Saturday, November 18, 2017

Grampian Range Summit, Mackenzie Country

Wednesday 15.11.17. I drove SH8 from Pleasant Point to Hakataramea Pass via Albury, Fairlie, Burkes Pass, Dog Kennel Corner & Haldon Rd, as I wanted to summit Grampian Range, 1921 m. (Map ref: BZ17 029891). At Hakataramea Pass, gravel road turnoff, a fence sign read:

                                                   BE AWARE
                                       UNLAWFUL HUNTING
                                   WILL NOT BE TOLERATED
                                            OFFENDERS WILL
                                            BE PROSECUTED
                       FIREARMS & VEHICLES MAY BE SEIZED
                                         MAXIMUM PENALTY
                       2 YEARS IMPRISONMENT $100 000 FINE
                                  OBTAIN PERMISSION FROM
                           THE LANDOWNER / PERMITS (DOC)
                                           BEFORE HUNTING

                        [Ph]...                                               NEW ZEALAND
              SPEAK UP, IT'S ANONYMOUS

Typical NZ cop sign touting for snitches, when cops were thin on the ground. The only cops I saw in Mackenzie Country were cops fining speedsters on SH8. Evidence of hunting / poaching I saw were dead wallabies on roadsides. SH8 farmers told us poachers spotlighted on their farms at night, taking pot shots close to their homesteads. I often saw road-kill wallabies near wooded spots on SH8 & passes.

A road sign read:




Hakataramea Pass, gravel road passed between Dalgety Range E & Grampian Range W, both ranges more than 10 kms long. En route, I crossed 4 fords, streams trickling down to Snow River below Dalgety Range. A stream crossing the road caused big potholes. 12 kms along Haka Pass, just beyond the 4th ford, a dead wallaby lay on the road, marking a farm track. (Map ref: BZ17 058919). My Topo50 map showed the farm track ascending Grampian Range to a scree saddle at 1800 m. Above the saddle, Grampian summit ridge track spit into a S farm track & N farm track. I would take the N farm track to Grampian summit, 1921 m.

From Haka Pass, I wandered up the farm track, zig-zagging up a steep tussock ridge, streams in valleys both sides of the ridge. Besides tussock grassland & spiky Spaniards, I saw many alpine cushion plants, mentioned in other blog posts. Notable were green or brown whipcord hebes amongst stones & many grey vegetable sheep clinging to rocks on steep slopes. Scab weeds & other cushion plants reminded me of zooanthids in coastal rockpools. Living scab weed branches were supported by dead scab weed branches, providing nutrients for the living.

A warm morning. A lone wallaby hopped down a tussock slope to a stream. Skinks scuttled across rocks. Brown crickets & bigger green crickets hopped about too. A lone falcon soared thermals, hunting while I climbed.

At about 1600 m, tussockland became steep scree, covered by snow patches & sparse alpine cushion plants. I compressed snowballs, sucking them, quenching my thirst, saving my bottled water for later.

From the 1800 m scree saddle, I didn't descend the farm track the other side, as it was still snow covered, making it difficult to pass Black Rocks. Instead, I followed a fence over scree, the last 100 vertical metres odd, to Grampian summit 1921 m. I added a stone to the cairn on the flat top, surrounded by stones & alpine cushion plants, mostly yellow. On the summit ridge I'd passed two farm gates, one bent by foul weather, the other still half covered in snow, amidst scree & cushion plants.

Clouds played above my head, while I admired alpine views: S, Hakataramea Valley. SSW, Kirkliston Range. SW Benmore Range, Lake Benmore below. W, Mary Range, Lake Pukaki, snowy Ben Ohau Range beyond. NNW, snowy Mt Sefton prominent. NW, snowy Mt Cook Range, snowy Mt Cook & snowy Mt Tasman prominent. NNE, Mt John & Lake Tekapo. Snowy Mt Stevenson prominent. NE, snowy Malte Brun prominent. Snowy Gammack Range. Snowy Hall Range. ENE, snowy Two Thumbs Range, snowy Mt Edward, snowy Mt Dobson, snowy Sherwood Range & snowy Mt Fox prominent. E, Rollesby Range & Dalgety Range.

I texted Leah from Grampian Range summit, no problems, as long as I aimed my cell towards Mt John. Any other direction, my texts didn't get through, like aiming my cell towards Hakataramea Valley, a waste.


Climb: 1000 vertical metres from Hakataramea Pass to Grampian Range summit.
Return distance: 12 kms.
Times: Ascent 4.5 hours. Descent 3.5 hours. A long day.

Essentials: Hill walking fitness, map, all weather gear, backpack, sunglasses, food, water, walking stick(s).

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Dalgety Range Summit Ridge, Mackenzie Country.

Mon 06.11.17. I drove SH8 from Pleasant Point to Mackenzie Pass via Fairlie, Burkes Pass, Dog Kennel Corner, Haldon Rd & Mackenzie Pass Rd, the latter 9 kms gravel road to Mackenzie Pass top, between Rollesby Range northwards & Dalgety Range southwards. Having summited Rollesby Range last week, I wanted to climb to the Dalgety Range summit track, a remote area, far from tourists. The summit track was about 8 kms long with another 3 kms climb needed to summit Mt Dalgety, 1752 m.

Several hundred metres beyond Mackenzie Memorial on Mackenzie Pass, I parked my car at the roadside near a Mackenzie Stream tributary at about 700 m height (Map ref: BZ17 073037) where a grassy farm track marked on my Topo50 map rose to electricity pylons marching across Mackenzie Pass. It was a nor'wester warm, spring morn, so I started my tramp wearing shorts, T shirt, trainers, hat & backpack. Walking stick essential.

After the farm track petered out beyond the pylons, I climbed tussock land & waded though patches of Discaria toumatou matagouri & Aciphylla speargrass till I struck the main farm track zig-zagging up the NW end of Dalgety Range. The farm track climbed E roughly parallel to Mackenzie Pass with grand views of Rollesby Range N & Albury Range E.

When I stopped to catch my breath, turning round I had grand views of arid Mackenzie Basin & snowy peaks: Stafford Range, Ben Ohau Range with Mackenzies Peak, Razorback, Kaimakamaka Peaks, Dun Fiunary, Glentanner, Mt Sealy & others. As usual Mt Sefton & The Footstool were cloudy. Mt Cook further N was clear & snowy, Mt Tasman below ditto. Below those mighty peaks I saw snowy peaks & valleys: Gammack Range, Mt Stevenson, Braemar Dome, Fork River Valley, Mt Joseph, Cass River Valley, snowy hulk Malte Brun above, Hall Range. Looking N across Mackenzie Pass, I saw Rollesby Range with snowy Two Thumbs Range peaks & snowy Sherwood Range peaks beyond.

For a while, Dalgety NW ridge I climbed overlooked Mackenzie Stream SW flowing down a valley & snowy Grampian Range distant SW. As it had snowed last night, the S end of Dalgety Range & Grampian Range summit was sprinkled with fresh snow. En route, a wallaby froze in tussock above me, letting me snap 2 pics. When I said, "Hullo Mister Wallaby," it bounded down hill, joining sheep. I'd encounter 2 more live wallabies on my tramp & 2 dead wallabies, presumably shot at the highest point I reached on the summit track.

After I'd passed 3 farm gates & the top of a slip louring above Mackenzie Pass, the farm track turned sharp S at about 1300 m (Map ref: BZ17 097026) becoming the rocky, summit track winding along Dalgety summit ridge past rocky outcrops & wind funnels. The nor'wester coming off Mackenzie Basin cooled, causing me to become hypothermic, despite having climbed for 2.5 hours. I stopped & put on my winter gear, longs over my shorts, windcheater jacket with hood over my hat, gloves, which soon warmed me.

I wandered the cold, rocky, summit road for about 1 hour viewing alpine plants like Geranium sessiliflorum bronze crane-bill, Carmichaelia crassicaulis coral broom, Carmichaelia monroi dwarf broom, Raoulia scab weed, Celmisias, Dracophyllum prostratum, Gaultheria depressa snowberry, green & yellow Scleranthus, tussocks, Raoulia vegetable sheep at bitterly cold wind funnels. On the summit track I passed three more farm gates & patches of snow which increased towards Mt Dalgety summit, 1752 m.

From the E side of Dalgety summit ridge, I saw Albury Range with green Rollesby Valley below & the tops of Devils Peak & Fiery Peak beyond. E beyond Tengawai River, rolling green hills & farmlands to distant The Brothers hills & the Pacific. SE I saw Mt Nimrod Range & Mt Nessing Range, with a glimpse of green Hakataramea Valley farmlands between Mt Nessing Range & Dalgety Range.

From the W side of Dalgety summit ridge I saw arid Mackenzie Basin & snowy Alpine ranges described above: Stafford, Ben Ohau, Mt Cook, Gammack, Hall... Sprawled across arid Mackenzie Basin were smaller ranges & hills from N to S: Mt John with a glimpse of Lake Tekapo, Old Man Range with Tekapo Military Camp below, Mary Range with a glimpse of Lake Pukaki beyond. SW Grampian Range & Benmore Range. Also a glimpse of Lake Ohau at the S end of Ben Ohau.

On Dalgety summit track I scoffed my scroggin, 3 mandarins & biltong. Water essential, as I was hungry & thirsty after my 3.5 hour climb to a high point on Dalgety summit ridge, 1426 m (Map ref: BZ17 097998). There I found 2 dead wallabies, dessicated & mummified by sun & cold winds. Maybe a hunter had left them there, warning live wallabies, pests in Mackenzie Country. There was still a long way to go on Dalgety summit ridge to Mt Dalgety snowy summit, 1752 m.

I'd planned to tramp to 1588 m on Dalgety summit ridge, where I saw a distant aerial installation. But my Nikon battery expired at the 1426 m high point & the nor'wester was biting, so I returned from whence I came. Tomorrow's another day. I would've needed to tramp another 8 kms along the summit ridge to summit Mt Dalgety, 1752 m.


Climb: 700 vertical metres.
Return distance: 12 kms (incl 3 kms farm track climb, Mackenzie Pass Rd to 1300 m start of summit track & 3 kms along summit track to 1426 m).
Times: Return 6 hours (incl 2.5 hours climb to summit track, 1 hour on summit track to 1426 m, 2.5 hours return).

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Rollesby Range Summit, Mackenzie Country

Mon 30.10.17. A sunny day. As I wanted to climb to Rollesby Range summit ridge, 1377m (Map ref: BZ17 095068) I drove SH8 from Pleasant Point to the top of Mackenzie Pass, 780m, via Albury, Fairlie, Burkes Pass, 709m, left at Dog Kennel Corner along Haldon Rd, turnoff at Mackenzie Pass Rd, a gravel road, 9 kms to the top of Mackenzie Pass. I didn't drive the shorter route from Pleasant Point via Albury to Mackenzie Pass, as there was lots of gravel road, dusty & nasty for my old Toyota Corolla.

Mackenzie Pass tops a saddle between Rollesby Range & Dalgety Range. I wanted to climb from Mackenzie Pass top to Rollesby Range summit ridge, which sloped downwards towards Burkes Pass. My Topo50 map showed a farm track up to the summit ridge. On my drive up Mackenzie Pass from arid Mackenzie Basin, I stopped by Mackenzie Stream to look at the Mackenzie Memorial, a grey, granite pyramid on a plinth beside the gravel road, inscribed in Gaelic, Maori, English:

                                                                    THIS SPOT
                                                            THE FREEBOOTER
                                                           WAS CAPTURED BY
                                                           JOHN SIDEBOTTOM
                                                            AND THE MAORIS
                                                      TAIKO AND SEVENTEEN
                                                   AND ESCAPED FROM THEM
                                                             THE SAME NIGHT
                                                               4th MARCH 1855

Hence Mackenzie Country was named after freebooter & sheep rustler James Mackenzie.

The farm track-zig zagged up a tussock ridge, overlooking a gorge with a stream flowing down to Mackenzie Stream. Wilding pines grew on Rollesby Range tussock slopes. They'd be hard to fell on such steep slopes. From about 1000m height, Alpine tussocks & speargrass associated with mat plants like Raoulia scabweed & vast mats of grey cushion plants & Alpine plants, like Celmisia & Senecio daisies, Gaultheria snowberries & green & yellow Scleranthus. Dominant plants: tussocks & rust coloured Dracophyllum shrubs with leathery stems & leaves. I saw Hieracium weed amongst that lot too, but not as polluting as Hieracium I'd seen on stations bordering Lake Tekapo.

There was little fauna on the way up: 2 seagulls enjoyed the winds over Mackenzie Pass. I wondered if they've ever seen the sea, inhabiting local lakes & tarns. A wallaby bounded to cover by the stream when it saw me. There was wallaby dung on the farm track & I picked up 4 used bullet cartridges, evidence of hunting. Dried cow dung was in the lower part of the track. There were no sheep on the tussock slopes.

At about 1100m the track plateaued along the tussock ridge a bit, before curving upwards along the head of the gorge, then steeply zig-zagging to the summit ridge at 1377m (Map ref: BZ17 095068). On top, the track went slightly below the rocky ridge. At 2 big rocks on each side of the track, I left the track to summit the ridge & found a weather station with anemometer & weather vane, with solar panel electricity supply. Along the rocky summit there were 3 more installations: aerials with solar panels & a tin shed at the 4th installation.

From Rollesby Range summit ridge, grand, snowy Alpine views:

E: Spring green Rollesby Valley & stations. Single Hill Range. Albury Range.
ESE: Distant Pacific. Spring green farms. The Brothers hills.
SE: Mt Nessing Range. Mt Nimrod Range.
S: Butt end of Dalgety Range above Mackenzie Pass. Distant Otago Ranges.
SSW: Dalgety Range. Grampian Range.
SW: Arid Mackenzie Basin & stations. Greys Hills. Benmore Range. Distant Otago Ranges. Stafford Range. Ben Ohau Range.
W: Mary Range obscuring Lake Pukaki. Ben Ohau Range,
NW: Arid Mackenzie Basin & stations. Ben Ohau Range incl Dun Fiunary, Mt Glentanner, Mt Sealy.
NNW: Arid Mackenzie Basin & stations. Mt John. Old Man Range, Tekapo Military Camp below. Cloudy Mt Sefton & The Footstool. Cloudy Mt Cook & Mt Tasman. Braemar Dome. Mt Stevenson. Fork River Valley. Mt Joseph. Cass River Valley. Gammack Range. Hall Range.
N: Two Thumbs Range incl Mt Edward, Mt Maud & Mt Dobson obscuring Lake Tekapo. Mt Dobson ski field road & ski lift seen. Sherwood Range incl Mt Fox.
NE: Spring green Burkes Pass. Rollesby Valley & stations. Single Hill Range. Albury Range. ENE: Distant High Claytons. Devils Peak.

Tramping stats:

Distance: 9 km return.
Times: 2.5 hours up. 2 hours down.
Climb: 600 vertical metres from Mackenzie Pass summit to Rollesby Range summit ridge.


Hill walking fitness, backpack, map, water, food, walking stick(s), all weather tramping gear, as Alpine weather changes quickly. I summited Rollesby Range in windless, bright sunlight. On top, wind & clouds arose within an hour.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Mary Statue Photo, Catholic Cathedral, Christchurch 22.02.11 Quake

03.10.17. Blog reader's email request for a high resolution photo of the Mary statue, which moved 180 degrees during collapse of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament north tower, 22.02.11 Christchurch quake:

I have been scouring the 'net for a photo of the Catholic Cathedral taken between 2010 and 2011 quakes to put to rest a 'discussion' about whether the statue of Mary in the upper window of the north Tower actually did a one-eighty during the Feb 22nd quake. On your blog... down the bottom of the page you have a photo of the Cathedral but its not high enough resolution to be sure the statue is facing inwards (if it is we expect to see the white veil at the top and the blue cloak down from there - If facing out, it will be predominantly white.

[My referred to pic was a N angle shot taken of Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, Barbadoes St, on 15.09.10, post 04.09.10 quake, the 7.1 mag Darfield quake, shaking Christchurch to hell, the first of 15 000 quakes shaking Christchurch in a 3+ year period. If the emailer had clicked on the pic he would've seen the white inward facing veil & blue cloak underneath. If he'd searched my blog further, he would've found Mary statue pics I took during Mar 2011, post 22.02.11 quake, showing the outward facing Mary statue. See blog post link below]. 

I would love to see a high res copy of this - I'm certainly not wanting to prove a miracle or anything, but the truth is important to me. So either it is a remarkable seismic phenomenon or maybe someone went into the Cathedral even though it was closed to the public and turned the statue - admittedly unlikely. [Agreed. There was tons of collapsed rubble on the roof of the tower office housing the Mary statue].

But as you can imagine, dated photographic evidence is what speaks to me as a scientist... A photo from early February 2011 would be the absolute clincher... [My clicked on 15.09.10 blog photo IS the clincher!]

See Wednesday 15.09.10. Day 12 after Christchurch Quake, Dallington.

See Now You Know, Red Zone, Christchurch Quake

See Ferry Road Demolition & RC Cathedral.

My email reply:

... I took and blogged over 20 000 quake pics before / as soon as citizens were allowed into Christchurch quake trashed CBD. My pics are not as high resolution as you want / need, as I used 3 cheap digital cameras (1 Nikon, 2 Samsungs) in my quake wanderings over 3 years in Chch & surrounding quaked towns 2010-13 incl.

It was impossible to wander quake trashed, Chch CBD for at least 28 months post 22.02.11, as there was a military state of emergency, then CBD military cordon, with numerous cordoned / arbitrarily changed checkpoints into the CBD where the quake trashed RC Cathedral was / is.

Unauthorised entry into the cordoned CBD red zone invited instant arrest by cops or NZDF soldiers. Post quakes, only CERA officials, cops, military & a few Council & govt personnel & vetted media & contractors were allowed into Chch CBD red zone, where the RC Cathedral was / is. At times bldg owners were allowed military / cop escorted entry to their quake trashed bldgs in the CBD red zone to retrieve belongings. Over many months post quake, CERA opened parts of the CBD to citizens when perceived safe, after many demolitions of quake trashed bldgs.

Should you want high resolution pics of the Mary miracle spin, I suggest you research The Press / Stuff Co articles. I remember one article which had pics of the Mary spin, maybe better resolution than mine. I saw & photographed many heavy objects twisted & spun on their vertical axes by quakes, like houses, stone gateposts, war memorial obelisks & granite grave obelisks. Check out my 2 Selwyn St Cemetery blog posts showing many grave obelisks toppled or spun on their vertical axes by the quakes. Much heavier than the Mary statue.

See Selwyn St Ghosts, 5 Months Post Quake

Many bridge horizontal concrete spans were rotated on their horizontal axes, 1 000s of tons weightier than the Mary statue. Check out my Bridge St Bridge post, Avon Estuary.

See Ten Avon River Bridges, Spans & Quakes.

Trust this resolves your skepticism. I was 82 kgs weight during quakes, spun & twisted quite a lot while trying to walk / run to safety during quakes.

BTW the Mary statue faced inwards in the RC Cathedral tower office window pre quakes, but faced outwards towards Barbadoes St post 22.02.11 quake, a 180 degree spin of the statue on its pedestal caused by the quake. No miracle, just quake physical forces. Check out EQC's Geonet website, if you want details of seismic scales, vertical accelerations, etc during quakes.

See Geonet.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

A Trip To Wellington

02.10.17. A letter to my adult sons summarizing Leah's & my trip to Wellington:

Sunday: Parked our car at Timaru airport for the week. Sunny flight Timaru - Wellington. Grand views of snowy Alps, farms, roads & Pacific. Flying over Christchurch, we saw the quakes' red zone along Avon River & how CERA had demolition gutted Christchurch - great swathes of green - Avon loop where you'd flatted Jake - Dallington, Horseshoe Lake, Bexley...

From Wellington airport, bussed to CBD. Checked in Cambridge Hotel, Cambridge Tce, near Queen Victoria statue. Wandered Courtenay Pl, Dixon St, Manners St, mingling with tourists & locals. Lots of cafes, restaurants, hoboes & barber shops. New World shopped, Wakefield St near our hotel.

Monday: Stormy. Te Papa, Our Place. Meals at museum cafe. First floor, I disliked the Gallipoli exhibition glorifying war, a couple of giant ANZAC soldier statues, few artefacts, a series of wall photos & descriptions. Top floor, I preferred the Darkness & Light, Maori exhibition, better Maori artefacts & descriptions. I gave short shrift to a bearded volunteer trying to explain Waitangi Treaty to me. I said: "I'm deaf. You're wasting your time!"

Tuesday: Stormy. Visited Wellington Museum, Jervois Quay - Harbour Board bldg, old wooden warehouse. Interesting 100 Years exhibition & artefacts. We ham steered an old sailing ship's wooden wheel & sat on giant, wooden, Harbour Board chairs. Lunch at Mojo cafe, escaping the rain. Visited old, wooden St Pauls church, near Parliament. Explored Parliament bldgs, incl the Beehive. Saw Minister Brownlee scuttling off behind the Beehive. Ilam constituents re-electing him daft, due to CERA excessive, post quake demolitions, EQC & CBD Blueprint debacles & delays.

Wednesday: Cloudy & cool. Walked Leah along Vivian St to her teacher conference at QC Hotel, Cuba St. QC Hotel was built on Salvation Army land as Peoples Palace 1904. Enlarged 1906. Revamped, enlarged again 2003. Reopened by PM Helen Clarke as Trekkers Hotel. I mingled with tourists and locals along Cuba Street, a death trap in future quakes, due to old, quake prone bldgs, loose brick walls, facades & parapets. Whenever I wandered Cuba St I got that creepy feeling I felt post Christchurch quakes near dangerous bldgs.

By Lambton Quay, caught the Cable Car to Botanic Gdns. Grand view of Wgtn. Lovely tulip show at main gates. Botanic labels few throughout. Cafe supper, Cuba St, crap steak.

Thursday: Walked Leah to QC Hotel. Visited War Memorial below Massey University. Found Gallipoli, Simpson & Henderson, stretcher bearers' & donkey statue on War Memorial steps. I'd seen it 23 years ago, forgot how small it was, compared to the giant War Memorial tower. Didn't pay ripoff admission fee to the Memorial Museum. New WW1 unknown soldier's grave at top of War Memorial steps, black polished granite.

Across War Memorial square, new ANZAC Memorial: raw red stone columns, Australian ground, amongst grey flagstones, NZ ground. Polished, grey granite panels on the red columns, engraved with ANZAC campaigns & aborigine carvings. Visited Wgtn Art Gallery & Library. Leah had teachers' supper at Te Papa. I dined at McDonald's, Courtenay Pl.

Friday: Walked Leah to QC Hotel. I breakfasted at Felix Cafe, bottom of Cuba St. Snapped CBD pics. Some bldg windows were boarded due to recent Kaikoura quake. Also old, brick bldgs with EARTHQUAKE PRONE BUILDING, yellow stickers. A 6 storey, modern bldg was being demolished near the Beehive, similar design to the CTV bldg which lethally collapsed during the 22.02.11 Christchurch quake. Halfwit Wgtn was slow to learn Christchurch quake lessons.

Saw opening ceremony, Maori Darkness & Light exhibition, Te Papa: PC history - Good Maori natives, bad Euro colonials. Many Maori in traditional costumes, dancing & singing. Some male dancers with spiral tattoos on their naked bums. Wondered if they knew how similar those spirals were to Celtic spirals? Boring speeches on live video near the whare exhibit. No mention on exhibit artefacts about ancient Maori cannibalism.

After Leah's conference ended we sunny afternoon wandered Oriental Pde, grand harbour & caldera hill views. Plenty joggers & beautiful people, same as I saw 23 years ago when I'd freedom camped there below Norfolk pines. Supper at Pasha Cafe, Dixon St, with a Korean friend.

Saturday: Return flight, Wgtn - Timaru, delayed 2 hours due to Marsden Refinery pipeline break. Jet refuelling took precedence over our small prop plane refuelling. Air crew were embarrassed & apologetic days after the pipeline break. Dumb fuel security organizing by NZ govt & farmer digging up stumps by the pipeline causing the break. Arrived back at Pleasant Point after dark.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Cow Crap & Kale, South Canterbury.

Recently we lived in Mackenzie Country, South Canterbury for 3 years, Lake Tekapo & Fairlie. This year we moved down SH8 to a Pleasant Point rental, so Leah had an easy rural commute to her Timaru work, as Resource Teacher Literacy, South Canterbury. Pleasant Point was on the S side of Tengawai River & Opihi River confluence.

Over the last few years, we'd regularly travelled South Canterbury, to & from Christchurch for Leah's teaching & lecturing. Near Dunsandel we passed Synlait milk processing plant seen from SH1. Leah's present job required her driving rural roads visiting schools in towns like Pleasant Point, Albury, Cannington, Fairlie, Lake Tekapo, Twizel, Temuka, Winchester, Geraldine, Woodbury, Mt Peel, Timaru, St Andrews, Waimate. I was taxi driver on long trips & we saw South Canterbury rural degradation caused by sheep, red deer, pig, cattle overstocking / overgrazing, especially cattle intensification for Fonterra & Synlait milk supply.

SH8 went through the middle of Pleasant Point. On the N side, plains farmland went down to Opihi River, draining the district. On the S side, rolling hills reminded me of England's South Downs. There were pleasant walks in & around Pleasant Point: Walks around sports fields & golf course, taking in a red deer paddock & a stream near posh golf club housing with distant Alpine views.

Walks along Tengawai River stopbank via Tengawai Rd. Walks along Ophi River stopbank via Halstead Rd or Butlers Rd.

A 5 km, circular walk along Manse Rd took you across farmland to Scott Munro Rd & back to Pleasant Point. Another walk off Manse Rd took you along Longview Rd with long views of the Southern Alps. The point of my rural walks were sublime Alpine views taking in snowy mountains from Hunters Hills, Mt Nimrod, Mt Nessing in the S, across the vast panorama of Dalgety Range, Albury Range, Two Thumbs Range, Sherwood Range & Devils Peak, Fiery Peak, Tripps Peak, Blue Mt, Mt Peel, Mt Somers, Mt Hutt fading to the N.

As my feet had good circulation I often walked in flip flops, even in winter. Sanctimonious Kiwis pointed to my feet saying I had the wrong tramping gear. So what? Having waded through liquefactioned sewage during Christchurch quakes, my toes were good crap detectors. Whenever I walked along rural roads my feet became covered in cow crap from farmlands' runoff. Winter roadsides were churned muddy by farm vehicles picking up plastic covered hay bales for stock feed. No haystacks anymore, but long hay rolls covered in unsightly green or pink plastic lining rural roads.

Example of cow crap & kale on a rural walk: A 6 km farmlands, circular walk from Afghan St along SH8, turning into Keans Rd at Keans Crossing by the end of Pleasant Point's tourist railway siding. A bridge crossed a stream filled with cow crap runoff, making the stream turbid brown. I passed several lifestyle houses & sheep & red deer paddocks, then a cob cottage below the hill.

As I climbed the hill on tarseal road, a Council ute passed me spraying herbicide on roadside weeds, gorse & blackberry. A B&B farmhouse sat on top of the hill. Keans Rd tarseal road became muddy gravel. I passed plastic covered, hay bales with mud churned alongside. Muddy puddles were stained brown with cow crap & urine runoff. (1 cow produced 23 kg cow crap & 25 litres urine / day. [The Press article comment]. Nitrates to fertilize farm soil & runoff pollution into streams & Opihi River). NAWA / ECAN website: Opihi River catchment, water quality indicators showed South Canterbury, Opihi River catchment was one of the worst nitrogen pollution catchments in Canterbury.

Keans Rd: Snowy Alpine views were nice. I passed an old farm house & sheds, a couple of sheep paddocks & big farm houses. The size of big, posh farm houses & farmers' SUVs, showed South Canterbury farmers were very wealthy. I crossed a muddy ford, the water opaque brown, filled with cow crap runoff.

After Keans Rd / Olivers Rd junction, on Olivers Rd I passed rolling sheep paddocks & a stock yard one side of the gravel road & a huge cattle paddock the other side of Olivers Rd, churned up. Cows up to their hocks in Paschendale mud. The muddy field, a cattle killing field where cattle were finished off for the abattoir. On top of the killing field hill, a line of cattle grazed their way along a line of kale kept straight by an electric tape. (In winter we saw that cattle / kale, break grazing all over South Canterbury in pugged, muddy paddocks). At a stock yard on top of the muddy hill, two Barwoods cattle trucks awaited the arrival of the cattle for slaughter.

Doake Rd, several farm houses, tarseal back to Pleasant Point, via Smart Munro Rd: Cow crap, muddy water, stagnant under a culvert, runoff from the muddy killing field. A concrete ford by Doake Rd / Smart Munro Rd junction: A valley stream polluted by cow crap.

Multiply cow crap, water pollution seen on my 6 km walk by 2600 farms in Opihi River catchment (LAWA / ECAN) & South Canterbury was submerged by cow crap sludge, polluting South Canterbury streams & rivers. Thanks to greedy dairy farmers, Fonterra & Synlait degrading South Canterbury's intensified cattle fields into cow crapped, muddy, killing fields, runoff polluting waterways, for milk product exports.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

See Synlait

See Fonterra 

See The truth about cow poo (The Press / Stuff Co).

See Call for action on Canterbury's ailing waterways (The Press / Stuff Co). 

See Opihi River Water Catchment (LAWA / ECAN).

See Opihi Water Project (NZ Landcare Trust).

See Cattle standing in muddy paddocks distresses farmer (The Press / Stuff Co).

See NZ election 2017 going beyond environmental slogans (The Press / Stuff Co).

See Irrigation is not the culprit in Canterburys environmental woes (The Press / Stuff Co).

See Statue of environment minister with his pants down delivered to Canterbury regional council (The Press / Stuff Co). 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Christchurch Quake Memorial & Port Hills Fires

Fri-Sat 24-25.02.11. Two days after opening of Christchurch Quake Memorial, remembering 185 people killed by the 22.02.11 quake, Leah lectured at Seabrook Mackenzie Centre, London St. A Civil Defence state of emergency still went on due to mostly extinguished fires on the Port Hills. The Port Hills fires had raged for days, causing a firefighter helicopter crash (ex SAS soldier / pilot dead) razing 9 houses & endangering many others. Residents of several endangered streets on the Port Hills were evacuated. Port Hills were fire blackened from Dyers Pass south-westwards towards Coopers Knobs. After 3 years of quakes, 2010-2013 incl, it was the second disaster hitting Christchurch in 6 years.

Friday, while Leah lectured, I looked at the new Quake Memorial off Oxford Tce by Avon River S bank. The Memorial consisted of 3 black, stone steps on the riverbank below a curved, white, marble wall below Oxford Tce. Names of the 185 dead were carved on the marble wall. I mingled in a crowd looking at the Quake Memorial. Access from the E side of the wall was a stone ramp for wheel chairs beside stainless steel banisters & balustrade. W side access, off Montreal St Bridge cnr, was stone steps & stainless steel banisters.

Amongst 8 stone & wooden benches, 6 maple saplings were planted on the top step below the wall. Below the E ramp & W steps, were young native plantings, like kahikatea, tussock grasses, astelias & hebes, as well as some exotic plantings, like young camellias & rhododendrons.

Wreaths of flowers had been placed on the steps below the marble wall by families of the dead & dignitaries at the 22.02.11 Memorial Service. Bereaved had come from all over the world for the opening of the Quake Memorial, as many overseas people had died in the quake, like Japan's Toyama School students,

Wreaths & sympathy messages were still there when I visited: Governor General Reddy, National govt Speaker Carter, National PM English, Mayor Dalziel, Labour opposition leader Little & many wreaths by embassies & organisations involved & affected: Toyama School, USAR. LANDSAR, NZ Fire Service, St John, NZ Red Cross, NZDF, NZ Police, Civil Defence, Green Party, Ngai Tahu, US Embassy, Turkey Embassy, Malaysia Embassy, Japanese Embassy, Korea Embassy. Philippines Embassy, Samoan Embassy. Chinese Embassy, Ireland Embassy, Canada Embassy, ...

After Leah finished lecturing on Friday I took her to the Quake Memorial for another look. On the pavement above the Quake Memorial ramp, a big, brown, pounamu stone lay on a plinth, fountain water flowing over the jade.

Saturday, I looked at Port Hills fire damage. Fires had started on the Port Hills on Feb 13. Slow Civil Defence declared a state of emergency on Feb 15.

From the top of Bengal St, I viewed blackened Sugar Loaf Hill above & below Dyers Pass. Marleys Hill was completely blackened except for green trees on top. The valley below Dyers Pass & Marleys Hill was blackened from top to bottom.

Near the end of Shalamar Dr, a fire warning sign stopped me driving to the end of the road. Similar view as above, but showing valley houses weren't destroyed, as firefighters had stopped fires encroaching farmland on the valley floor.

Worsleys Rd: At the valley bottom, a St John ambulance was parked by a Civil Defence tent with CD bods strutting about in orange, Hi Vis vests. I drove up Worsleys Rd, but before fire endangered housing near the top I was turned back by a CD road block & two clip boarded, CD bods in orange, Hi Vis vests. Having survived 3 years of quakes & multitudes of NZDF soldiers at roadblocks & obstructive CD, cop, Council, CERA, SCIRT bods in orange or yellow, Hi Vis vests, I vowed: "The next useless CD bod who stops me can go to hell!"

I drove to the top of Westmoreland Hts, parked my car & climbed through a new CD fence with a fire warning sign attached it. On the grassy hilltop, I had good views of fire endangered housing at the end of Worsleys Rd & fire blackened Port Hills, including Sugarloaf, Dyers Pass, Marleys Hill, Hoon Hay Valley, Cass Peak. The hillsides were fire blackened to ashes & fire blackened stumps, but valley farms & housing were saved by firefighters.

Some housing at the end of Worsleys Rd was bordered by scorched earth & razed trees, Firefighters on the ground & helicopters carrying monsoon buckets had their work cut saving those fire ringed houses.

In the distance where a forest once grew, I saw a smoke cloud & a digger quelling a hotspot, amidst scorched stumps & ashes. A brown helicopter circled above.

I drove along Cashmere Rd to Hoon Hay Rd where a clip boarded, orange, Hi Vis vested, CD bod stopped cars at a road block. I drove further along Cashmere Rd to take pics of Hoon Hay Valley & the fire damage on Port Hills above. Hoon Hay Valley farms & housing were OK, but Port Hills above were fire scorched, blackened. Several walkers, bikers & joggers passed while I watched the CD bod road blocking public at Hoon Hay Rd.

I drove past Halswell Quarry Reserve to Kennedys Bush Rd. Both Reserve entrances were road blocked by clip boarded, orange, Hi Vis vested, CD bods. Public banned. Parked on Reserve grass were 2 NZ Fire Service helicopters. During my drive, I'd watched one of the helicopters circling Port Hills, looking for hot spots.

End of Kennedys Bush Rd: I parked my car & wandered to a clip boarded, orange, Hi Vis vested, CD bod's road block, while other cars & bikes about-turned.

CD bod: "No pedestrians! No rubberneckers! Only residents allowed!"

Me: "I've been here many times before. I'm doing no harm. I've come all the way from Timaru. I want to see what I've watched on TV news all week. I'm taking photographs to show Timaru people!"

CD bod: "Phew!" I wandered past him to the end of Quarry Hill housing, which I'd seen develop over many years, while Luke had piano lessons with a SA expat down Kennedys Bush Rd. Over the years, I'd walked Kennedys Bush area to Hoon Hay Valley & up to Summit Rd & Cass Peak.

Port Hills fires had almost reached Kennedys Bush Rd housing, the reservoir above housing bordered by scorched trees & fire blackened hillsides. A swathe of lilac, fire retardant had been flown in, covering unburnt grass between the reservoir & housing. Port Hills further west were fire blackened towards Coopers Knobs. I thought Port Hills, Governors Bay side, would be fire blackened too. During my Kennedys Bush Rd inspection, a brown helicopter clattered above, then landed at Halswell Quarry Reserve.

The Port Hills fires, state of emergency was only lifted a week later. Orange, Hi Vis vested, CD bods took their time declaring a fire state of emergency, then buggered public around for two weeks. The excuse: hot spots had to be stopped.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

See Port Hills Fires