Why we spend our time killing rats and cutting gorse: Devonport Conservation Corps

On 9th of March, we took a morning with Mary Gardner to talk about what we are doing and put together this feature for the website. We are part of a 20 week programme where we head out all over Auckland region, helping out with conservation. We just started about four weeks ago.  There are about a dozen of us in the group.

What it's been like:
 "I've gone from thinking nothing much about conservation and outdoor stuff to feeling pretty good"

 "Sometimes it seems like a private hell. But then there's lots of laughing and joking around."

 "We went to places I never even knew existed -- marine reserve at Leigh, the bush at Wenderholm, out back on Waiheke."

 "We are doing things I never did before. Like rock climbing and kayaking and scuba diving and heaps of bush crashing."

 "It's been scarey sometimes. But a lot of fun."

The big events in past four weeks
 "Going to Wenderholm Park. We kayaked there. We stayed overnight. We were working to provide a natural environment by killing nasty rats which eat plant seeds and kill native birds. We had to walk up near vertical hills in dense bush to find the rat baiting stations."

 "At Wenderholm, some of us went fishing. We even caught a big kawhai and cooked it up. Man, that was good eating In fact, the food is a pretty good part of things. Whenever we go away on trips, there is lots of good food. I cook some of it. We all do. It is hard physical work. It's good to get to the food."

 "The other big thing we did was go to Waiheke for four days. We stayed in this hut near an oyster farm. The big job we had there was cutting gorse from this place where there are these old kumara pits. It was really hard work. Took a lot of work to clear one hole in the ground. It's an old Maori place and it's important. If the gorse keeps growing there, the pits will be lost from view. We had to slash the bushes and drag this gorse all around. Some of us used the chainsaws. The stumps had to be poisoned. We cleared a lot of space and planted natives by the pond. It was a beautiful place. This is the hut we stayed in."

 "Every week, we do a lot of new outdoor things. Rock climbing. Abseiling. Scuba diving. Kayaking. Fishing. Growing native plants. It's good achievement. Extreme workout, too. We've had some accidents. Nothing serious. Electric fences. Wasps. Gorse and blackberry bushes. Some mild hypothermia in the wild weather. Some of them were funny, in a way. Like when some of the guys swing out on these ropes and --ouch!"

 "The other big thing that happens is that we are getting to be a team. We do have these big group fights. But we are working together -- well sort of. We were getting at each other's throats after the second day of the four day trips. But we're learning to trust each other. You gotta, going out where we do. We are going in new directions."

Course Leader Rob Lewis walks in

 "Hey Rob! I want to say for everyone here a big fat thank you for bringing us out to all these places."

 "Yeah, it's amazing. I've never been these places before. Or done these things."

NZ School of Outdoors Studies

Want to join the next course?  It starts 20th July?
Phone Chris or Stephen on 09 446-0581
You must be 16-25 years old. You can qualify for a training allowance.

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So you don't live in Auckland but want to find out about a course near you?
Email to  info@youthaffairs.govt.nz
They'll answer you pronto.

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