Dionne Christian explores how we can help our natural wonderlands for Conservation Week

Beach and bush, mountains and wetlands - they are where New Zealanders adventure, explore and play. The Department of Conservation's annual Conservation Week runs until September 15 this year, with the theme "Celebrate Conservation Week: What's your whanau doing?" It aims to bring together families and communities to experience the natural environment, but also to preserve it and our native wildlife. So what can you get involved with?

Go to the zoo

There's no shortage of Conservation Week activities at Auckland Zoo. Through storytelling, guided walks, face painting, games - anyone for bat the rat? - and additional Te Wao Nui encounters, you can learn more about Auckland Zoo's conservation projects and participate in workshops to find out how to help at home.

Te Wao Nui encounters include: seals (daily at 10am and 12.30pm), eels (daily at 1.30pm) and native reptiles (daily at 2pm). Storytime is daily at 10.30am in the Islands amphitheatre, where you can also enter to win a behind-the-scenes kiwi meet-and-greet.


Conservation Week talks include "Nurturing natives, encouraging endemics: find out how to attract natives to your backyard" on today and Saturday September 14 at 10am, 11am, 1pm and 2pm. The 30-minute sessions are in the Discovery and Learning courtyard. For more, see aucklandzoo.co.nz

At Hamilton Zoo, there will be free scavenger hunts daily during Conservation Week, the chance to make a pledge for conservation (see information further on in this article) and add it to the zoo's pledge tree, join in a Meet the Keeper talk or enjoy coming face to face with a rhino, tiger or lemur in an animal encounter. For more, see hamiltonzoo.co.nz or email zooinfo@hcc.govt.nz or call(07) 838 6720.

Get the gardening gloves on

Tree planting activities begin today with the Kaipatiki Project Environment Centre planting native trees in the Eskdale Reserve wetland from 9.30am to midday, but be warned - parts of the site may not be suitable for young children.

For more, see kaipatiki.org.nz, contact Lisa Ridehalgh on (09) 482 1172 or send an email to marketing@kaipatiki.org.nz

Volunteers are needed on Motuihe and Motutapu Islands, in the Hauraki Gulf, next Sunday, September 15. Restoration trusts on both islands will be weeding, planting and doing general maintenance work.

Motuihe Island Trust says volunteers can bring a picnic and, weather permitting, enjoy the island's fascinating history and sandy beaches before returning to Auckland; at Motutapu, native birds such as the saddleback, whitehead, takahe and kiwi are flourishing so you may hear their songs and calls as you work.

For information about Motuihe: info@motuihe.org.nz or 0800 668 844; to find out more about Motutapu, contact Bridget Winstone, (09) 524 5072 or 027 4854 173, or Belinda Vernon, (09) 522 0919 or 027 5570 845, or send an email to admin@motutapu.org.nz

Further south, at Pirongia Forest Park in the Waikato, join volunteers to plant along the Kaniwhaniwha stream's "true right bank" tomorrow from 9am onwards. Landcare will provide spades - or you can bring your trusted favourite - and there's a sausage sizzle lunch with hot and cold drinks when planting finishes.


For more, phone (07) 825 9112 or email Nardene.berry@landcare.org.nz
Listen for kiwi calling

In the winterless north, you can try to hear kiwi at the Whangarei Sanctuary (September 9, 11 and 13at the family friendly time of 6pm) or Bream Head (daily from September 9-14 at 6.45pm). Good footwear, warm clothing and sharp listening ears are vital for both. You need to register for the Whangarei trip by calling (09) 470 3365 or emailing fwatson@doc.govt.nz, but you can just turn up at the Peach Cove car park, Bream Head, Whangarei for the latter event.

For more, see doc.govt.nz
Make a pledge

Make a pledge for Conservation Week for yourself or on behalf of your family, group of friends, sports team, workmates or flatmates and join in the action. Some of the six activities can be done in your own backyard - In the Backyard, Kids Under 12, Wonderful Water, In the Office, At the Marae and Get out and Walk.

For example, you could build a weta motel or attract lizards to your garden.

Get the under-12s involved with a backyard scavenger hunt or making native species masks. The more daring may want to take a Wonderful Water challenge and go snorkelling in a marine reserve.

Once you've decided on a pledge (or pledges), register your details online and go into the draw for some great prizes including a trip for four to Great Barrier Island. For more, see doc.govt.nz (and search "pledge").

Make or watch a movie

As part of DoC's education strategy it sponsors the Big Picture Award in the sustainability film challenge The Outlook for Someday. Budding film-makers (aged up to 24) make a short sustainability-related film focusing on one or more of DoC's "big ideas and values". You can learn more about these and watch videos already made at doc.govt.nz (search "The Big Picture").

To find out more, see theoutlookforsomeday.net. The toolkit contains everything you need to enter the challenge, including the entry form and stuff to help you make your film.

Entries close September 13.

Swap weeds for native plants

Based in Howick, Volcano to Sea is an urban community catchment restoration project developed by NZ Landcare Trust to help people improve their environments. Today, bring along your worst garden weed to 563 Pakuranga Rd (in front of the Howick Recreation Centre) from 11am to 3pm and they'll swap it for a native plant.

As well as the 400 eco-sourced free plants, there'll be native trees for sale (cash only) and experts on hand to provide advice on controlling weeds and attracting native birds to your garden.

Visit Rangitoto

Tomorrow and next Sunday (September 15), the Rangitoto Island Historic Conservation Trust is throwing open the doors to the Bach 38 Museum (next to the Rangitoto Wharf) so visitors can step back in time to the 1930s and learn more about island holiday life.

It's a great opportunity to walk to the summit, survey the natural world and then enjoy a cultural encounter.

For more, see doc.govt.nz

Visit Rotorua

Rotorua is one of our country's most environmentally rich regions. It's home to 18 pristine lakes and more than 200,000 ha of forest. Little known fact: the region boasts the highest number of conservation groups per capita in New Zealand. Given this, it's not surprising to learn there's a lot on for the week, including:

Rainbow Springs Kiwi Encounter

New Zealand's leading Kiwi conservation centre has hatched, raised and released more than 1200 chicks back into the wild since 1995. This is the only purpose-built facility of its type in the world, and behind-the-scenes guided tours are an ideal way to teach kids about our precious national icon.

The $10 entry fee is donated back to the National Kiwi Trust to help hatch, raise and release even more kiwi into the wild.

For more, see rainbowsprings.co.nz

Check out the website for Conservation Week activities such as kea playtime and young tuatara feeding time.

Rotorua Canopy Tours

One of Rotorua's newest and most popular eco-tourism attractions, Rotorua Canopy Tours is the only prehistoric native forest zipline tour in New Zealand. During the tour you will soar high among the treetop canopy along 700m of ziplines (flying fox) while learning about the native birds and trees in the 500ha native reserve.

Pests such as rats, possums and stoats pose a huge threat to our native forests, so Rotorua Canopy Tours' Conservation Week project is to fly in around 500 traps via zipline to lay over 10km of trapping line. They hope to eradicate three tonnes of pests from the native reserve in an intense, week-long conservation effort.

You will learn all about these conservation initiatives and how you can help during the three-hour guided tour.

For more information see canopytours.co.nz
Wingspan National Bird of Prey Centre

Wingspan is New Zealand's first and only bird of prey centre with a breeding and release conservation programme. New Zealand's native falcon (karearea) flies faster than a V8 supercar and is rarer than a kiwi. It is classified as threatened with the risk of extinction.

Wingspan is offering visitors two-for-one admission during Conservation Week, so you can experience this special creature up close and personal. Learn all about other birds of prey and how to help preserve the numbers of our rarest hunting birds.

For more, see wingspan.co.nz