Date: 17 December 2012
Recently a group of students from Geraldine High School undertook some fantastic conservation work on their outdoor education visit to Stewart Island’s North West Circuit.
The tramp has been an annual event since the early 1990s in Geraldine High School’s Outdoor Education programme. This time, a two night stay at beautiful Mason Bay gave students an opportunity to embark on some serious work at Duck Creek, near the beach entrance to Mason Bay hut.
Here, ocean currents and wind bring flotsam from around the world to wash up on the beach. Everything from bits of old rope to light bulbs accumulates, fracturing the pristine quality of the dunes and estuary, and posing a real risk to wildlife.
So, one morning last November, armed with nothing more than their hands, the Geraldine students set about picking up old gloves, plastic bottles, pieces of fishing net, buoys and many other objects that don’t break down. By day’s end, three large bags – over three cubic metres of material – had been collected.
Flotsam washes up on all of Stewart Island’s western beaches and includes a startling array of items. Previous clean-ups have been known to discover a child’s plastic lawnmower, several toothbrushes and intact fluorescent tubes.
Mason Bay is a nationally significant dune system and is the focus of considerable weed-control work by the Stewart Island DOC team. The Geraldine High School visit gave biodiversity ranger Al Check the opportunity to explain aspects of dune management, contributing to the educational component of the students’ trip. “It’s great to be able to talk to these kids out in the field. They can see what a difference our work, and theirs, makes.”
Story continues below image
Geraldine High School students clean up Duck Creek, Mason Bay
The work is on-going as both weeds and flotsam are perennial problems that are unlikely to disappear in the foreseeable future. Ranger Al Check says the students did “a fantastic job” with the beach clean-up, but there’s more to be done.
“The issues at Mason Bay and elsewhere aren’t going to go away anytime soon and we’re working closely with the fishing industry to partner a wider Stewart Island clean up,” he said.
“The Geraldine kids are the next generation coming through and we hope that with experiences like this, maybe they’ll continue to care about what happens to wild places into the future.”
Stewart Island Field Centre
Ranger - Community Relations
Ph: +64 3 219 0002