Mark has been a teacher of Geography at Oxford Area School for the past 6 years from when he moved to New Zealand from the U.K. Within a few months of arriving in the country he was teaching about the Treaty of Waitangi and South Island High Country, so some fast learning was required. The Fellowship has therefore been the perfect opportunity for him to extend and deepen his knowledge about New Zealand conservation management. This is in addition to learning new skills such as Remote Sensing and Geographical Information Systems (G.I.S.).
His project has been to investigate the creation of the St James Conservation Area and the impacts of an area of recreational parkland in an area of natural significance. The Government purchased the 78,196 ha St. James sheep station in October 2008 for $40 million. DOC has since de-stocked the land except for the herd of ‘wild horses’ that the station owners bred. The whole of the land has now been opened for recreational purposes while maintaining its natural biodiversity. A strategic management plan has been drawn up for the whole site following public consultation.
Vegetation within the area includes beech forests, scrublands, alpine habitats, tussock, and valley-floor native grasslands. Some 430 indigenous species of flora and 30 native bird species have been identified. Within the area are eleven different tramping routes, the Hanmer Springs Ski Area, and good mountain-biking, fishing, kayaking, horse-riding, and hunting opportunities as well as the nearby Hanmer Springs thermal resort.
Mark’s project involved discovering for himself what people’s perceptions and opinions on the management of the south island high country as a whole with the St James as a focusing case study. He interviewed individuals and groups on differing sides of the debate as well as familiarising himself with the management of the DOC Conservation estate and high country farmland.
Mark has relished the opportunity this year to further his interest in sustainable land management and in particular that of the mountain regions. The knowledge and skills he has learnt will be valuable to his teaching in the future. He would like to thank his host organisations the University of Canterbury Geography Department and the Department of Conservation Waimakariri Area office. In particular he wishes to thank the Royal Society of New Zealand and the funding provided by the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology for making this all possible.