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Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award Gold Residential—28 April-2 May 2014

May 3, 2014

This week ten DoEHillary Gold Award participants were at CUE Haven to complete the residential requirement for their award.  It was a great group and we had a fun and productive week.

The team arrived on Monday morning and included Alexandra, Anna, Ariel, Eden, Eric, Hema, Megan, Michael, Thomas and Winnie.  The team leader was Jonathan, who had done his gold award residential at CUE Haven last year and it was great to have him back as a team leader.

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We got acquainted over morning tea and gave the participants an overview of the CUE Haven project, the planned work for the week and a safety briefing.

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We then went for a short tour of the property and the group got a chance to see some of the work done by other residential groups.

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Construction of the walking track in the DofEHillary Award Grove at CUE Haven started in January 2013 and each residential team since then has worked to expand and improve the track.  This week we worked on improving drainage on the track and also repairing several steps that were showing signs of wear and erosion.

There is a long sloping section of the track where we had previously installed a culvert and sump and buried a drain pipe under the track to take the water away.  Because of the volume of water coming down the slope, the culvert needed to be enlarged and the sump had silted up.

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The team decided that the best approach to the situation would be to widen and deepen the culvert channel and extend it across the track so the water would drain into the main stream on the property.  This would also require building a small bridge over the new culvert.  We loaded up the truck with the materials we would need and went up to the work site.

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The first task was to unload everything near the end of the track.

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And then to dig out the old sump.

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Then part of the team worked to improve the old culvert and dig the new channel across the track.

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The rest of the team started on the bridge by building the frame.

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The frame was then used as a guide for positioning the footer posts.  It was a challenge digging the culvert and the post holes in the hard clay.

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Once the digging was complete, the group decided to reinforce the section of the culvert where the water pressure would be greatest.

They lined the trench with plastic and then built a timber channel for additional support.

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They then positioned the frame over the holes and fitted in the posts.

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The posts were then cemented in place and left to dry overnight.

The next day the team found that the posts were set securely and they nailed down the top planks.  The group was joined for the day by our young nephews Yazdy and Xerxes who have been regular helpers on the project.

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They then built a step up on the high end of the bridge.

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And the final task was to nail wire mesh to the bridge surface to ensure good footing for future users.

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The bridge and new culvert look great and represent a major improvement in the track.

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While part of the team finished off the bridge, another group went further down the track to improve some steps which were showing signs of erosion.  Because most of the track traverses very hilly ground there are a number of steps and slopes which are prone to erosion.

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The solution was to dig out a channel and box up the downslope side of the steps.  First we brought down the timber we would be using for the framing.

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The team then went to work digging out the problem areas and fitting in box frames.  The entire group worked on different parts of the track over the course of the week.

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Once the digging was finished, it was necessary to fit in the side boards.  Each one was unique and had to be cut to size and fitted carefully in to place before being nailed in.

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Some of the frames required pegs to hold them in place.

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The final task in the step improvement is to lay down some gravel to improve footing on the track in wet weather.

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In a short period of time the team made a major improvement in the track by boxing in the steps.  Not only does the track look much better it will be safer and easier to maintain in the future.

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Midweek the team took a break of sorts from their field work.  One very important aspect of the CUE Haven restoration project is pest control.  We have active programmes in place to combat both plant and animal pests and we get enormous help from the Auckland Council in our efforts.  As part of their ongoing support, Malcolm Harrison and Jane Sparkes of the Auckland Council Environmental Services Unit came out to help us set out tracking tunnels.

Tracking tunnels are used to help determine what types of pest animals we are dealing with so that we can have an effective pest control programme.  The tunnels have to be placed in the field in a logical pattern and Malcolm and Jane developed a plan and with the help of the team, we placed the tunnels in the field.

Malcolm and Jane first gave the participants a short talk on the importance of pest control and explained the tracking tunnel exercise.

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The participants each assembled the tracking tunnel they would be placing in the field.

We then went up to the top of the property where Malcolm and Jane explained the principles behind where to put the tracking tunnels.

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Once the tunnel is put in place, a long card is placed inside the tunnel.  The middle of the card has ink on it and we put a dab of peanut butter in the centre of the ink.  The idea is that pest animals will be attracted to the peanut butter, walk into the tunnel and across the ink and then leave their footprints for identification on the card.  Each card is numbered and keyed to the location of the tunnel so that we will know where the pests are on the property.

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Malcolm and Jane measured out the distances to each tunnel and each student placed their tunnel as we walked along the line.

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Pink tracking tape was tied along the line to show the route and two tapes were tied to a tree beside each tracking tunnel to help locate it easily later.

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As we walked along we passed some of the traps that have been deployed throughout the property and at the very last one we found freshly trapped weasel.

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Malcolm and Megan took the weasel out of the trap and Malcolm explained a little bit about weasels and why they are such a dangerous predator for native New Zealand animals.

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We want to thank Malcolm and Jane for a very informative and interesting morning.

The tunnels were put out on Wednesday morning and at the end of the day on Friday, Alexandra and Megan walked along the tunnel line and collected the cards to see what sorts of pests had visited.

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With the rest of the team they used a guide book to interpret the tracks and found that mice and skinks had been the only creatures through the tunnels.

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On Thursday, Thomas had a milestone birthday and we celebrated with a cake and by singing happy birthday.

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The entire team then went up to the DOEHA Grove where Thomas planted a celebration totara to commemorate the special occasion.  This is the first of what we hope will be many more celebration trees planted by DOEHA participants.

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The other big project that the team worked on was helping out on the wetlands boardwalk that several volunteer groups have been building throughout this past summer.  The entire team attacked the job enthusiastically and we are now almost finished with the boardwalk.

There were three big tasks.  The first involved building and installing the last of the base frames for the boardwalk, then the frames had to be planked over and lastly, a layer of mesh had to be installed over the completed boardwalk so that it won’t be slippery in wet weather.

We gathered up the timber and other materials and went up to the work site.

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The frames are 1 x 2 metre rectangles and are constructed from heavy timber because it will have to hold up to weather and traffic.  They are fastened into place with wooden pegs and attached to the adjacent frame.  One of the biggest challenges is levelling the ground to ensure that the frames and the boardwalk will be level and even.

It was difficult and challenging work but the team did a great job and showed a lot of creativity in working through difficult parts of the landscape.

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The actual boardwalk is constructed by nailing planks over the tops of the frames.  The team got a lot of practice (and some blisters) hammering in nails and by the end of the week they were experts.

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One of the most challenging aspects of the boardwalk construction is planking over the curves of the track.  In order to maintain the spacing between the planks, careful measuring is necessary and the planks have to be cut into wedge shapes to make the angle of the curve work out.  The team studied the curvature of the track and came up with excellent solutions for the curves.

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And the result is beautiful curves and a dramatic looking boardwalk.

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The final step of the boardwalk work is stapling down the mesh to keep the walk safe.  The mesh also had to be cut to allow for curves and bends in the track and the dedicated team kept at it until we ran out of mesh and staples!

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And they marked the finish with a creative sculpture!

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Thanks to the efforts of the team it is now possible to cross through the wetlands without getting your feet wet.  The boardwalk will enable visitors for years to come to enjoy an interesting part of the property year round.  The results are amazing and the team should be very proud of their work.

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After all the hard work during the day the team relaxed in the evening chatting, going for night bush walks, watching movies,  playing card games and even doing a jigsaw puzzle!

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Weather wise it was great with sun shining most of the week. Although it was a bit cold in the mornings by late morning it was hot in the sun.  So the Nescafe Menu sachets and the Iced Peach Nestea generously provided by Nestle were very much appreciated by all.  Thanks Nestle!

We want to thank Andy Woodhouse for his efforts in organising this residential and for all of his help and support to the CUE Haven project and the DOEHA residentials.

Also, we’d like to thank the Auckland Council for enabling the visit by Malcolm and Jane.  It was a valuable addition to the week’s activities enjoyed by all.

Yazdy and Xerxes, thank you very much for coming and helping out again. We really appreciate it.

A special thank you to Jono for being an outstanding team leader.  He set a great example and thanks to him the team came together well, accomplished a huge amount of work and had fun as well. We look forward to having you back to lead another DOEHA gold residential team!

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And an extra big thank you to all the gold award participants. You were a great group to work with and we really enjoyed getting to know each of you.  We really appreciate your efforts and contributions to the project which will be enjoyed by visitors to CUE Haven for many years to come.  What a wonderful legacy!

We wish you all the best with your gold award efforts and your future undertakings and we hope you will come back to visit in the future and perhaps as a team leader of a DOEHA residential at CUE Haven.

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