They were massive! Easily 2 metres long. Based on their length he estimated that they were about 80 years old. And because of the hard work that they had all undertaken to restore this area, the eels were starting to return in abundance. I wouldn’t want to take a dip in there but it was nice to see the ecosystem returning to its natural state.
On our visit, we met with a local apple farmer who showed us how the restoration program has benefited his land, as the stream runs right alongside his orchards. A few students came out and showed us where they had recently done a big planting. And a land manager from the regional council joined us to talk about the importance of these groups working together to ensure a successful outcome for everyone.
We also had the chance to check out another reserve in the area - Fensham Reserve - and take a quick hike through its 50 hectare trails, situated right in the middle of kms of farmland. This area has been restored to its natural forest habitat and is now being managed by volunteers in the area.
We got some great interviews and met some fantastic people before returning to the WWF office. It was so inspiring to see people rolling up their sleeves and contributing to help protect their local streams and forests. That’s what it’s all about – helping protect your own backyard and the wildlife that call it home. Imagine how different the world would be if we all did that!
- Radio New Zealand interviewing the program manager of the Papawai Stream Restoration Project
- Students from Greytown high school who recently replanted along a section of the wetland
- A local eel comes to say hello
- A section of the stream that has been newly cleared of invasive weeds and replanted with native vegetation
- The local Papawai marae where the stream runs past. A marae is a sacred meeting place for the Maori.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
It seems that with every posting I make, I can only upload a maximum of 5 images and so I am posting a second entry simply because 5 images do not capture the entire beauty, fun, and excitement of this past weekend. A few more are posted here for you:
- Visiting the Olympic Museum in
- Our favourite companion of the weekend (in all her 'bucked teeth' glory)!
- Stopping for a bit after one of our hikes (the Piller kids on the left side of the table are a real class-act!)
- Elena and I enjoying the yummy grub at Chow – an Asian Fusion (uber yummy) resto
- A lonely chimney sits in the middle of a farmer’s field. The sun was hitting it in such a stunning way that caused us to stop and turn around to capture the photograph!
The weekend started with my brother picking up our rental car; a beast of a car with ivory handles and an engine that squeeled its disapproval for a solid 20 seconds to a minute whenever it was turned on. We named it rumble.
We set off for Hawkes Bay (along the Eastern shore of the North Island) stopping in towns and cafes along the way. The town of Napier was where we settled for the next two days and stayed in a lovely B&B called the Green House on the Hill. Cute place and definitely recommended if you ever find your feet wandering through this place.
The days were spent cruising the wineries and testing out their products. New Zealand wine is tasty! Apparently the Hawkes Bay region is known for its chardonnays and while I’m not a big fan of them, I definitely enjoyed testing them out.
On our way back to Wellington, our route took us through the mountains where we stopped for a few hikes along the way. Mother Nature was good to us the whole time too which meant stunning sunsets, rainbows, and clear views from mountaintops. I don’t know what horseshoes that brother of mine brought with him but I hope he left them behind!
On our last full day together, we were back in Wellington and spent the day exploring Somes Island, the patch of land situated in the middle of the Wellington harbour. Over the past 100 years, the island has served as a human and animal quarantine station, an internment camp, and a military defence position. It’s now managed by forest rangers and today you will still find remnants of old barricades and quarantine facilities peppered across the island.
As I write this, C+E are now on a plane headed back to the Great, not-so-white, North. I miss them already but I am so happy that they were able to make it down for a visit. Safe travel home kids and keep in touch!
Friday, July 23, 2010
But enough about work. There have been far more exciting things on this week’s agenda! First and most importantly, my fantastic hubby arrived safe and sound on Thursday!! Sadly, he missed his connecting flight in Auckland due to baggage and customs issues but he caught the next plane out and arrived midday to an anxious and excited wifey with a flat white coffee! It wasn’t the nicest day to arrive into town but there will be many lovely days for us to enjoy in the year to come :D
We spent that evening cooking a nice dinner and getting him unpacked. The very next day, I reunited with my sibs who had spent the last week and a half touring the South Island. They covered 3,000 kms in 9 days and saw pretty much the entire island! Stunning pics and amazing stories. Beautiful mountains, adorable penguins, stunning architecture. I am so inspired for when we take our trip down there. There is just so much to see and do!
But the South Island will wait for another time. This weekend, it’s all about exploring Wellington and the North Island. Last night we went for drink-ee-poos and grub at a place called the Matterhorn. If you visit, we go! Everything was so great. The ambiance (beautiful wood ceiling, leather benches, fireplace, a living wall). We enjoyed scotches and martinis and moved on to ridiculously scrumptious steaks, lamb, and a cheese soufflé. Delish!
Today, we are picking up a car and heading over to the East Coast of the North Island for some wine tasting, hiking, and… Who knows?! But I’m sure I’ll have some great stories to tell upon our return!
Monday, July 19, 2010
Friday, July 16, 2010
Had a fun evening last night. Was invited to a sale at a store called Kowtow. Kowtow a Chinese term meaning the act of deep respect demonstrated by kneeling and bowing your head to touch the ground; a perfect name for this company. Run by a couple of artists (she’s a fashion designer, he’s a graphic artist), their main philosophy is to only use fair trade, organic materials and practices. Kowtow has done so well that they just recently moved to a larger studio and last night they hosted a cocktail party in their store and offered great discounts on their stuff. They also had photos of their recent trip to India where they visited the cotton factories and met some of the workers. An amazing pair with an inspiring philosophy. Plus, their stuff is a-may-zing!! Comfy, flattering cuts, and ethical. How could you go wrong? ☺ http://www.kowtow.co.nz/
The rest of the weekend will be spent running last minute errands and getting stuff together for Pete’s arrival next week – woohoo!!
Now, if I can just get up the motivation to take on Mother Nature’s crabby mood...
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
We cruised into town and explored a few shops before enjoying a yummy meal at my favourite café – Ernestos (remember stellar coffee, free range eggs, and local meats… Yummm!)
After that we visited Te Papa – NZ’s National museum where we spent hours learning about their native wildlife, traditional Maori paperskin mask making, the signing of the Waitangi Treaty, and the deep cultural and spiritual significance of New Zealand’s Pounamou (greenstone). What a place! The entire museum is free and it’s full of amazing stories and exhibitions. I am definitely going to go back, hopefully with each and every one of you ;)
The evening was spent cooking dinner and catching up. Poor C+E spent the evening huddled by the heater. That 35 degree weather back in T.O. has meant a little acclimatizing is required over here! A good night’s sleep and they were up and at ‘em again. Sadly, I had to work but they both had exciting days exploring the city; Elena visiting the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, Chris running 45k along the city trails and covering more ground than I’ve managed in a month! Crazy brother of mine…
After work, I went and met them at a restaurant called Chow – an Asian Fusion resto in downtown Welli. Super yummy and the company wasn’t bad either!
As I write this they are now headed Southbound on the Inter Islander ferry where they will spend the next week and a half exploring the South Island. I was half tempted to sneak myself into their suitcase but alas, I have responsibilities that I must attend to here…
I’m really looking forward to their return next week when we will take four days off and explore the North Island together. And (most importantly), Pete will be here by then!!! It will be fun gallivanting through the New Zealand wilderness with some of my favourite people!! Life is good.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Ok, so my last entry was kind of heavy on the conservation tone. Today, I bring you a little entertainment. Having been here for a month now, I have started to catch a bit of kiwi fever!
I have a tendency to pick up dialects pretty easily. It’s not something I’m necessarily proud of but it’s a habit that I can’t seem to shake. I have spent a good part of several conversations comparing Canadian and Kiwi terminologies for various things. For instance, we wear toques in the winter while New Zealanders wear beanies. To me, a beanie was a cap with little helicopter blades whizzing around on top of it. I thought it was the kind of thing a clown wears. Clearly, I was wrong!
A few more to tantalize your linguistic tastebuds:
Sweet as: “cool” or “awesome”
How you going?: How are you?
Choice: Very good
Chips: French fries
Fancy: Have a hankering for
Good on ya: Congrats, well done
Jumper: a woolly sweater (not a onesie, apparently!)
Many of these are clearly a nod to their
Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Today, I had the pleasure of meeting with WWF’s program manager for Maui’s dolphins. She's based in Auckland but is in Wellington this week for a marine sciences conference and took time out of her day to meet with me for lunch. The facts around Maui dolphins are staggering. Over the past thirty years, the population of these beautiful animals has declined by over 80%! Today their entire population is estimated at just 111 individuals putting them on the very edge of extinction. As a result, Maui’s dolphins are classified as the rarest marine cetacean in the world.
And Hector’s dolphins aren’t doing much better. Scientists estimate that more than 26,000 Hector’s dolphins lived around New Zealand’s shores in the 1970s. Today, it is thought that just 7,270 remain – less than one-third of the 1970s’ population.
So what’s causing this rapid decline? According to my fellow WWF’ers and marine specialists, the biggest threats are set net and bottom trawl fishing. These are fishing practices commonly used here in New Zealand that result in massive fish wastage, bycatch of unwanted fish species, as well as lost or abandoned nets which continue to fish, and, on occasion, catch seabirds or other marine mammals (including dolphins). A 2008 report by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) estimates that 110 to 150 Hector's and Maui's dolphins die in commercial set nets every year. Given that their populations are already sitting on extinction’s doorstep, these statistics are incredibly frightening.
The sad news is that these problems can usually be avoided. The catch and bycatch of set nets are determined mainly by the design and construction (particularly the mesh size) of the net, how it is set, and where it is set.
So what needs to happen? People need to start talking and working together. There’s a great group over here called Southern Seabird Solutions. They are “an innovative alliance that includes representatives from the fishing industry, government, Maori organisations and environmental groups that supports and encourages fishers in southern ocean fleets to adopt responsible fishing practices”. They have successfully reached sustainable fishing and management solutions in specific areas throughout the New Zealand marine ecoregion. With WWF’s help as well as active participation from the Department of Conservation and local fishing communities, there is still hope for these beautiful animals.
It’s because of us that they are on the brink of extinction. Now it’s time for us to fix our mistake. Hopefully, it’s not too late.
Monday, July 5, 2010
Who are New Zealanders? That was the question of the day and when I met with our market research agency, it was the topic of their presentation. It was interesting to note that of the four of us in the room, only one was an actual kiwi! The other three were from
The main message that was conveyed through their presentation is that New Zealanders are incredibly proud of their country. According to a poll run by the Gallup Organisation, they are ranked the 8th happiest country in the world. And so they should be. These little islands tucked away in the Southern Hemisphere have much to be proud of. If you don’t believe me, check out my previous blog postings!
While they may not always practice what they preach (environmentally speaking), they are often heard talking up their “greenness”, particularly to outsiders. Sadly,
From what I’ve noticed, kiwis are generally friendly, outgoing, and pretty laid back. There is actually a book (that I have yet to read but have taken out of the library) called 8 Tribes. This book “calls an end to the myth of the typical New Zealander and gives us a new vocabulary to talk about
Friday, July 2, 2010
Had a great time last night exploring a couple of bars. Went to an amazing Italian restaurant with my coworker and her friends. They make the pasta and pizza from scratch! YUM! I can't wait to take you there when you come visit. Yes - the use of the word "you" here applies to YOU! ;D
Made it home in time to watch Djokovic choke in the Wimbledon semi-final. :( Too bad. It should be an interesting final though. Fingers crossed this is Nadal's year!
Over and out.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Just like their terrestrial landscape, New Zealand has a unique and particularly rich marine flora and fauna. There are roughly 65,000 known and unknown species and the level of endemism, at 44%, is particularly high, making the New Zealand marine region a hot spot of marine diversity worldwide.
Several ocean currents collide near the southern tip of the South Island of New Zealand as cold water from Antarctica mixes with temperate water from the western Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea. These conditions enable a diverse variety of species. Some penguins (yellow-eyed) nest in the rain forest here, and (as I mentioned in my previous posting) it is the richest area for seabirds in the world! Because of all this the Australasian marine ecoregion is on WWF-International’s Global 200 list. This is a science-based global ranking of the Earth’s most biologically outstanding terrestrial, freshwater and marine habitats and provides a blueprint for biodiversity conservation at a global scale. These regions have essentially been identified to ensure that WWF’s conservation efforts around the world contribute to a global biodiversity strategy.
Gotta cut this one short but hope you enjoyed it!