Opin­ions on ge­og­ra­phy, cli­ma­tol­ogy and ecol­ogy.

Opin­ions on ge­og­ra­phy, cli­ma­tol­ogy, ecol­ogy and red-light run­ners.

North & South - - Columns -


I am go­ing through a chubby phase. Well, more of a post-menopausal, post- Christ­mas state of be­ing ( Re­train Your Fat Cells and Lose Weight, March). I’ve read your in­for­ma­tive ar­ti­cles, along with var­i­ous diet books. I have a sci­ence de­gree, have my head around choles­terol, low GI, in­sulin re­sponse and I’m ca­pa­ble of wad­ing through pub­lished pa­pers. I still, how­ever, sub­scribe to a sum­ma­tion of wis­dom from two men­tors: my mother and Mada­gas­car’s King Julien. “Eat your greens, don’t be greedy, savour a var­ied diet, and most im­por­tantly, you’ve got to move it, move it!” JANN-MARIE ROSS, AUCK­LAND


Mike White’s ar­ti­cle on kaki/ black stilt ( Last Legs?, March) may have left read­ers con­cerned that the con­ser­va­tion of this spe­cial Can­ter­bury wad­ing bird was be­ing im­peded by the lack of an aviary, which was de­stroyed in a snow storm in 2015.

I want to as­sure New Zealan­ders that the De­part­ment of Con­ser­va­tion has a sound strat­egy in place to con­tinue to build and pro­tect the frag­ile black stilt pop­u­la­tion in the Macken­zie Basin.

Part of this strat­egy is to re­build the lost aviary at Doc’s cap­tive breed­ing fa­cil­ity near Twizel to en­sure this pro­gramme can pro­duce suf­fi­cient num­bers of birds to con­tinue to slowly build the pop­u­la­tion in the wild.

DOC is in talks right now with an ex­ter­nal part­ner who wants to be in­volved and has also com­pleted pre­lim­i­nary de­sign work. The de­part­ment is com­mit­ted to hav­ing a new aviary in place in time for the next breed­ing sea­son.

Mean­while, this chick-rear­ing sea­son is prov­ing to be a good one. DOC has reared 142 young kaki this sum­mer, which com­pares well with the 120 and 149 birds reared the two sum­mers prior to los­ing the aviary. This cap­tive man­age­ment pro­gramme is world-lead­ing and has saved kaki from ex­tinc­tion.

How­ever, cap­tive breed­ing is just one part of the strat­egy to save this species. DOC has been suc­cess­ful in rais­ing black stilt chicks, but the main is­sue is their sur­vival once they are re­leased into the braided-river en­vi­ron­ment, where predators such as feral cats and stoats are the key threat. Cur­rently only about 30 per cent of cap­tive-reared young birds sur­vive to adult­hood in the wild.

DOC runs a trap­ping pro­gramme over 20,000 hectares in the Tas­man Val­ley to re­duce predators to pro­tect kaki and other braided-river birds. In re­cent years, DOC has de­vel­oped new meth­ods to con­trol south­ern black-backed gulls, which also prey on these birds. This pro­gramme has helped build kaki num­bers in the wild from a low of 23 adult birds to more than 90 to­day. How­ever, it’s not yet fea­si­ble to con­trol predators over the en­tire area where black stilt range.

This is why the gov­ern­ment’s Preda­tor Free 2050 strat­egy is so im­por­tant. Long term, this strat­egy is fo­cused on mak­ing kaki habi­tat safer and one where they are more likely to sur­vive. MIKE SLATER, DEPUTY DI­REC­TOR GEN­ERAL, OP­ER­A­TIONS, DE­PART­MENT OF CON­SER­VA­TION • De­spite Mike Slater’s at­tempts to soothe pub­lic con­cern, it is inar­guable that de­lays in re­plac­ing the Twizel aviary have sig­nif­i­cantly af­fected con­ser­va­tion of the crit­i­cally en­dan­gered kaki. Staff have had in­suf­fi­cient space for rear­ing chicks and ju­ve­niles, have had to leave eggs in the wild where chicks have vir­tu­ally no chance of sur­vival, have had to re­lease birds into the wild much ear­lier than op­ti­mal be­cause there is no space for them, and have even had to re­lease birds ear­marked as cru­cial breed­ing stock, to make room for new ar­rivals. As stated by DOC staff in the story, 20-30 more adult kaki could have re­sulted from the most re­cent breed­ing sea­son if there had been suf­fi­cient fa­cil­i­ties. Given it has taken nearly 40 years to in­crease adult kaki num­bers from 23 to 93, such an in­crease would have been dra­matic. While Slater in­sists DOC has a “sound strat­egy” for the birds, it sim­ply has not had the money to ex­e­cute it – as ex­plained by one of its se­nior man­agers in the story. It is heart­en­ing, how­ever, to note DOC has now de­cided to bring for­ward the aviary’s re­place­ment by at least a year. – Mike White


The ar­ti­cle on the trou­bles faced by DOC and the kaki’s strug­gle for sur­vival ( Last Legs?) was emo­tion­ally drain­ing and ac­tu­ally took me a few days to fin­ish. Be­tween read­ings, I watched a tele­vi­sion news item on Min­is­ter Mag­gie Barry’s visit to our Sub-antarc­tic Is­lands. She gushed about the ex­pe­ri­ence and stated it was def­i­nitely “one to tick off her bucket list”. Maybe this tour was one of the rea­sons she was “too busy” to talk to North & South about the fund­ing cri­sis fac­ing her de­part­ment?

I won­der if when her friend, John Key, gave her the job she mis­heard and thought she was be­com­ing the Min­is­ter of Con­ver­sa­tion, ap­pro­pri­ate given her back­ground in ra­dio and gar­den­ing chat shows. Un­der her ste­ward­ship, DOC has been fo­cused on tourism dol­lars and re­cre­ation, but that is in keep­ing with the whole “de­velop at all costs” po­si­tion of re­cent gov­ern­ments. It is alarm­ing that pivot ir­ri­ga­tors are threat­en­ing kaki while, in Hawke’s Bay, DOC is work­ing hand in glove with Na­tional Party sup­port­ers to ap­peal the court de­ci­sion stop­ping the Ru­atani­wha dam.

I hope Barry’s trip down south doesn’t bring dairy farms to the Sub-antarc­tic Is­lands (Min­is­ter of Con­ver­sions?). KEITH SIMES, HAST­INGS


Sarah Lang’s re­port on the dan­gers of running the red light made the point that cam­eras are a sig­nif­i­cant de­ter­rent ( See­ing Red, March). This proves that red-light run­ners are per­fectly ca­pa­ble of obey­ing the law when it suits them. But what of all the in­ter­sec­tions where there is no cam­era?

The ba­sic so­lu­tion, which would come at no fi­nan­cial cost, would be to re­in­state the for­mer se­ri­ous penalty for this, which worked bril­liantly. Drivers were so afraid of los­ing their li­cence that one sel­dom saw any­one run a red light. That is, un­til April 1, 1981 when a breach of the red light was re­duced to a cat­e­gory called, I be­lieve, “tech­ni­cal in­fringe­ments”, the only penalty be­ing a small fine. Un­sur­pris­ingly, the red-light running com­menced pretty well overnight, with an alarm­ing in­crease in crashes at in­ter­sec­tions.

At var­i­ous times over the fol­low­ing years, I wrote to dif­fer­ent min­is­ters of trans­port, and the Land Trans­port Safety Author­ity, ask­ing why a mean­ing­ful de­ter­rent penalty was not be­ing re­in­stated. I re­ceived not one sen­si­ble an­swer. Per­haps your pub­li­ca­tion might have more suc­cess than me in putting this ques­tion to those re­spon­si­ble for road safety?

With rafts of pro­tec­tive leg­is­la­tion over many ar­eas of our lives, it is a mys­tery why in­no­cent road users are not af­forded the high­est de­gree of pro­tec­tion by the law in this sit­u­a­tion. Fur­ther, it is a rea­son­able as­sump­tion that get­ting away with some­thing as ba­sic as ig­nor­ing the red light must en­cour­age a sim­i­larly ca­sual ap­proach to all other ar­eas of road safety. BEV­ER­LEY BLYTH, WHANGA­PARAOA *LET­TER OF THE MONTH


I would like to draw at­ten­tion to the part played by my hus­band, John Drake, in help­ing Ti­rau’s re­ju­ve­na­tion more than 22 years ago, when he de­signed and built the first “cor­ru­gated cre­ation”, the gi­ant Sheep ( Iron Side, Fe­bru­ary). The build­ing of the com­pan­ion Dog in­for­ma­tion cen­tre and toi­let build­ing, also on our prop­erty, was to have been un­der­taken by John but at that time he was suf­fer­ing a rheumatic arthri­tis at­tack and Steven [Cloth­ier] was per­suaded to try his hand.

John has al­ways been a handy­man, but the shap­ing of cor­ru­gated alu­minium was un­known to him, so when build­ing the Sheep in 1994, he made a model as a guide and scaled up from there. He bor­rowed a re­dun­dant hand iron-bend­ing ma­chine and bent the sheets to the shapes re­quired.

Steven, also be­ing new to cor­ru­gated sculp­ture, was en­cour­aged by my hus­band to build the Dog. Steven’s con­fi­dence grew and he un­der­took more com­mis­sions, in­clud­ing one from us in 2009 to build a gi­ant Ram’s head onto our sec­ond barn, along­side our Sheep.

For con­ceiv­ing and build­ing the orig­i­nal cor­ru­gated sculp­ture in Ti­rau, though, I nom­i­nate John Drake as the Tin Man of Ti­rau. NANCY DRAKE, TI­RAU


We’ve bro­ken a jour­ney in Ti­rau many times for a toi­let stop at the Dog and a cof­fee at one of the cafes along the main road, but Cas­tle Pamela is prob­a­bly the only place of note we’ve vis­ited. Your ar­ti­cle ( Iron Side) has given us many more options to ex­plore next time we are pass­ing through.

One point I would like to clar­ify is the claim that Ti­rau is pretty much the dead cen­tre of the North Is­land. This dis­tinc­tion be­longs to the Pure­ora For­est, where the ge­o­graph­i­cal cen­tre of the North Is­land is to be found on the south­west­ern flank of Mt Ti­ti­rau­penga, about 20km south­west in a straight line from Man­gakino; whereas the dis­tance to Ti­rau is ap­prox­i­mately 62km. The point is marked by a small obelisk giv­ing de­tails of how the spot was iden­ti­fied and the name of the sur­veyor who lo­cated the point. DE­NIS HIBBS, MAN­GAKINO • Ti­rau’s Sh­eryn Cloth­ier ex­plains: “De­nis is right – the ge­o­graph­i­cal cen­tre of the North Is­land is in Pure­ora For­est Park and is marked by an obelisk. Defin­ing the ge­o­graph­i­cal cen­tre is best de­scribed as cut­ting out a shape of the North Is­land and find­ing the balanc­ing point on a pen­cil. With an odd-shaped piece of land, this is get­ting the mass equal in all di­rec­tions. How­ever, if you draw a square box around the North Is­land’s ex­trem­i­ties, and cal­cu­late the cen­tre of that by draw­ing an X, you ar­rive at a GPS po­si­tion of 38°0’17”S, 175°35’36” W (Lat­i­tude: -38.004722 |Lon­gi­tude: 175.593333), which is across the Waikato River from Ti­rau, on the slopes of Mt Maun­gatau­tari.”


Re­gard­ing your edi­to­rial The Trump Ef­fect (March), I sug­gest Pres­i­dent Trump ex­empted Saudi Ara­bia from his travel ban as he prob­a­bly does busi­ness there, just like his ties to Rus­sia. But I would not be overly con­cerned about his longterm ef­fect on the world, in­clud­ing New Zealand, as I also sug­gest Trump may not live out his term of of­fice – he may be taken out.

He would not be the first US

pres­i­dent to go this way. This is, in part, due to the strength and po­lit­i­cal force of the US gun lobby, and Amer­ica’s wide­spread rights to carry guns at all times, in all places. Trump sup­ports the cur­rent gun laws and will never change, re­gard­less of the mass shoot­ings that will surely hap­pen dur­ing his pres­i­dency. A re­cent lucky es­cape was the ar­rest of two boys, aged 13 and 14, who were plan­ning a shoot­ing in a school gym: a copy­cat of the Columbine mas­sacre. When will it ever stop? MUR­RAY HUNTER, AUCK­LAND

ON NORTH & SOUTH’S Face­book page, Dean Sole wrote he was dis­ap­pointed that the March edi­to­rial’s ref­er­ence to the vic­tims of the Holo­caust – “the death of an es­ti­mated six mil­lion Jews, 250,000 dis­abled peo­ple, 200,000 Ro­mani peo­ple and 9000 ho­mo­sex­ual men at the hands of the Nazi regime...” – failed to men­tion “the five mil­lion oth­ers, mainly Slavs, who were killed by Nazi ex­ter­mi­na­tion squads”. • Duly and soberly noted. – Ed.


I’ve not yet read Jim Flynn’s book on cli­mate change, No Place to Hide, so I don’t know what he says about how we got into this pickle ( Pulling Up our Socks, Fe­bru­ary). For what it’s worth, here’s how I would put it: in 1824, Joseph Fourier cal­cu­lated that the Earth re­ceived in­suf­fi­cient en­ergy from the sun to be hab­it­able. Since it clearly was hab­it­able, he de­duced there must be “some­thing” in the at­mos­phere to make it so. In the 1860s, John Tyn­dall dis­cov­ered what the “some­thing” was – car­bon diox­ide. There was a cor­re­la­tion be­tween the CO in the at­mos­phere

2 and the av­er­age global tem­per­a­ture.

In 1896, Svante Ar­rhe­nius sought to quan­tify the cor­re­la­tion. He cal­cu­lated – by hand – that dou­bling the con­cen­tra­tion of CO would re­sult in

2 a warm­ing of about five de­grees. This was a lit­tle pes­simistic, but not bad for a hand cal­cu­la­tion. The cur­rent best es­ti­mates are in the re­gion of three de­grees. In 1901, Nils Gustaf Ekholm called it the green­house ef­fect, which is not quite ac­cu­rate as analo­gies go – a ther­mal blan­ket is more like it. In 1917, not­ing all the CO aris­ing

2 from the coal and oil be­ing burned, Alexan­der Gra­ham Bell warned that too much of it meant the green­house would be­come a hot­house. But at that time, the amount of car­bon diox­ide in the at­mos­phere was not ac­cu­rately known. In the late 1950s, Charles Keel­ing de­cided it was time to find out. He es­tab­lished a lab­o­ra­tory to do so high on a Hawai­ian moun­tain. Af­ter just a few years, he dis­cov­ered that, apart from a sea­sonal vari­a­tion, the con­cen­tra­tion was grad­u­ally in­creas­ing – in­ex­orably, year af­ter year.

The con­clu­sion was ob­vi­ous: ris­ing car­bon diox­ide, ris­ing tem­per­a­tures. In 1965, a fat re­port on the en­vi­ron­ment landed on US Pres­i­dent Lyndon John­son’s desk. Among other things, it warned that the con­tin­u­ously ris­ing at­mo­spheric CO was a threat

2 to the planet’s cli­mate. He asked if the threat was se­ri­ous, and was

as­sured that it most def­i­nitely was.

That was 1965. What has since been done about the threat? Ab­so­lutely noth­ing. Why? Be­cause the fos­sil­fuel in­dus­try and their sup­port­ers in busi­ness, pol­i­tics and the me­dia have waged an un­re­lent­ing, decades­long and dev­as­tat­ingly suc­cess­ful pro­pa­ganda war against cli­mate sci­ence. They have bam­boo­zled enough peo­ple into re­ject­ing the sci­ence and thereby sab­o­taged any ef­fec­tive cli­mate ac­tion. The fos­sil fools have put profit be­fore planet. Their im­mense wealth and power de­pend on their abil­ity to con­tinue sell­ing fos­sil fuel. But cli­mate ac­tion re­quires a ramp­ing down of fos­sil-fuel use. There­fore, this had to be stopped at all costs.

It might not seem too late to avert dis­as­ter, but this reck­ons with­out the in­er­tia of the planet’s cli­mate sys­tem. The con­cen­tra­tion of at­mo­spheric CO is cur­rently just over 400ppm.

2 The last time it was this high was a lit­tle more than three mil­lion years ago, dur­ing the Pliocene epoch. The cor­re­spond­ing av­er­age global tem­per­a­ture was two or three de­grees higher than to­day’s. There was not much snow and ice in the world; most was in the ocean. As a con­se­quence, the sea level was some 25m higher than now. It will take us a while to get to this state, but get there we will. Mean­while we won’t be stop­ping at 400ppm of car­bon diox­ide, will we? So it will get worse. Wel­come to the New Earth, cour­tesy of the fos­sil fools. DIGBY SCORGIE, KAIAPOI

A kaki chick. Though DOC has reared 142 kaki this sum­mer – a healthy num­ber com­pared to years be­fore a cru­cial aviary was de­stroyed – some chicks are be­ing re­leased into the wild be­fore be­ing fully able to fend for them­selves.

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