DOC staff go to sea with navy

LOUISE BERWICK
Last updated 05:00 19/02/2013
Southland Times photo
LOUISE BERWICK/Fairfax NZ
DOC outlying islands programme manager Peter McClelland stands in front of the HMS Otago.

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The piles of paperwork on Pete McClelland's desk will not be going anywhere for the next couple of weeks.

The Department of Conservation outlying islands programme manager has swapped paperwork for building work, and the comfort of his house for a 85-metre navy ship for the next three weeks.

He was one of 11 Department of Conservation staff who boarded the HMS Otago for the Sub Antarctic Islands on Monday with the hope of repairing and rebuilding the infrastructure on the islands, particularly Campbell Islands.

Four months of planning went into the trip, which was also taking three metservice staff to monitor and install weather forecasting stations; three researchers to examine the seaweed and botany; and one person from the Ministry of Primary Industries.

The trip happens annually but to travel down with the navy was "fantastic", Mr McClelland said.

"This is luxury. The navy guys really do look after us. It makes a big difference."

The food was "phenomenal" and the partnership between the two organisations allowed the sailors and staff onboard the HMS Otago the chance to get on the island and see how "New Zealand should be".

"It's a really important relationship. We want the sailors to come away thinking, ‘that was really cool'."

The Department of Conservation hut on Campbell Island would have a facelift and some of the walkways also needed to be rebuilt.

"The hut needs to have quite a bit of work done on it to bring it up to fire code."

Despite most New Zealanders not having the chance to visit the islands, Mr McClelland said these trips were vital to gather information and maintain the environment.

"We've got an international obligation to look after these places."

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- The Southland Times

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