Appropriate under Commentary
By Rex N. Gibson This is a situation where you have to see the forest, and not just the individual trees; or more correctly see the ecosystem and not just individual species interactions. Brown trout (three in total) were first … Continue reading
by Ben Hope Apathy is commonplace. Just think back to general elections where usually about one million New Zealanders did not vote or were just so disinterested they didn’t register as voters. Recent Fish and Game elections showed a minority … Continue reading
This from The American Conservative in 2016 – it’s not only New Zealand wresting with gun control What liberals and the NRA both get wrong. By MARC COOPER • March 21, 2016 The most fervent and polarized sides in the renewed debate on … Continue reading
by Ben Hope In 1958, a Californian Professor of Zoology Dr William Graf, after studying New Zealand’s wild deer situation on behalf of the US state of Hawaii wrote that there existed “an anti-exotic wild animal phobia — not … Continue reading
Guest Opinion by Tony Orman
A Marlborough region recreational sea fishing group has challenged the Minister of Fisheries Stuart Nash over the Labour Party’s 2017 election promise to investigate the quota management system, often referred to as QMS. On February 5, the minister announced in the “NZ Herald” that he had abandoned Labour’s election pledge to hold an independent review of the fisheries quota system.
“It is of deep concern that you could dishonour this pledge by a simple comment in the “NZ Herald” in February. So much for political integrity and honour,” said Marlborough Recreational Fishers Association (MRFA) chairman Peter Watson in a letter to government.
In his reply to a MRFA letter Minister Nash stated he had strong faith in “the competent, knowledgeable people” in the Ministry. However MRFA said his comment lacked both reality and credibility.
While respecting that there are some competent officers in the Ministry, the experience of MRFA over the issues of the Marlborough Sounds blue cod closure in 2008 and the subsequent mismanagement and poor decision making of the ministry, had left MRFA with little confidence in the bureaucracy.
“To further undermine confidence has been kahawai depletion, King Salmon farming issues, discriminatory set net bans on the recreational public and inability to deal – or show any interest – with the basic problem in the Sounds of habitat/ecosystem degradation. Frankly it has shown the Ministry to often be woefully incompetent,” said MRFA.
The Transferable Quota Management System (QMS) had privatised the resource with corporate companies reselling in ‘wheeling and dealing’ buying out quota, allowing corporate companies to accumulate and aggregate quota and thereby dominate the resource. Fish dumping, misreporting of catches and corporate company refusal to allow observation cameras were examples of failure of the QMS. In 2017, MRFA and other recreational groups were therefore heartened by Labour’s pre-election promise to conduct an independent credible enquiry into the QMS.
“It is of deep concern that you could dishonour this pledge by a simple comment in the “NZ Herald” in February. So much for political integrity and honour.”
Other groups have also expressed deep disappointment.
Council of Outdoor Recreation Council of New Zealand chairman Andi Cockroft said fisheries minister Stuart Nash on 5 February in the “New Zealand Herald” admitted he had abandoned Labour’s election pledge to hold an independent review of the fisheries quota system. Greenpeace’s Russel Norman said the broken promise was the work of New Zealand First and its MP Shane Jones, who received a $10,000 donation from corporate fishing company Talley’s in 2017.
Andi Cockroft said the “about-turn” by Minister Nash reflected the power and influence of the corporate commercial fishing companies over successive fisheries ministers.
MRFA in its letter said “Yes Minister – the classic TV comedy “Yes Minister” in which bureaucrats fool the cabinet ministers – was alive and well, in Wellington.
MRFA said corporate companies held far too much sway with government.
“The ministry understandably comes under strong pressure from the corporates. It is public knowledge that the corporates donate to political parties and individual MPs.”
Newshub on 1 February this year reported “Talley’s donated $10,000 to Mr Jones’ 2017 campaign. And while Mr Jones accepts that, and that he’s mates with Talley’s boss, Sir Peter Talley, he says it doesn’t mean anything.”
From the internet Nov 12, 2018 “It’s little wonder that, once an MP, Jones received donations worth $10,000 from both Sealord and Talley’s. In fact, the latter also bankrolled the new-and-improved populist Jones’ campaign in Whangarei for NZ First last year.” There are also allegations of corporate fishing companies donating to other MPs. Other MPs beside Shane Jones received campaign donations from corporate fishing companies.
MRFA said if the Labour-led government had honoured its 2017 election promise to conduct an independent credible enquiry then the questionable relationships would have been open for public scrutiny.
MRFA said .any of the management failures in the current QMS system had been swept under the carpet and certainly cannot be addressed by the ministries, i.e. Ministry for Primary Industries or Fisheries New Zealand, because they have been responsible for the failures.
© Marlborough Sounds
© Kahawai have been severely depleted in Marlborough
Contributed by a lawful member of the NZ firearm owning public
The Ides of March – it is said to beware of them. In ancient Rome, the Romans considered the Ides of March (March 15) as a deadline for settling debts. But if you’ve heard of the Ides of March, it’s probably due to William Shakespeare. In Shakespeare’s play “Julius Caesar”, a soothsayer attracts Caesar’s attention and tells him, “Beware the ides of March.” Caesar ends up dismissing the soothsayer, saying “He is a dreamer; let us leave him. Pass.” Two acts later, Caesar is assassinated on the steps of the Senate.
On March 15th 2019 an Australian born leftist struck a blow against the lawful gun-owning community of New Zealand from which we may never fully recover.
In the immediate aftermath of the heinous killings at two Christchurch mosques New Zealand’s inexperienced “accidental” Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, recognized and seized the opportunity for an orgy of virtue signalling unparalleled in the world to that date.
Donning a Muslim Hijab “as a sign of respect” the Prime Minister “led the Nation” in assuring the, so far, the small Muslim community of New Zealand that “they are us”. It is abundantly clear that a majority of them don’t actually want to be “us” and prefer to maintain their distinctive clothing and uncompromising “religion” with its hatred of gays and treatment of women as second class citizens.
It became bizarre. All this was brushed aside, ignored, as Radio New Zealand was ordered to play the adhan or call to prayer and submission “La ilaha illa Allah” (There is no God but Allah) in our still nominally Christian country.
Almost immediately after Jacinda Adern (mindless of her huge carbon footprint) jetted off to bask in the adulation of those two small-man titans of international virtue signalling President Macron of France (approval rating barely 30% up from 23% late last year) and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada (whose approval rating is “hideous” at -27%).
Whilst many in New Zealand lauded Ardern for her “caring and compassion” a significant number of the more worldly-wise were not so fooled and looked on in disbelief that a Prime Minister could be so un-self-aware as to be pictured with two such soy boy loser politicians on the international stage.
Of far more and lasting significance than her pandering to Islam was the ban that Jacinda Ardern immediately announced on “all the guns used in the Christchurch shooting” and the ban on the “manifesto” of Brenton Tarrant which laid out in considerable detail why he did what he did and answered many of the questions the public had a right to ask. This simultaneous attack not only on entirely innocent, law-abiding, licenced gun owners and on the opportunity for the public to gain an understanding of why this horrible attack took place on New Zealand soil, is deeply disturbing and highly suspicious. Some have argued that Ardern is following a script written by the hard left, anti-gun activists which seeks to disarm the law-abiding worldwide and make gun owners into pariahs.
Whether this will be successful in New Zealand remains to be seen. New Zealand has had a strong “gun culture” since Captain James Cook first arrived here and firearms are “Taonga” for Maori – good luck convincing them to give up their treasure.
Now, four months on from the Christchurch shooting, we have a fairly good idea the way in which the Government is intending to penalize the law-abiding but absolutely no idea of what, if anything, they are proposing to do about illegal firearms used by the growing criminal gang fraternity and organized crime. The arrival of violent deported biker gang members from Australia, some of whom may have international gang associations with such groups as MS13 (who make the MM and BP look like a bunch of pussies), is a big concern. But the government thinks that confiscating semi-auto sporting rifles, many of which have been owned entirely without incident for decades is the most important priority and will somehow “keep us safe” – dream on!
One senior police officer, who told us he is “very experienced,” said on TV the other day that “taking these semi-auto guns off the streets” will mean we are all safer. How does one rise to a senior rank in the police while spouting such rubbish?
As a lawful gun owner of unblemished record for more than 50 years I have to tell him that these guns were never “on the streets” and mouthing Tony Blair’s stupid and offensive remark following the Dunblane incident in 1996, does no favours for his credibility. The only time I have ever seen an AR15 “on the streets” it has been in the hands of a member of the biggest gang in the country. Weren’t the gang just all over the place following the mosque shooting and, ask yourselves, to what purpose exactly?!
Among measures in the second round of gun law changes just announced are reducing the licence period from 10 years to five. Going to a ten-year licence from the lifetime licence produced no measurable effect and no benefit so we can expect the same with this pointless change except, of course, an increase in cost and the bureaucracy so beloved of left-wing governments. An attempt will be made to register all guns over a five year period. Registration schemes have been tried and found to be without value in numerous countries. Canada spent $2 billion on their Bill C68 (against the advice they sought from the New Zealand police) before abandoning the system as ineffective and a waste of resources in 2012. A number of other measures have been proposed which will achieve precisely nothing and which will, hopefully, not survive the proper Select Committee process denied to the most contentious measure in New Zealand’s firearms history.
It is worth noting that the police do not maintain a Register of Stolen Firearms. So if they happen to come across an illegally held firearm with its serial number intact in the course of their work, they have no idea where it came from or who it legitimately belonged to. Such a register would be small, not a great many guns are stolen each year, easily maintained, accurate and might very well have some practical use in solving crimes. The government and police don’t seem to think this would be worth the effort. Why not?
Also not mentioned in the latest round of law changes was the long-overdue removal of administration of the Arms Act from the police. It is the job of the police to deal with criminals. The vast majority of licenced shooters are NOT criminals and should, therefore be of no concern to the police unless they come to their attention in some other matter. Police do not issue drivers licences but deal effectively with motoring offences. We could expect a much more effective and less costly system of licencing if firearms licences were handled by an independent contractor which would free up police resources to concentrate on criminals.
Of course, all these new laws are going to cost the taxpayer. The cost will be vast – make no mistake of that. Two hundred million dollars has been budgeted for the woefully misnamed “buy back” which indicates to me that the government does not expect a high degree of compliance. In the last week or so the press and radio have begun to question whether the expenditure of such huge sums of taxpayers money on virtue signalling legislation which the large body of overseas experience shows, will achieve very little if anything at all. Most certainly it will not do anything “to keep us all safe” and is a waste of scarce financial resources. This is a little bit of good news.
When the public wake up to the fraud that is being perpetrated upon us by the Ardern Government they may well be “a little bit miffed.” Let us hope that awakening happens before next year’s election.
Footnote: For understandable reasons, the writer requested his/her name not be published
Editor’s note: For some reason, the media seem to have missed that the tragic mosque shooting took place on the “Ides of March”. Was it deliberate as to date or coincidence?
By Rex N. Gibson
Are our nitrate laden water supplies killing us? Sadly New Zealand now has one of the highest bowel cancer rates in the world; and it is growing. How is “God’s Own country”, of just 4.8 million people, which markets tourism, and its exports, as “100% pure” (and “clean and green”) in such a medical crisis?
It’s the sort of statistic – along with other unenviable ones – which belies the marketing claims. All is not well in “God’s Own”. Governments may turn a blind eye to statistics like bowel cancer rates but many, including scientists, are deeply concerned.
On a recent dull spring morning a small group of like-minded folk met in my garage. No we weren’t plotting “the revolution”; or were we? You decide. The bench had been cleared and Victoria University’s newest scientist recruit, Dr Mike Joy, led us through the process of determining nitrate levels in bore water samples. The study was commissioned, commendably, by Fish & Game NZ.
Left: Dr Mike Joy Right: The portable Nico real-time nitrate test unit
Mike had previously alerted me, another executive member of the NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers, Fish & Game NZ HQ, and the news media, to a Danish study published in the International Journal of Cancer, relating to nitrate concentrations and a significant health issue for New Zealanders; colorectal cancer (often referred to as bowel cancer). New Zealand has one of the highest colorectal cancer (CRC) rates in the world. The question is “Why?” CRC is the second highest cause of cancer death in New Zealand, over 1,200 a year.
In New Zealand, Colorectal cancers cause as many deaths each year as breast and prostate cancers combined .It also kills more than suicides and the road toll combined.
Our eclectic group around the garage bench included a Fish & Game staff member, a sculptor and environmentalist, a Fish & Game councillor (also a farmer), a retired vet with aquiculture degree qualifications, and yours truly. We all share a commitment to improving the quality of our water resource. We had collected or received 114 samples of bore (drinking) water from across Northern Canterbury (Loburn to Ashburton, Christchurch to Methven), and more were dropped off during the morning. Mike had brought and set up a portable apparatus (a Nico real-time test unit) for measuring nitrate levels.
So, what did the Danes find? Dr Jörg Schullehner’s team from the Department of Public Health at Aarhus University said “Our study shows that people who were exposed to the highest concentration of nitrate in drinking water (above 9.3 mg per litre of water) had a 15% greater risk of getting CRC”.
They assessed nitrate exposure among 2.7 million adults based on 200,000 drinking water analyses from 1978 to 2011, and included 1.7 million individuals with the highest exposure levels in their main analysis. That was a very robust study. The cancer risks remained significant even at low levels of nitrate deemed acceptable by current drinking water standards.
This standard was 50 mg nitrate per litre of water, but the increased risk of cancer started at just 3.8mg/L of water. Schullehner added “Today, the problem is mainly concentrated in the small private wells, as well as places with high nitrate leaching and where the local soil and geological conditions mean that nitrate can more easily be leached to the groundwater”. This exactly parallels the problem in New Zealand’s intensive dairying areas.
Left: Sample testing Right: Recording
Each sample was tested and the results tabulated. Fifty-eight of the 114 registered readings were above the current threshold for potentially increased cancer risk; almost exactly half (50.8%). Aarhus University gave 3.8mg/L as the “lethal” point. Many of our Canterbury’s samples exceeded this significantly! Dr Joy said “the sad thing was that the results of the random sample came as no surprise”. Fish and Game’s chief executive Martin Taylor stated that the results showed “the cows are coming home to roost. Some detractors will say this is scaremongering. It is not!”
If the drinking water (nitrate) levels have the potential to kill us, or at least give us cancer, then what are the rivers doing to kayakers, rafters, picnickers and anglers who use these waterways? The health risk arises when nitrate is converted into carcinogenic substances that are known as N-nitroso compounds in the body. Colorectal cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in Denmark and New Zealand, and the third most frequent worldwide.
The findings also back up Dr Alastair Humphrey, Canterbury’s Medical Officer of Health, whose warnings over nitrate levels go back years, largely in regard to the acute effects of “blue baby syndrome”. In this nitrates are converted in the gut of babies (and via pregnant women to foetuses) to nitrites which lock onto haemoglobin molecules and reduce the oxygen supply to developing organs, including the brain.
New Zealand’s highest levels for CRC occur from Canterbury to Southland. The highest rates occur in “Pakeha” New Zealanders. This area is now also the heartland of “industrial dairy”. Is industrial dairying “cancerous”? The Danish study gives us “direction”. New Zealand just has to follow it.
Below: Labelled Canterbury samples
Canterbury, Otago and Southland have regional councils whose have often been considered AWOL when it comes to environmental health issues for the last couple of decades. Nitrate leaching into depleted water catchments has increased exponentially. Many of these areas rely on subterranean aquifers for drinking water. Most people living on the region’s farms drink bore water from them, as well as those living in urban areas such as Christchurch.
The nitrate leaching from cattle urine and, especially, from over-application of water, urea and phosphate fertilizers on pastures is significant nationally. Is this a medical crisis; a true “time bomb” situation? CRC can take 20 years to appear. Perhaps the shareholders of the corporate farms (which dominate the South Island’s east coast) who reside in Remuera, Karori, Fendalton, etc. are more concerned with “the bottom line”, than the colorectal cancer levels in those who actually live on the land. It has an almost Dickensian feel to it. One commentator said “When they have felled the last tree, eaten the last steak, drained the last river, and poisoned the last aquifer, perhaps then they will realise that you cannot eat money”.
Another F & G study, also led by Mike Joy, has now shown that Northern Canterbury’s rivers are infected with two strains of anti-biotic resistant E. coli. Nick Smith’s “swimmable rivers” targets were a joke. Now they are becoming a very sick joke (a deliberate pun). When will it stop? In a bizarre moment I recalled the old line about “Drink and be merry, for tomorrow you die”. Just as Socrates was sentenced to death by drinking hemlock, will our nitrate laden water do exactly that to us?
Footnote: Rex N. Gibson is the Freshwater Spokesman for the NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers. He is an ecologist and scientist and with a deep personal interest in rivers and public health.
Journal Reference: Jörg Schullehner, Birgitte Hansen, Malene Thygesen, Carsten B. Pedersen, Torben Sigsgaard. Nitrate in drinking water and colorectal cancer risk: A nationwide population-based cohort study. International Journal of Cancer, 2018; DOI: 10.1002/ijc.31306
Guest Post by Andi Cockroft It all started back in 2000 when Stratford District Council became so concerned with the state of a locally renowned bridge over the Arnold Stream. So much so that they attempted to block the bridge … Continue reading
By Rex N. Gibson
Early this year (mid-season) I landed a sea-run salmon at Kairaki (Waimakariri mouth). My first reaction was “about time”. A lot of hours had gone into its pursuit. It became the beautiful smoked salmon on our dining table over several meals. However a “regular” who spends the salmon season at the Kairaki motor camp and fishes most days, later advised me that no other salmon were landed there for the subsequent two weeks. Have I caught my last wild salmon?
We are talking here about the second most heavily fished location in New Zealand, and one of the traditional congregating places for Canterbury’s salmon anglers! For decades an average of over 60 anglers fish there each day; January to April. For these people it is a vital part of their heritage and both their mental and social well-being.
Canterbury’s salmon fishery is one of only two Quinnat (Chinook or King) salmon fisheries established outside its Northern Pacific homeland. It thrived in Canterbury’s larger braided rivers from the Waitaki north after the introduction of these northern Californian fish in 1905 until the end of the 20th Century. It was a cornerstone of the region’s outdoor recreation, but since the 1990s something has changed to almost destroy that.
Top of the North Canterbury Fish and Game Council list of priorities is to resurrect the region’s wild salmon fishery. It was the platform on which many had been elected last October. The following tables from F & G show the dramatic decline in those fish returning to spawn. The numbers for the Central South Island are just as depressing.
North Canterbury Preliminary Spawning Escapement Numbers 2019
|Cass Hills St||117||48||Glenariffe||100||55|
|Cora Lyn||28||10||Manuka Pt||43||103|
|One Tree Swamp||17||19||Mellish St||133||120|
|Total Count||252||149||Total Count||855||432|
Peak Count x 1.5 + 50% harvest = Total Return of 336 (Waimakariri) and 908 (Rakaia) in 2019.
NB Equivalent figures in 2001 were 567 (Waimakariri) and 1,924 (Rakaia).
Figures provided by North Canterbury Fish and Game.
The spawning counts, over these two major rivers, are thus down 66%, and the Peak Count totals down 50%. This fishery now fits the recognised description of an endangered species. Less well known salmon rivers like the Hurunui, Waiau and Clarence have similar declines. The numbers for the Central South Island region (Rangitata, Orari, Opihi and Waitaki) are even more depressing.
Fish & Game face these questions: Why has this happened, what is/are the cause(s), and how can you stop the decline? F & G’s national salmon committee is advising on this. Past F & G Councils in Canterbury had faced the same problems. When they considered “solutions” they found that many licence holders were more prepared to shoot the messengers than face the possible (difficult) consequences. The “denial and hope” forces dominated.
The new Council (new because 10 of the 12 had not stood in the previous election) have unanimously decided to use science and data, rather than “political” pressure and gut feelings, to dominate their decision-making. Cawthron reports, salmon symposia notes, NZ Salmon Anglers Association data, staff surveys, and documentation dating back as far as the days when the Marine Department oversaw the fishery, provided a wealth of information.
The dramatic demise in the salmon population had occurred when several ecological limiting factors hit it at the same time:
- Massive increases in the amount of water being taken into irrigation races following the intensification of dairying on the Canterbury plains post 1990; much was sprayed, and then evaporated, in the middle of the day without reaching plant roots.
- This also reduced river flows and the number of braids serving as rearing habitat on their journey to the sea.
- Virtually every water off-take had non-compliant and ineffective fish screens.
- Rapid depletion of underground aquifers adjacent to salmon rivers (also used for irrigation). Many of these aquifers are hydraulically connected and draw their replacement from the same rivers by seepage. The Canterbury Plains are primarily porous outwash gravels from past glaciations.
- Significant changes in land use (intensive farming practices) around several key traditional high country spawning streams.
- Changes in chemical composition of the waterways through escalating amounts of nitrate and phosphate run off from the largely unchecked intensive farming practices.
- Regular spraying of the river beds with glyphosate, and a cocktail of other herbicides by the regional council.
- Major changes have been occurring in the marine species composition and physical conditions off the Canterbury coast where the salmon spend much of their lives.
- Large releases of commercial salmon farm smolt/fry have affected both the genetics and competitive advantage of the wild salmon.
- Increased harvesting of salmon holding up in the pools below the spawning streams.
- The lower numbers of salmon running up the rivers to spawn in the late summer and early autumn season caused by an increasingly higher percentage being harvested.
What did these factors affect most directly?
- Salmon fry were not making it down to the sea. Instead they were ending up on irrigated paddocks. The most recent estimate is that 30 – 40% die in this way. Seventy percent of New Zealand’s total irrigation now occurs around the main Canterbury salmon rivers.
- The reduced summer water flows owing to over-abstraction, resulted in higher river water temperatures. Shallow water over hot stones heats rapidly and salmon are distressed by temperatures over 18 degrees, and will often die by 22+ degrees. Last season the Waimakariri ran at 22 degrees for most of the peak two months of the normal salmon season.
- The ex-salmon-farm stock were competing for both food and, eventually, spawning gravels with the wild stock at crucial times. These wild stocks are less well equipped to produce successful off-spring. They had been specifically in-bred to just grow fat quickly rather than for the variability that is essential for survival during environmental fluctuations (natural selection 101).
What are the solutions?
There is no single answer for Fish and Game to turn to for a remedy of all these issues, i.e. the over-abstraction of water, non-compliant/ineffective fish screens, changing conditions at sea, threats posed by farming practices on private land, nitrate and phosphate run-off, and the regional councils’ chemical warfare practices.
All F & G can do is look at season length, closing fishing areas, commercial releases, and daily (or season?) catch limits; which they are doing. A new regulatory model based on linking the allowable catch with the spawning return rate is also being worked on for 2020-21. They will also need to regulate in common across both F & G regions to even the impact of changes; new territory for them. F & G is thus only able to treat the symptoms of this chronically ill recreational pursuit.
So who can deal with the other factors and perhaps save the fishery? That answer is simple; it is the regional council. Environment Canterbury (ECan) is responsible for all other limiting factors, except the conditions at sea. ECan covers both of Canterbury’s Fish and Game regions. For the last nine years their government appointed commissioners have shown little inclination to take these issues seriously. Sadly environmentally unsustainable intensive farming has been the priority.
It is up to every Central South Island and North Canterbury person of voting age, with a love of clean water and outdoor recreational pursuits, to vote in an environmentally responsible council next October. It is obvious that everyone needs to fully research the candidates’ backgrounds, and vote accordingly, or the malady currently affecting New Zealand’s major sea-run salmon fishery will surely become terminal and salmon fishermen will not rest in peace.
Footnote: Rex N. Gibson is the Freshwater Spokesman for the NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers. He is an ecologist and scientist and with a deep personal interest in rivers and outdoor recreation.
Entertaining Wildlife Diversions
by Ben Hope
One evening last year a friend and I were hunting some of Marlborough’s backcountry around a sharp ridge that was punctuated by some rocky outcrops – ideal native falcon habitat. So it proved and being nesting season it was not long before we were startled by the whoosh of a swooping falcon dive bombing us and it’s harsh cry.
It continued to swoop at us. Unfortunately it’s alarm call would probably have alerted any deer. But we got a wild pig that trip but the falcon was the more indelible memory.
That falcon would have been the “eastern falcon.” Ornithologists apparently recognise there are three forms that vary in size, colour and habitats. The ‘Bush Falcon’ is found in the forests of the North Island and the northwestern South Island, the ‘Eastern Falcon’ habitat is the open country of the eastern South Island whilst the ‘Southern Falcon’ is of the coastal Fiordland, Stewart Island and the Auckland Islands.
It’s not the first time I have been dive-bombed by a native falcon. The “attack” usually comes in nesting season. Dogs make nesting falcons particularly twitchy.
Falcons are renowned for their speed of flight which they use to snatch their prey such as a tui in mid-flight. How fast? Assessments vary. The Te Ara encyclopedia says “the New Zealand falcon (kārearea) hunts mostly other birds in the air, flying at speeds up to 200 kilometres per hour.”
Other times falcons, outside of nesting season, may just sit and stare. It pays to keep an eagle eye out for them. Three years ago, I spotted a falcon atop a big rock. I took one photo and then successively taking photos, slowly walked towards it. I got to about five metres before it silently took off.
Wildlife can often put on entertainment plus for the backcountry person. One day in Hawkes Bay, while fishing a wilderness stream I paused to change a fly. Two old billy goats appeared across the stream, unaware I was there. Both goats sported long beards and with horns large and twirly.
Instantly the first goat was galvanised into playful action and next moment the two grandpapa billy goats were engaged in a game of tag more befitting young kids.
For perhaps ten minutes I watched the two elderly gentlemen engage in a game probably learnt from childhood. Then I ruined it by brushing a sandfly off its feasting on my neck. Both saw the movement and they stared. Did I detect embarrassment? Did they sense their game for two venerable and grownup billies looked ridiculous?
Ridiculous or not it was entertainment of the best.
Ever seen adult hinds (deer) having a throwback to childhood by indulging in tag and chase with yearlings? I did once, watched for a good ten minutes and then stealthily retreated away leaving them to their mad-cap game.
Last year, I rounded off an evening hunt and was heading back down a track sidling the spur when I spied a deer, belly deep in the water feeding on the over-hanging green grass. Then as I watched another deer burst from cover and ran into the pond, followed by a third deer.
The two played chasing in and out and back into the water while the deer feeding – presumably a hind – carried on feeding. I sat and watched from a distance, fascinated by deer oblivious to their audience.
One roar in Hawkes Bay on the Burns Range, Dave Mabin and I watched a big antlered stag with a couple of hinds being tentatively challenged by a young stag with mediocre antlers. We watched as the big stag every now and again chased the smaller stag away and then returned to the hind. From a couple of hundred metres away, the big stag then mounted a hind and served her. It was a rare moment for in his classic book “A Herd of Red Deer,” scientist Fraser Darling said “an observer may witness considerable sexual activity and herding behaviour on the part of the stag, but the act of copulation is rarely seen—.”
Mostly the sideshows are more subtle, more cameo than a full-blooded gladiatorial contest. Once in a duck shooting maimai a hawk perched within centimetres of my face, unaware for thirty seconds of my presence. It stared coldly around, preened itself and it was only my stretching cramped leg muscles that ended the show. I saw a hare swim a large river one morning and on another occasion watched a cock pheasant repel three aggressive magpies.
Who hasn’t been charmed by the company of the curious bush robin or the friendly fantail?
On one occasion in the Westland valley of the Crooked River I watched as a native falcon was harassed by six tuis – normally the falcon’s prey. The tuis realising there was strength in numbers bullied the hapless falcon who just sat there looking most miserable.
For me these little sideshows I stumble upon add immeasurably to the enjoyment.
You increase your chances of being an audience by taking your time. Unfortunately all of use are prone to varying degrees of too much hurrying. Perhaps its the force of habit of the work day week? All we need to do out in the hills is to stop and look about more.
© Two big "buddy" stags
A group of scientists have come out critical of the New Zealand fishery’s quota management system. Claims that New Zealand has a “world leading” system for sustainably managing sea fisheries are in error, says an international team of fisheries experts.
Their views were published online in the official journal of the prestigious US-based National Academy of Sciences, a member organisation of top scientists. The scientists critical of NZ’s QMS were Professor Elisabeth Slooten, Department of Zoology, University of Otago; Dr Glenn Simmons, New Zealand Asia Institute, University of Auckland; Professor Stephen Dawson, head of Department of Marine Science at the University of Otago; Associate Professor Graeme Bremner, Botswana International University of Science and Technology; Professor Simon Thrush, head of the University of Auckland-based Institute of Marine Science; Professor Hugh Whittaker, School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies, University of Oxford; Dr Fiona McCormack, Anthropology Programme, University of Waikato; Associate Professor Bruce Robertson, Department of Zoology, University of Otago; Professor Nigel Haworth, Management and International Business, University of Auckland; Philip Clarke, Quadrat Ltd; Professor Daniel Pauly and Dr Dirk Zeller, Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia.”
“Claims by MPI and the fishing industry about the excellence of the QMS simply do not match the facts,” said researcher Dr Glenn Simmons from the New Zealand Asia Institute at the University of Auckland Business School.
Professor Liz Slooten from Otago University said, “The majority of New Zealand fish species are managed on the basis of fishing industry information only, such as self-reported catch and effort data, without any independent science. Many of these fisheries are doing very poorly and causing serious environmental impacts. New Zealand is failing miserably at looking after the majority of our fish stocks for the public.”
Professor Steve Dawson, Head of the Department of Marine Science at the University of Otago, saids the “world leading” spin on the QMS was “so often repeated that it is now earnestly believed by the majority. While the notion that New Zealand leads the world might promote a healthy spirit of innovation, it can also degenerate into smugness and complacency – such complacency is rife in MPI and among politicians.”
The QMS had resulted in the majority of fishing quota being bought by a small number of companies and wealthy individuals.
” This has been bad for small-scale fishers, bad for managing fish populations and bad for protecting the marine environment,” he said.
The paper rejected claims that an opinion survey showed the QMS was a success. The authors said these claims were based on an “untrustworthy” opinion survey that focused only on management of high value, high volume species and interviewed only seven people, five of whom worked for the fishing industry, MPI or NIWA (who do stock assessments) and two of whom were anonymous.
Guest Opinion by Rupert Pye
Following the terrible Christchurch shooting, government backed by Nationa’s, rushed through with “indecent haste” law banning military style weapons and laid out confiscation of military style weapons via buy-back.
The law lacked thought and foresight. That is becoming more apparent day by day. However before I delve into those aspects, might I add the manner in which government – all three parties Labour, Greens and NZ First – indulged in indecent haste flew in the face of democratic principles upon which society is based.
NZ First’s Clayton Mitchell assured the firearm owning public, the select committee considering the bill, had acted fairly. This was impossible for it was reported there were over 11,000 submissions. The select committee MPs had only a few days to read 11,000 submissions. Does that sound even remotely possible?
The Law Society President argued the bill was being passed too fast. Even officials themselves noted in the analysis of the bill that they had very little time to properly scrutinise the details.
Fast-tracked in the wake of the Christchurch terror attack, the new law banned most types of semi-automatic weapons from sale and use in New Zealand, as well as a number of associated parts. National backed the bill, and National front-bencher Judith Collins injudiciously was reported to have lashed out at a law abiding firearm owner making submissions.
Now allow me, dear reader, to make two things clear. I cannot understand why anyone would want to own a military style weapon. But then I don’t understand why some people collect biro pens or matchboxes. The other aspect which politicians failed to comprehend – and it was so basic – was the only ones to surrender firearms as required by the new law, would be law abiding firearm owners. The underworld comprising the likes of drug peddlers, gangs, criminals, white supremacists and potential terrorists would not surrender their illegal weapons.
It gets worse than that. I received reports of military style weapons being sold to the underworld elements. One e mail said “a friend just sold his A cat 15 to the local Mongrel mob for $3500” Another e mail from the Central North Island told of “a local who got $5000 for his (military style weapon) from a Headhunters member.” As one person on the e mail trail put it “this is a bonanza for the gangs who have plenty of money and a great opportunity, to upgrade their arsenals.”
I don’t approve of owners of military style weapons selling them under the table so as to speak, to law breakers. It is immoral. But it was Parliament that created the climate for that to occur because they failed to think coolly and clearly and by doing such, showing disrespect for democracy in the bill passed with thoroughly indecent haste.
Politicians failed miserably. Only ACT’s David Seymour had the courage and intelligence to oppose the panicked stupidity.
In my humble opinion, it would have been common-sense to have simply required owners of military styled weapons to give the police the registration numbers of military styled weapons so as to be recorded.
The police with several of senior spokesman obviously with a prejudice against firearms, were to blame too for provoking a reaction that has seen the gangs and criminals – and would be terrorists – more heavily armed – with illegal weapons. Consequently and arguably the stupidity has increased the chances of another terrorist attack in the future.
Instead the law makers, public servants such as police should have been asking questions about the Christchurch tragedy. Why, how and on whose instructions was Tarrant given a firearms licence especially with irregularities in his application which should have rung alarm bells? Reportedly Tarrant was under surveillance in his native Australia.
There was a hysterical reaction by the prime minister and all parties (except ACT) to the Christchurch massacre. It was fair enough, in my opinion, that a video which claimed to portray Tarrant shooting a semi-automatic rifle should be banned. But it leaves the question what has government and National responsible for three government terms (2008-2017) done about mass shootings portrayed in video games, horrifying acts of murder by shooting and burning appearing regularly on television news and in television programmes? What of puerile paint-ball games where people enjoy the pretence of firing a pretend firearm at others in killing spree style?
Yes I know many of us older ones played “cowboys and indians” as kids. But paint-ball games are adults – not kids – playing pretend killing sprees.
Have the politicians considered “cause and effect?” The Christchurch shooting was the “effect.”
The causes are in an increasingly aggressive, violent and selfish society – that is mentally sick.
by Tony Orman
The arrival of the migrant native bird the cuckoo used to be eagerly listened for around October 1. The bird is small and is more often heard than seen, identified by its distinctive whistling call repeated several times. But this year I have heard only one or two.
Another native bird which has markedly declined in numbers is the kingfisher, once frequently seen sitting on roadside power lines. Now only occasionally while fishing the Wairau River, I might hear the kingfisher’s distinctive call.
On the upper Wairau River while trout fishing, there is no song of the cicada but only silence. Cicadas are important as food for insectivorous native birds such as fantail, rifleman, whitehead, grey warbler, fantail and others. For trout they are a considerable part of the summer months diet.
But it’s not only cuckoos, kingfishers, cicadas and other life that is silent. Agencies which should be concerned, are mute too. Birds have almost certainly declined drastically but bureaucracies and bureaucrats are thriving in number and dominance.
The Department of Conservation is just one bureaucracy that is duty bound by an act of Parliament to protect native birds such as cuckoo and kingfisher and invertebrates such as cicadas. But it is strangely silent on the demise of native bird life such as the native cuckoo and kingfisher.
Nor does the Marlborough District Council seem to show the slightest concern. Its Pest Management Strategy was recently approved by council and drew from some councillors, words of warm praise. Yet the same strategic plan bizarrely excluded the rambling Old Man’s Beard as a pest because it is so widespread which reflects council’s inability and utter failure to combat it. In the same breath, the plan inexplicably declared wallabies a pest although none exist in Marlborough and the marsupial in 150 plus years has only just started to spread from its original liberation point in South Canterbury.
Council would rather chase imagined pests than deal with real, increasing pest plants. Not only mute they seem deaf to the ominous signs of ecological collapse.
As a teenager in the 1950s and for a couple of later decades, frogs croaked by every stream or marshy hollow and catching tadpoles was a major pursuit for youngsters. Now they have gone. Bees are struggling in numbers.
Evening mayfly hatches on the river are almost non-existent. There’s a big, big decline in insects banging into and being squashed on car windscreens after dark in country areas.
Are these apparent declines in numbers of wild creatures symptomatic of an ailing and declining ecosystem?
Nearer home, moths in dozens no longer cluster around street lights or lighted house windows. Is any authority or agency concerned? Overseas there is growing concern
Last October, the International edition of “The Guardian” reported that the biomass of flying insects in Germany had dropped by three quarters since 1989, threatening an “ecological Armageddon”. Insects are the vital pollinators and recyclers of ecosystems and the foundation of food webs everywhere. In the United States, scientists recently found the population of monarch butterflies had fallen by 90 percent in the last 20 years,with bumblebees dropping 87 percent. Researchers are deeply worried that a whole insect world is silently going missing. It is a decline verging on loss, that could have deep, dark, unknown consequences for the planet.
Undoubtedly chemicals have to be a major suspect in the downward spiral of wildlife.
Are we dowsing an environment with a unprecedented mixture of chemicals? Household effluent contains bleaches and detergents that did not exist forty years ago. Are we dumping upon the environment via urban waste-water systems and widespread spraying of the country-side with agri-chemicals and insecticides and pesticides, a “cocktail of chemicals” of unprecedented volume and variety?
An indictment of the ignorant short-sighted lack of respect for the environment is that many urban areas still discharge sewage into waterways, either regularly or in substantial rainfall times. Chemicals, rather than cutting and composting weeds, is used on water ways.
Naturally farming practices have sought greater efficiencies and production. But don’t blame farmers. The authorities are at fault. DDT was replaced by diazinon for aerially spraying for grass grub. Although banned in the EU, its use is un-restricted in New Zealand. Diazinon is “lethal to aquatic life” and water bird life. That should concern agencies like DoC and Fish and Game.
1080 originally developed as an insecticide “by-kills” other life such as birds and animals. In essence, it’s an “ecosystem poison.” The Department of Conservation aerially drops 1080 on huge areas of wilderness public lands.
What does science say? Unfortunately science is a confused mess corrupted by a system of commissioned, paid science – in short money motivation. Some scientists have spoken out. But the system comes down heavily on them as it did on an eminent entomologist the late Mike Meads, who warned of long-term ecosystem damage following aerial 1080 drops at Whitecliffs in Taranaki.
The fury that descends on any scientist who steps out of line will ensure that their career and reputation will be in tatters. Consequently few buck the system.
Footnote: Tony Orman is a Marlborough based author and former chairman of the Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations.
Tony Orman is a Marlborough based author and former chairman of the Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations.