09 February, 2024
The Royal New Zealand Air Force’s No. 3 Squadron was recently involved with a joint operation to deliver pest traps into remote areas of Kaweka Forest Park.
The Air Force were called in to help with efforts to upgrade the trapping network in the park, which helped protect species with a 9,000-hectare area. The North Island brown kiwi is seriously endangered in the park, and parts of the trapping network, established in 2008, were past their best.
The operation involved collaboration between Department of Conservation (DOC), the Royal New Zealand Air Force, Mana Ahuriri Trust, Te Ngahere (Jobs for Nature), Environment, Conservation and Outdoor Education Trust (ECOED) and the Puketitiri community.
Helicopter pilot Flight Lieutenant Paul Robinson said an NH90 helicopter crew ferried two teams from Te Ngahere and Mana Ahuriri Trust, track marker poles and 89 traps into remote areas in Kaweka Forest Park on one day. Another NH90 finished the task with more traps inserted that evening.
Hawke’s Bay Predator Trap Delivery | Royal New Zealand Air Force
"Everything was very well organised by the collective,’’ he said. "We had perfect flying conditions on the day.’’
The loads of traps were bulky but were able to be packed inside the helicopter, rather than transported as an underslung load.
"There was a nice flying challenge for us too as the landing sites were quite small, with the landing areas enclosed by forest.’’
The New Zealand Defence Force provides support to the Department of Conservation for significant tasks when the RNZAF’s helicopters are needed to carry heavy loads and fly into remote areas. This also provided an opportunity to support mana whenua, Jobs For Nature and voluntary groups that dedicate their time to look after the taiao alongside DOC.
In total, approximately 130 traps were flown into Kaweka Forest Park, a task which would have been a huge undertaking and taken significantly longer without the NH90s.
Previous Department of Conservation tasks that FLTLT Robinson has flown on include delivering track marker poles to the Robert Ridge route on the Travers Range, gravel for Paddy’s track near St Arnaud, and he has also flown an A109 to recce huts in Kahurangi National Park.