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International Student Volunteers—May 30-5 June, 2015

June 7, 2015

International Student Volunteers is a US based organisation which gives young people the opportunity to combine volunteering with adventure travel.  ISV operates tours in six countries, including New Zealand.  The focus is on conservation and learning about environmental sustainability and over 310 universities around the world recognize ISV projects for academic credit. This week a group of eight students from the US and Canada joined us for a soggy but fun and productive week.  The team arrived on Saturday morning, coming directly from the airport after arriving from Los Angeles, and included Amanda, Andrea, Austin, Lauren, Melissa K., Melissa S., Nicole and Vincent.  Jonathan Hattrell of ISV New Zealand was the team leader.

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We spent some time getting acquainted and giving the group an orientation to the CUE Haven project and a short tour around the property.

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The group had the weekend off to recover from their long flights and on Sunday went exploring at nearby Muriwai beach and relaxing in the Parakai Springs hotpools. On Monday morning we went to work.  We started planting in an area that had been sparsely planted a few years ago and needed to be filled in.

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The team continued working until that area was completely planted.  We then moved up to the top of the property and to the main area being planted this year.  The area is brown because to prepare the site for planting earlier in the year, we had sprayed the pasture to kill the introduced kikuyu grass which is an invasive weed and undesirable in restoration projects.

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The team also did some planting in the wetlands.

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Throughout the week we took time to explain the goals and objectives of our restoration project to the group and to involve them in as many aspects of the project as possible.  We explained the problems that introduced pest mammals create and described our pest control procedures.  The ISV students helped by installing some new tracking tunnels and laying out tracking cards in existing tunnels. We started out by assembling the new tunnels.

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We then went for a bush walk to install the tunnels and lay out the cards.  Each card has to be baited with peanut butter.

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The tunnel and card are then installed at a location likely to attract creatures.

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The last step is to attach an identifying ribbon to help find the tunnel later.

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Another important task the group helped out with was clearing the walking tracks of overhanging vegetation.

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While the girls were working hard on clearing the overhanging vegetation along the walking tracks, the boys decided to tackle another task. Heavy rains over the past few weeks had made sections of the boardwalk, that had been boxed in but not boarded over, difficult to walk on. Austin, Jonathan and Vincent decided to work on fixing those sections.   It was challenging work because each section was different and customised solutions had to be developed for each area. They started work on an interesting curved step.  The step had been boxed but it was necessary to install a centre board to support the boardwalk planks.  This involved a lot of digging in the compacted clay.

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Once the box framing was installed, the next challenge was to figure out how to cut the top boards to cover the irregular shape of the step. The solution involved a lot of measuring and cutting.

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The result is an amazing achievement that makes the boardwalk easier and more comfortable to walk on.

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The following day, the entire team worked on different sections of the boardwalk and had a chance to try out their measuring and hammering skills!

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One of the boardwalk tasks was installing wire mesh on the surface so that the boards do not become slippery when wet or muddy, and the team installed several metres of mesh.  This is a challenging job because the boardwalk sections are all irregularly shaped while the mesh comes in long straight rolls.  It takes a lot of careful measuring and cutting to create a nice continuous screen.  The team took extra care and did a great job.

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The team made a major contribution to the wetlands boardwalk and they should be proud of their accomplishments.

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In addition to all their hard work, the team kept busy with other activities.  One night they went into town to see the US play New Zealand in the U-20 football (soccer) World Cup finals. They did puzzles and played games in their spare time.

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They made friends with some of the local creatures.

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And Jonathan conducted several group discussions on topics such as sustainable development and environmental issues. The team set a schedule for cooking and clean up and had some great meals.

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The occasional wild weather didn’t only affect the team when they were working outdoors.  We had a few power outages which meant that the water pump wasn’t working for short periods.  The participants figured out a way to do impromptu shampoos.

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And also did some research on what to do in case the power and water were off for an extended period of time!

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On the last day the team gave the cottage a thorough clean up.

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On Friday afternoon the team planted a totara tree as a commemoration of their visit.  The totara grows to heights of 20 to 50 metres and can live for 1000 years or more. Maori consider totara “the king of the forest” and a symbol of strength and goodness, protecting other trees from storm damage.

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It was the last time the team was out in the field and right on cue it started raining heavily as we planted the tree.  But like the earlier rain showers this one cleared quickly and the sun came out with a wonderful omen – a double rainbow right by the spot where the team had planted their celebration totara tree.

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We then had a farewell afternoon tea with a birthday cake to celebrate Andrea’s birthday. Our friends and neighbours, Gill and Kevin Adshead of the Mataia Restoration project also joined us and got briefly acquainted with the team who will be spending the next week assisting with various environmental restoration activities at Mataia.

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We’d like to thank Jonathan and the team for all their hard work this week. The group quickly became a team and everyone was a contributor both to the success of the week as well as the CUE Haven project.

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We really enjoyed meeting and working with you all.  We had a lot of fun and you’ve made a lasting contribution to the CUE Haven restoration project by getting outside your comfort zones and tackling a number of new and challenging tasks. You have all made a very positive difference and we thank you very much. We wish you all the best in your future studies and endeavours and hope you will come back to CUE Haven to see how your trees have grown and to take a stroll on the boardwalk.

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