Explore your own backyard

Connecting people to the environment in their own backyard helps protect it, according to the Department of Conservation.

Its Summer Explorer Programme aims to do just that, beginning on December 27 at White's Bay, and continuing for the next 7 weeks. It will end on February 17 with a four-wheel-drive trip to Branch River.

DOC community relations ranger Clare Duston says a DOC staff member will be at nearly every event.

Many activities are run in conjunction with other groups, such as the Marlborough Mountainbike Club, Driftwood EcoTours, the 4WD club and the Marlborough Falcon Conservation Trust.

Some of the outings have been held during previous summer programmes, while others have been added to reach a wider range of people.

"And we're always keen on feedback from participants about the programmes they would like."

A high level of fitness is not necessary, although people with reasonable fitness will get greater enjoyment out of some of the activities, for example the mountainbiking trips. Highlights of the 2012-13 Summer Explorer Programme include trips to Maud Island in the Marlborough Sounds on January 6, 12, 13, 19, 20 and 23.

Wildlife such as weta, little blue penguins, geckos and skinks make the island "an amazing place to visit", Duston said.

"You can't go there without a permit because of quarantine restrictions . . . and it's good to go with a tour."

Other special outings include looking for long-tailed bats during a night-time stroll at Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve on January 18, taking a 4WD trip through the Clarence Reserve on January 11-13, 18-20 and 25-27, and celebrating the centenary of the Ship Cove monument with a boat trip on February 10, organised by the Marlborough Historical Society.

There will be gold panning at Wakamarina on January 9, a Momorangi Bay stream exploration on January 10, a Kaikoura Peninsula history and wildlife walk on January 11, 18 and 25 and a Grovetown Lagoon World Wetland Day celebration on February 3.

For a full list of activities, click through to the DOC South Marlborough Area Office website

Trips can be booked by phoning DOC on (03) 572 9100.

The Marlborough Express