Monday, October 21, 2013

You'd never believe me

If I told you that the sea area between Kawau and Tiri was being churned up by maybe 100 boats, you'd call me a fibber. Well, normally you would be right. The reason for the fleet was easy to observe; thousands of gannets bombing into bait shoals pushed to the surface by marauding dolphins. Underneath all of that should've been masses of snapper. Tony and I headed out in The Booger just after a glorious sunrise, leaving martins Bay in our wake as we headed across to and past Motuora.

Its no real secret that the workups are on, and with a fine day forecast it was to be expected that a few boats would be out. it started quietly, with pods of dolphins here and there hunting for bait. We soft-baited and jigged respectively, waiting for signs of workups. The first couple of hours were slow and then WHAM, the dolphins hit the "let's eat now" switch all across the bay rapidly circling bait shoals and carving them up.

Gannets began to circle, then mass up and then bomb. At first the work ups were sporadic and fast moving; several times we set off at full noise but just couldn't get there in time. As the day warmed the workups moved from sporadic to steady. Kahawai joined in and we had some epic fights on light gear. But where were the snapper?

By 10.30 a fleet had amassed and every workup had an attending armada; even so it wasn't too crowded out there (which may describe how wide spread the workups were) and we had time to work up wind and drift into carnage all day without too many hassles with other craft.

We worked hard for our snapper; taking 5 legal fish up to 2.5kg, a couple of gurnard (Tony) and a swag of kahawai. At times I wished I'd taken the fly rod as horse sized kahawai chased bait across the surface...

Home with plenty of time to clean gear and fish, and prepare barbecued snapper. Yum.

Tony rigs something mean in the name of snapper catching

Sunday, October 20, 2013

My storm water goes where...?

Nearby my house, there is a storm water system. Rain water runs into a gutter system or dumps into a sloped area alongside the playing field outside my back fence and collects in a series of 2 ponds. The ponds have been there ever since we moved in, and hold waterfowl now and then. Ducks and pukekos. I once even saw a Canada goose in the upper pond.

The ponds also hold grass carp, and I’ve been known to stalk them and pretend to cast a fly to them. (A sign says “NO FISHING” in a number of languages; the carp are there to reduce weed growth. I’d practice catch and release of course and try and tempt them with all manner of weird as carp flies. One day I might hide in the bushes and try a few casts. Oooooh, what a rebel).
Overflow from the ponds dumps into a small waterway lined with manuka; then goes through a culvert and into a pretty innocuous stream, lined with gorse, wandering willy, ginger under a pine canopy. There’s always been a track through the bush, a network of routes provides a good series of walks that rate from easy to get your heart pumping. The stream was a write off, orange silt is never a sign of a greatly healthy waterway, and it was so choked by weeds as to be an unappealing and unattractive eye sore.
Over the past couple of years the council has come in for a bunch of flak for expenditure on a cycleway to replace the main bush track. They did more than that; clearing the waterway, creating bunds to hold back water in soaks, and creating small holding ponds. The change has been remarkable, even more so (from my perspective) since at least 2 families of ducks have moved right on in.  I now quite enjoy my family walks, stopping off to see how the ducklings are getting on. A great example of how creating habitat has encouraged waterfowl to use what was once junk land.
Duck paradise starts here....

The bottom holding pond (Here be carp)

Spillway from bottom dam

From here the water enters the stream

Weed ridden uselessness
The new cycleway

Newly created wetland & inhabitants

Upgrade stream channel. Cleaned, rock lined.

Bunds to control seepage and flow

..... and then, it all ends. 50 metres of wetland creation ends at a double culvert under an arterial road.

I know what lies at the other end of the culvert, but with no chance of any funding I'm just going to celebrate what we have got rather than think about the what-ifs.

And that's where my storm water goes. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

The most valuable time spent in May

On Thursday May 17, dad and I travelled to Hamilton to support our written submissions to the Department of Conservation regarding the draft Waikato Conservation Management Strategy (CMS). I talked about it in a post at the time. Andy had also spoken to his submission a few days later and commented that he felt his comments were well received.

We'd received a good audience by the panel, and I had left feeling confident that we and other hut custodians in the swamp would be able to retain our lodgings; even if more stringent regulations were to be imposed.

Having arrived back from family holiday to Hawaii, I was confronted with something like 480 emails accrued in a space of 9 days. Having distilled them down to a list of things that required attention (54 emails) and ditched the rest my eyes came to rest on one from DOC. I put it to one side and returned to it later in the day. A quick eyeball showed a letter offering thanks for having made a submission, as well as a link to DOC's response to submissions. 168 individual written submissions were made, although I don't know how many were supported verbally before the panel.

Within our area's users, it looks as though there were half a dozen submissions from individuals as well as our user group (Upper Piako Wetland Management Association) with the same central vein - retention of the areas duck huts (shanties) for reasons of historical significance, low environmental impact and for more practical reasons of safety of area users.

It had earlier seemed clear that DOC sought removal of structures (not hides or maimais) from the Kopuatai wetland, however this may not have been the intent. Either way, the amended draft strategy makes the following concessions:

2.5.13 Manage authorised51 private accommodation, including authorised private huts (duck huts) and encampments, on public conservation land within this Place in accordance with Policies 3.10.2 to 3.10.7 in Part Three, and the following criteria:

a)   must be available for public use outside the game bird hunting season
b) must comply with local authority building requirements;
c) must not be rebuilt if destroyed or falls into a substantial state of disrepair;
d) must not build ancillary structures, such as storage sheds, adjacent to existing
  huts; and
e) non-compliant structures and buildings will be removed. [939, 1178]

This policy is infinitely better than complete removal of the huts, and to my mind is a triumph for the partnership between DOC and the user group. The onus is now well and truly on the hut custodians to play their part - we will.That half day in May, spent talking to DOC's CMS panel, is in my mind the most valuable investment in time that could have been made. I think my old grand pop (a man of immense mana and one of the original hut custodians, now resting in a better place) would look down and give us all a pat on the back and say "well done men".