Ducks Unlimited NZ

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Friday, 13 March 2020 08:40

Land of the First Light

For this year’s annual conference and AGM, Ducks Unlimited members will head east to Gisborne, land of the first light.

The venue for the conference, being held on 31 July and 1 August, will be the Emerald Hotel in the heart of the city.

A treat is in store for the field trip, with Nick’s Head Station in Muriwai agreeing to let delegates and their guests visit its wetland on Saturday, 1 August. Organisers are arranging for three speakers during the wetland visit.

They are:

  • Kim Dodgshun, manager of Nick’s Head Station – welcome and introduction
  • Steve Sawyer, owner/operator of EcoWorks, which implements many conservation activities at Nick’s Head
  • Sandy Bull, a driving force behind much of the conservation work in Gisborne.

Nick’s Head Station is by the ocean so an alternative may be required if the weather does not allow the visit to go ahead as planned.

At this stage it is suggested to have the speakers at the Knapdale Eco Lodge if the weather is too bad.

Knapdale is somewhat protected in poor weather so it may be possible to view the wetlands there instead.

But, with Gisborne having the second highest sun hours in the country, conference organisers are hopeful DU can visit Nick’s Head Station.



Published in Issue 178
Tagged under
Monday, 21 October 2019 22:03

AGM Conference and reports

This year’s Ducks Unlimited New Zealand’s 45th conference was held at the Collegiate Motor Inn in Whanganui, with just over 50 attendees. The weather was kind and, after a bitterly cold, wet and windy Friday, turned on the sunshine in time for the field trip on Saturday, 3 August.

President Ross Cottle opened proceedings at the AGM by saying it had been a reasonably quiet year, with only three members’ wetlands being developed, however work at Wairio Wetland was going well and good progress had been made.

He paid tribute to long-time DU supporter and Wairarapa Chapter Secretary/Treasurer Joyce Brooks who passed away shortly after the previous AGM.

Treasurer John Bishop, after his traditional warm-up joke, presented his report. He confirmed and reviewed the requirements of being a charitable trust, which include providing a mission statement, entity structure and a yearly report of income, expenditure, activities and volunteer support.

The information for the Charities Register notes DU is reliant on volunteers, with about 8000 volunteer hours a year spent on wetlands assessment and building, swan collection, and advice, education, field days, bittern project, supplying magazine content, Wairio planting and education, supporting schools, fundraising, auctions and dinners.

After running through the financials, which show a slight deficit for the year, John concluded:

“We are remain solvent, through support from membership subscriptions, auctions, grants from the Wetland Care Trust, and donations from Treadwells, Pharazyn Trust, Muter Trust, South Wairarapa Rotary and one-off grants.”

Election of Officers

The DU Board remained unchanged, with the two directors whose two-year terms were up, Jim Law and John Dermer, being re-elected unanimously.

Waterfowl and Wetland Trust

David Smith reported that the trust was in good shape thanks to the sharemarket, and despite paying out $40,000 to DU, was in a similar financial position as it was at the end of 2017.

He said the trust was doing exactly what it was set up to do: provide money to enable DU to carry on its work.

Wetland Care

Will Abel said that in line with the previous couple of years, there had been few applications for new projects, with most of the wetland creation activities centred on the Wairio Wetland.

A large wetland in Pahiatua that DU committed $5000 to three years ago had been completed, and in Masterton, DU had helped created another large wetland, to which it contributed $4000.

Royal Swan

Will Abel said it had been a disastrous year for the royal swan, with no cygnets available and even the wildlife centre at Peacock Springs, Canterbury, the usual source of swans, was looking for some new breeding stock.

“We have no idea why really, but anecdotally I suspect it is because it coincides with the 50th anniversary of the moon landing,” he said, tongue in cheek.

“If it improves next year, my supposition will be proved correct, and I will present a paper at the next conference on it.”

He said it was fortunate that there had not been many requests for swans.


Peter Russell reported that the breeding programme had had a good season, with 65 whio reared from captive pairs and 15 reared from wild clutches. A total of 72 were released.

In the North Island, 30 were released. Three older birds from last season were released on the Whakapapanui in December, and 12 birds, six males and six females, were released at Blue Duck Station in January.

The third release, on the Manganui a-te-Ao, was in early March, with eight males released at the Ruatiti Domain and four females released down the river where there was a surplus of males. Three male birds were released on Mangawhero stream on 20 March.

Peter said it was always a great thrill to take part in the releases out on the river. He has been doing them since 1997 and it has changed so much. In 2000 they released seven, compared with 72 in the past year.

In the South Island, 20 birds were released on the West Coast in January in the Wainihinihi, Arahura, Styx and Kawhake rivers; 12 birds were released on the Taipo River in March; in Tasman 10 birds were released.


Paul Mason reported that DU currently had 280 members, with 57 of those unpaid as at the AGM.

He said a second subs reminder would be sent out, following email and postal reminders subsequent to the initial subs mailout.

He noted that in the past three years, payment preferences were moving from cheque to internet banking. Credit card payments remained about the same and PayPal transactions were increasing.

More members were responding to the suggestion that DU communicated with them more by email, he said.


Paul said new articles were added as events occur, with the most recent being the planting day at Wairio Wetland. Flight magazines, from No 155 to the current issue, have been loaded on to the site. Issue 29 has also been scanned and added as a PDF file.

Articles from more recent Flight magazines are being transcribed and loaded as searchable items – so far back to issue 159. Old issues are being scanned and loaded as PDFs.

He noted a drop-off in website visitors in the past three months and in response had upgraded the site-mapping software and re-registered the site with search engines.

The main files being downloaded were Flight magazines and people were also accessing the educational resources files (from Quack Club), he said.

Wairio Wetland

Jim Law reported that the wetland was in good heart, benefiting from continued restoration work, albeit at a more modest cost to DU ($4455 versus $9500 in the prior year). Work focused on more bund wall improvements ($1700), tree planting ($2000) and noxious plant control ($755).

At last, significant progress was made by the Greater Wellington Regional Council to reticulate water from Matthews Lagoon and Boggy Pond to Wairio. Earthworks have been completed but after a “weather event”, remedial work is required. This will be done this summer.

“We had provisionally budgeted to fund a portion of this work but GWRC assumed full responsibility,” he said.

Total expenditure by the Wairio Restoration Committee, not counting volunteer time, since inception 14 years ago, now stands at $220,000.

The Victoria University of Wellington School for Biodiversity and Restoration Ecology remain focused on their research at Stage 3.

The Restoration Committee is still holding funds (lodged with DU) from fundraising efforts totalling $10,807. A further $15,000 grant was recently received by local donors. These funds are also being held by DU on behalf of the project committee.

As mentioned last year, Wairarapa Moana, which includes the Wairio Wetland (administered by DOC on behalf of the Crown), has been included in a Treaty of Waitangi settlement with Wairarapa iwi. “Whilst the settlement has been delayed, the local iwi has assured us that they want us to continue our good work restoring the Wairio Wetland.

“We remain of the view, though perhaps slightly biased, that DU members should be proud of this project,” Jim said.


Jim Law reported on DU’s new initiative offering scholarships to students doing research in a relevant area. A trial offering a total of $25,000 over three years in grants of $5000 per student so far had had little response to date.

Four universities had been approached and it was likely the first recipient of one of the $5000 grants would come from Victoria University working on the Wairio site.





Published in Issue 177
Thursday, 04 April 2019 22:33

AGM venue – a right cracker

Brackenridge Country Retreat is the place for this year’s Ducks Unlimited Annual General Meeting, annual dinner and the much anticipated auction. 
The weekend event includes a trip to Wairio Wetlands, it has come on leaps and bounds since our last visit, followed by lunch at the Lake Ferry Hotel.*
Brackenridge Conference Manager Leeann O’Neill said they are looking forward to hosting DUNZ members Conference and AGM at Brackenridge in August. 
“For those who missed reading the April issue of Flight we are situated a three minute drive from the Martinborough Square,” said Leeann.
Brackenridge has the atmosphere of early New Zealand station dwellings and with a view of the iconic Haurangi ranges.
All members should have received the brochure about events at the AGM, and the information about booking accommodation. 
Brackenridge can accommodate 64 guests, so make sure you do not miss out.
Accommodation -
 Studios, two bedroom cottages with two bathrooms and four bedroom cottages with three bathrooms (includes self catering continental breakfast provisions with free range eggs).
Indoor heated 20m lap pool and gym complimentary for guests (16 years and over).
On site day spa offering a large range of therapeutic and beauty treatments (bookings essential).
Register now for another fun DUNZ AGM.
White Rock Rd
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Ph: 063068115 Fax: 063068119
*Lake Ferry is a small settlement between the shores of Lake Onoke and Palliser Bay. 
Settlement in the area dates back hundreds of years. Research suggests people living there from the 12th century until about 1600. Maori settlers lived mainly around Lake Onoke and adjoining lakes. 
European settlers brought sheep and cattle into the area in 1844, driving stock along the coast from Wellington. These settlers were the first to establish pastoral farming in New Zealand.
Following a drowning in 1850, a ferry service was established across Lake Onoke. The ferryman needed accommodation and to supplement his income he opened the Lake Ferry Hotel in 1851. 
Lake Ferry is a mixture of holiday homes and permanent residents. Local attractions include the Putangirua Pinnacles, Cape Palliser lighthouse and a seal colony. 
Published in Issue 160
Sunday, 31 March 2019 21:25

Conference 2019 – save the date

Planning under way

Planning for this year’s conference and AGM, which will be held in Wanganui/Whanganui from 2-4 August, is well under way. 

The conference venue and accommodation will be the Quality Inn Collegiate, a five-minute walk from the city centre.

The programme will include a field trip to Bushy Park Homestead and Wildlife Sanctuary, with lunch at the category-1 heritage-listed Bushy Park homestead, built in 1906. 

The trip will include a stopover at Virginia Lake, pictured, where DU released a number of mute swans several years ago. 

Bushy Park is considered by Forest & Bird to be among the 25 best restoration ecology projects in Australasia. 

The sanctuary is home to hihi (stitchbird), tīeke (saddleback), toutouwai (North Island black robin), kereru and many other species. 

A revegetation project in the wetland area of the park includes plantings of rimu, pukatea, mahoe, karamu, hangehange, pigeonwood, kawakawa, NZ flax and toetoe.

Time to clear out the cupboards

For this year’s conference, DU directors are asking members for donations of suitable auction and raffle items, particularly DU Canada merchandise that you have bought at previous auctions and are in good condition. 

Canada DU items have become too expensive to import because of the shipping costs.

Email Will Abel (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) to let him know what you can contribute to make this year’s auction the best yet. 

You can either bring the item/s to conference or drop them off with someone who is going, but please let Will know in advance.




Published in Issue 176
Tagged under
Monday, 26 November 2018 21:06

Waipa wars – from muskets to mustelids

Peat lakes and battle sites were the main themes of this year’s bus trip at conference courtesy of Ducks Unlimited’s knowledgeable tour guide Tony Roxburgh.
Tony is the Waipa District Council’s heritage and museum manager and he also wears another hat – as Wetland Trust of New Zealand Chair and Trustee. He took DU members on a nature, culture and history tour of the Waipa region.
The first point of interest was Lake Rotomanuka, one of about 16 lakes in the Waipa District. It was once one lake but is now two separate bodies of water. Around the lakes, public walkways, buffer margins and sediment traps are being developed by Living Waters, a partnership between the Department of Conservation and Fonterra.
Native eels and smelt can still be found in the lake but have been joined by introduced species: rudd, carp, koi carp and catfish. First stop on the bus trip was the Lake Serpentine/Rotopiko sanctuary. It is enclosed by a predator-free fence, which was built with a $500,000 grant.
The 50-hectare sanctuary is thought to be mammal free after mouse incursions were curtailed by extending the fence netting down into a trench dug along the fenceline.
But the project hasn’t been all smooth sailing. As well as having to put its planned $5 million-plus visitor centre on hold, the sanctuary had encountered an unforeseen problem – once news of the avian safe haven got out to the passerine community, thousands and thousands of starlings, sparrows and finches were swooping into the sanctuary at dusk to sleep overnight.
They leave behind mountains of guano, which, over time, would change the chemistry of the peat lake.
Tony said deterrent measures such bangers and laser lights were being trialled.
Releases of kiwi and takahe are on the sanctuary’s wish list but pateke (brown teal) will be the first species to be introduced. Tony said the visitor centre project would be replaced with a more modest and modular alternative – beginning with a three-bedroom house for volunteers and school groups to stay in. With no electricity on the site, the house will have solar panels, and a composting toilet.
Following a hearty buffet lunch at the Five Stags restaurant in Pirongia, everyone boarded the bus for the nearby Alexandra Redoubt. This fortification was constructed by the constabulary after the land wars in case Maori tried to take back their confiscated land.
During the tour, Tony pointed out many other historical landmarks, including pa and battle sites, and natural features such as the volcanoes and kahikatea stands dotting the landscape.


Published in Issue 175
Monday, 26 November 2018 20:25


Neil Candy reported that Jim Law had replaced Ken Cook as a trustee on the Waterfowl and Wetland Trust, which was “ticking along really well” with more than $500,000 in the bank.

Wetland Care

Reporting on the work of Wetland Care, Will Abel said $10,800 had been spent on three wetlands in the past year, creating about 10 acres of wetland

Neil said the successful breeding of royal swans had been declining but fortunately had coincided with a drop in inquiries for them. The reason for the lack of breeding success was unknown and the few lightweight birds available from Peacock Springs in Canterbury meant it was difficult to tell the boys from the girls to find a breeding pair. Compatibility was another problem, with one bird sometimes killing its intended mate.
Neil Candy reported, on behalf of Peter Russell, that whio had had their best breeding-for-release season. Seven pairs in the North Island produced 75 eggs, with 46 surviving to be released. Of those birds, 15 went to Egmont National Park, 23 to Whanganui National Park and 8 to Tongariro National Park. In the South Island, four pairs produced 45 eggs, with 30 released, all in rivers around Hokitika.
Meanwhile, pateke in Northland have benefited from predator control introduced to protect kiwi in the area, and the ducks are now established from Mimiwhangata to Pataua North


Emma Williams reported that of one of four bitterns fitted with a transmitter at Lake Whatuma was missing, but it was hoped it would return for the breeding season. DU still has two transmitters to place.
Four other transmitters had been placed on chicks found starving in urban areas. They were rehabilitated and two were released in BOP and two in Canterbury. One has survived two years on and its transmitter had just died.
Paul Mason explained the layout of the new website which is now on a new platform and is more accessible to devices such as tablets and smartphones. Visitor numbers and search results for the website were healthy.
John Cheyne reported that the trust has allocated $96,000 in 2018 for 24 projects throughout New Zealand. In 2018, the trust had received 21 applications for funding to assist with wetland restoration and creation


Jim Law reported that restoration work at the Wairio wetland this year had cost $9500, bringing DU’s total expenditure over the 13 years since the project began to more than $215,000.
A plan to divert water from Matthews Lagoon to the wetland on its way into Lake Wairarapa was still awaiting approval from the Greater Wellington Regional Council. 
The council was continuing its predator control and its traps were serviced three or four times a year. Large numbers of mustelids and feral cats are still being caught, highlighting reinvasion as a serious problem. DOC was doing a good job of maintaining the bund wall walkways.
Wairarapa Moana, which encompasses Wairio, is included in a Treaty of Waitangi settlement, meaning ownership of the wetlands will be transferred to Ngati Kahungunu and Rangitane. Ngati Kahungunu, the principal iwi owner with 90 per cent, has indicated that it would like DU to carry on with its work and it will be business as usual. The iwi also wants to re-establish a Lake Wairarapa committee and it would like DU to be a part of that.
Published in Issue 175
Tagged under
Monday, 26 November 2018 20:17

Decisive year ahead for Board


Where to from here will be the big question facing the DUNZ Board in the coming year. President Ross Cottle, in opening the formal business of the 44th AGM, said that, with an ageing membership and fewer members keen to do the work, the future direction of Ducks Unlimited would be on the Board’s agenda this year.

Measures already in place or under consideration were making Flight a two-yearly publication and changing the conference to a biennial event rather than yearly. With fewer demands to create new wetlands and maintain the established ones, the Board would be looking at other ways, including research scholarships, to support DUNZ’s goals.

Ross thanked John Cheyne, who resigned earlier in the year, for his four years as president and for raising the profile of bittern. Ross also paid tribute to those members who had passed away during the past year: Ian Pirani, Nancy Pain, Audrey Pritt, Alan Wilk and Robin Borthwick. Joyce Brooks also passed away after the AGM.

Treasurer John Bishop presented the accounts and updated members on the new rules for charitable trusts, which require entities to state their purpose. DUNZ had submitted the following mission statement: “We deliver and advocate for effective wetland restoration, development, research and education; and support the preservation of threatened waterfowl and the ethical and sustainable use of wetlands.”

Published in Issue 175
Tagged under
Sunday, 03 September 2017 20:52

AGM 2017

 Brackenridge Country Retreat is our place for this year’s Ducks Unlimited Annual General Meeting,

 (5&6 Aug, also Friday evening if you arrive on the 4th) annual dinner and the much anticipated auction. DU was there in August 2014 and members found Brackenridge enjoyable and comfortable.

The weekend event includes a catch-up on Friday evening, the annual AGM the next morning, plus morning tea then a bus trip to visit Wairio Wetlands, which has come on leaps and bounds since our last tour there. Put in a pair of gumboots for Wairio. Lunch follows at the Village café in Martinborough. Brackenridge has the atmosphere of early New Zealand station dwellings and with a view of the Haurangi ranges. Brackenridge Conference Manager Leeann O’Neill said they are looking forward to hosting our group. All members should receive the brochure about events at the AGM, and the information. Brackenridge can accommodate 64 guests, so make sure you do not miss out.


• Studios, two-bedroom cottages with two bathrooms and fourbedroom cottages with three bathrooms (includes self-catering continental breakfast provisions with free-range eggs).
• Indoor heated 20m lap pool, and gym complimentary for guests (16 years and over). 
• On site day spa offering therapeutic and beauty treatments (bookings essential). 
• Some unites are available at The Claremount in Martinborough for overflow. 

Register now for another fun DUNZ AGM. 

White Rock Rd Martinborough 
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
Ph: 063068115 
Fax: 063068119

Published in Issue 171