Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award Residential—3-7 October 2016
This week we had another very successful Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award gold residential at CUE Haven with a great group of young people.
The team arrived on Monday morning and included Aimee, Ben, Gary, Jessie, Juancho, Rachel, Samantha, Shannon, and Wendy. Ben, who had been a participant in last year’s October residential was the team leader.
Andy Woodhouse, DoEHA National Training Director also joined us for the week.
We got acquainted over morning tea. Mahrukh then gave a history and overview of the CUE haven project and Thomas gave a safety briefing and an overview of the work to be performed for the week.
Because this is the first residential after the winter planting season, we had originally planned to spend most of the week in the field doing spring track remediation work. However, this turned out to be one of the wettest residential weeks we’ve had, so we had to be flexible.
We found that out first thing when after the orientation, we bundled into the ute to drive up to the top of the property for a tour. We got about ten metres before it started bucketing down and we returned to the cottage for an early lunch instead.
After lunch the weather improved and we took the tour and went to work. We had ordered a supply of timber that the team would be using to box in steps and create retaining walls as part of the track remediation work. Our first task was to move it from the car park into the nursery to keep it out of the elements.
Over the course of the week, the group was involved in a number of different projects. We split into two teams, one working with Andy and one with Thomas, and also moved the students around between teams during the week.
Walking Track Work
The walking tracks at CUE Haven need regular maintenance and we accomplished a lot this week. Monday afternoon was spent trimming back vegetation that had grown over the tracks.
After clearing over a kilometre of track, the team took a well-deserved rest!
They then continued on for most of the week fixing up different parts of the tracks. The biggest job involved boxing up steps to prevent erosion, and also the building of small retaining walls along track edges. The job required lots of digging and planning. No two sections of track are the same and each problem required a unique solution.
We drove up to the closest entrance to the track and unloaded the tools and supplies.
We started out by fixing up a small problem with some steps leading to one of the bridges. The team installed sides on the steps to prevent further erosion. The job required digging, measuring, cutting and nailing.
In no time they transformed the steps and the bridge approach.
The team then moved on to other challenges.
There were several steps and long sections higher up on the track which were eroding. To fix the problem, the team installed side boards which they pegged and nailed into place.
Another very challenging job the team tackled was fixing crooked or unusually big steps. This can happen because of ground movement and settling. The task requires studying the problem to determine whether more (or fewer) steps are needed, then digging out the old step and redoing it. The team greatly improved the look and safety of the track with their efforts.
There was also a long, straight section of the track which had eroded. We decided to make a retaining wall to clearly show the edge of the track. The team first determined the correct path from the bridge to the nearest step.
Then it took a lot of digging to get the edge straight.
They then installed a side board and pegged and nailed it in place.
The heavy rain prevented the team from installing a similar board on the other side of the track, and this task will be done by a future DoEHA team. However what this team accomplished in a short time is already an amazing improvement.
Finally, everyone helped spread gravel on the newly fixed sections to make the track safe for all weather use. We loaded up buckets of gravel and took them up to the track sites for spreading.
We normally wouldn’t do any planting this time of year, but because it has been so wet we were able to do some planting in the bare areas around the fixed track sections.
All the completed sections of the track look great and the team’s efforts will ensure that visitors have a safe and comfortable walk while exploring the growing native forest.
There was one more walking track project the team worked on this week. Because of the heavy rains we have been having, we have found track sections that previously were safe in all kinds of weather that are now too wet for visitors to safely enjoy.
There was one particular area where a stream of water was flowing across the track causing lots of erosion. Although there was a pipe nearby channelling the water away it was proving inadequate. We decided that the best solution would be to create a new channel for the water to flow through and then to build a small bridge over the top.
The team used an old shipping pallet as the base and cut boards to attach to the top as the bridge surface. Andy trained the students in the use of the power saw and supervised them as they cut the wood.
Once the top boards were cut, they were nailed in place.
They then attached wire mesh to make the surface slip proof in wet weather.
The result is a great looking bridge ready to be installed.
It was bright and sunny when we built the bridge, but the next morning when it came time to install it, the weather had changed. It was a real challenge digging in the heavy and slippery mud. We dug out a channel to control where the water would flow and then levelled the bridge in place.
The steps by this new bridge also needed urgent remediation and despite the bad weather the enthusiastic team decided to go ahead and fix them.
Thanks to their efforts this section of the track is now a lot safer and easier to negotiate.
Nursery Concrete Pad
CUE Haven used to be a dairy farm and we’ve converted the old milking shed into a plant nursery, workshop and storeroom. Over the years, people have been cleaning spades and their gumboots on the scoria next to the hose tap. The area didn’t have good drainage and has turned into a big mud puddle that was unsightly and unsafe and often left you with muddier gumboots than when you came in!
To fix the problem, this team undertook one of the most ambitious tasks we’ve ever done at a residential—to replace the scoria with a properly draining concrete pad.
Andy and his team tackled the job. We use this area primarily for hardening up canopy tree seedlings before they are planted so the team first had to plan where the concrete pad should go.
They marked out the area and measured it so they could calculate how much concrete they would need.
The next task was to scrape off the scoria and pile it up in the carpark and then to dig out the area that would be cemented.
Once the area was cleared, they cut timber to box it in.
They also installed a drain which would carry water and mud out of wet area platform.
They already had sore muscles from all the digging, but then the concrete and builder’s mix were delivered!
The students had an opportunity to learn how to mix up the concrete and fill in the platform.
The team had to make sure the concrete was level and sloped in the right direction to allow for good drainage.
The concrete was allowed to set overnight and the next task was to install the pipe connecting the drain on the platform to the sump at the end of the nursery, which would channel the water out of the area. The challenge was determining that there was sufficient downward slope so that the water would flow and it required a bit of digging to get it right.
Once the pipe was installed and working, the team restored the area by bringing back some of the scoria they had removed.
The pipe is nicely buried out of sight.
And the area around the concrete pad was also tidied up.
The last step was to take out the timber boxing, smooth off the rough edges and backfill the remaining scoria.
Here is a reminder of how the area looked before the group got started.
It’s an amazing transformation and the wet area platform and drain work very well!
Waicare Water Testing
In addition to lots of physical work, the group also had a chance to learn a little bit about water quality issues and native New Zealand freshwater creatures. Midweek, we were joined by Kim and Sophie of the Whitebait Connection.
The group helped Kim and Sophie take their test equipment up to the top of the property so that we could walk down along the stream.
Kim and Sophie found an area where they wanted to do some water quality testing and the students helped them gather water samples.
Sophie then gave the students a short talk about challenges that streams and waterways have, especially in a developed or farmed environment. She demonstrated a number of the testing procedures used to test water quality and gave the students a chance to participate in the testing.
Sophie then talked about macroinvertebrates which are tiny creatures living in the stream. The variety and type of macroinvertebrates is an indicator of the health of a water system. Kim and Sophie gave the students a chance to see how many creatures they could identify in the water sample collected using charts with pictures of the macroinvertebrates.
The most amazing thing they found was a small fish. It was just 3 cm and too small to definitively indentify, but Kim was confident that it was one of the species of the Galaxias family. Yeah!
It was a nice opportunity for the students to take a break from their work and to learn a little more about the issues facing New Zealand native animals. And for us to know that our restoration project is helping to bring back native fish in our streams.
The last big project the students tackled was building a small bench for visitors to use. We hadn’t planned on doing benches this week but at one point the weather was so bad we decided a bench would be a good inside project.
We asked the team to design a simple bench with limited time and materials and they came up with a nice design and managed to finish and install it before the end of the residential.
Once the bench was finished, we took it out to the field to install it. We found a nice place overlooking an area in the wetlands where many people have planted kahikatea trees as memorial plantings.
Holes were dug for the legs.
And then the bench was cemented in place.
Future teams will fix up the walking track and landscape the area and make it a place for contemplation and relaxation.
In spite of the weather this was a fun and very productive residential, and we really enjoyed working with the team all week.
In addition to lots of hard work, the students also had time to relax and get to know each other. They went for a midnight walk in the bush, played board games and card games, watched movies and were entertained by Gary’s amazing card tricks.
We want to thank Kim and Sophie for coming out and spending time with us. The students really enjoyed the session and learned a lot. Also we want to thank Whitebait Connection and Auckland Council’s Waicare for sponsoring Kim and Sophie’s visit.
A big thank you to Andy Woodhouse for taking a week out of his busy schedule to assist with the residential and make it a fun and productive week. Andy, we really appreciate your hard work and help this week and your continued support of our efforts at CUE Haven.
And many thanks to Ben for serving as team leader. Ben, you did a great job and made a major contribution to the success of the residential week.
And most of all, an extra special BIG THANK YOU to everyone in the hard working team. We really enjoyed meeting you and working with you. We were very impressed with your enthusiasm, motivation and hard work and we hope you enjoyed the week as much as we did. You have all made a major contribution to CUE Haven and your efforts will be appreciated by the many visitors and volunteers at CUE Haven over the years.
We wish you the best of luck with completing your gold awards and all the best in all your future endeavours.
We hope you will come back to see us again and to see how your many contributions have added to the CUE Haven landscape.