Community Work and Sponsorship Environment

Volunteer work on a new conservation initiative in Mt Aspiring National Park

Sometimes I take some time-out to help the NZ Dept of Conservation do braided river multi day bird surveys, or to help even the odds for endangered species like the Buff Weka, and once even did a bat survey in the dark.

In a joint venture with the newly formed Matukituki Charitable Trust, last week several of us headed into the West Matukituki Valley an hours drive from Wanaka, and laid many 500m lines of tracking tunnels on the opposite side of the river to the popular tramping trip to Aspiring Hut, from the Rob Roy Glacier track up to Pearl Flat. Each tunnel was placed 50 meters from the previous, with a max of ten per line [hopefully straight, and in the bush].

Tracking tunnels simply consist of long semi round or rectangular tubes, inside which a card and an ink pad are be placed.

Typically peanut butter is smeared in the middle of the tunnel to attract animals in and onto the ink, and so when they exit, they leave footprints on the clean card on either end, thus enabling predator control programmes to be tailor made for the predominate species identified.

To get animal densities, called tracking indices, tracking tunnels are placed on pre-determined lines in the bush. Most commonly 10 are placed at 50m intervals along each line. The cards are left overnight, and when collected the next day the footprints are used to determine what animals had been there.

full explanation via >> Tracking Tunnels | Conservation in NZ

Carrying the tunnels can be quite awkward…
Matukituki Charitable Trust Tracking tunnels

While Flo takes GPS settings Stu nails a marker to the tree a tracking tunnel is to be attached to at the base…
Matukituki Charitable Trust Tracking tunnels

We were so thrilled when a rare South Island robin found us and kept us company for awhile. The New Zealand robin/toutouwai is a sparrow-sized bird found only in New Zealand.

They are friendly and trusting often coming to within a couple of metres of people, but we are not always the attraction but rather the invertebrates disturbed by our activities…
NZ native South Island Robin

Crossing the Matukituki River each morning was a bit of chore in the frost, and river levels had to be monitored to ensure we could get back across later…
River crossing Matukituki River Mt Aspiring National Park

Gillian heads off fast with a load of tunnels to warm up as the frost and mist disperse …
Matukituki Charitable Trust's Gillain carrying Tracking tunnels

We did have vehicle support…
Matukituki Charitable Trust Tracking tunnel project

Sharks Tooth from the Matukituki Valley

Matukituki Charitable Trust Tracking tunnel project

Matukituki Charitable Trust Tracking tunnel project

But it was still quite hard work bush bashing…
Matukituki Charitable Trust Tracking tunnel project

But the views really made up for the sweat lost…
Plunket Dome - Mt Aspiring National Park

Matukituki Charitable Trust Tracking tunnel project

Beech tree Mt Aspiring National Park

Matukituki Charitable Trust Tracking tunnel project

My group having a self congratulatory “selfie” photo using my camera’s timer, to celebrate a job well done…
Matukituki Charitable Trust Tracking tunnel project

After another convivial and restful night in the Aspiring Hut Warden’s Quarters we headed out early the next morning followed by rain…
Aspiring Hut Warden's Quarters

Sheep Mt Aspiring Station, Matukituki Valley

Rainbow Matukituki Valley, Mt Aspiring National Park

Books Shop SlideShow

Otago Central Rail Trail easy guide

This innovative pocket-guide will change the way people ride the Rail Trail in Central Otago.


Over 10 000 people ride and enjoy the rail trail each year but too many ride each section without stopping to enjoy the side-trips.

This compact illustrated guide packed with useful facts, cross-sections, easy-to-digest information and suggested side trips will enhance your experience on the trail. A book to buy before the trip and to use as you do the trail.

The first section explains why Central Otago is so special, with an overview of natural history,  geology, climate, plants and animals. Photos help bikers identify the common plants and animals. The human history is equally fascinating and all about the first travellers, the squatters, the discovery of gold and the building of the Otago Central Railway on which the trail is built.


The cross-sections of each part of the trail along with maps of main towns and surrounding areas make it easy for trail trippers‚ to plan their movements. Includes tips for good lunch spots, fun quiz questions to enliven these breaks, locations of loos.

Also web-site links, to an Events Calendar for those who want to link their trip to regional activities, hints for taking better photos and biking tips.


This pocket-sized guide is so full of useful facts and easy-to-digest information that it should find a home in the pocket of every track visitor.


iCommunicate’s Donald L. is delighted that his below image of a New Zealand Bush Falcon has been included in this book. Capable of flying at speeds over 100 km/h and catching prey larger than itself, this New Zealand falcon / Krearea (Falco novaeseelandiae) is one of New Zealand’s most spectacular birds…