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Make the most of your collisions
27 October 2015

I once rode a motorcycle into a powerpole to prove a point. Well, kind of.

In fact, I rode a motorcycle into a powerpole, which proved a point; that the pole was too close to the race track – just as I had suggested earlier in the day.

So I’m not beyond being the evidence for my own theories including the one that suggests people involved in recreation can contribute to conservation at the same time.

My proof for that came on a recent run around part of Nga Tapuwae o Toi, the spectacular 18km loop from Whakatane to Ohope via the coast and then taking the inland route back to Whakatane.

I was on the inland side, about 5.30pm and just starting down through a gully section across farmland.

It’s usual to see plenty of wildlife; blackbirds, rabbits, cattle, sheep and even the odd pheasant or two while, in the bush section, robins flit around on the edge of the trail.

 Part way down the gully I heard something breaking for cover just after I passed it.

Glancing back over my shoulder, I was stunned to see a long fawn-coloured tail disappearing into the scrub.

After my run, and scarcely able to convince myself of it, I reported to the authorities that I thought I had seen a wallaby – well outside its control range and, if so, newly on feral-pest death row.

To cut a long story short, the wallaby detection dog subsequently proved me right and the Australian bounder was “removed”.

My example of contributing eyes and ears to bio-security is just one place where recreation and conservation collide.

Another is in the various “participatory science” projects that support a range of research and monitoring.

In Whakatane, walkers and runners who log sightings of the aforementioned robins on line are helping keep track of the birds’ breeding success since they were introduced in 2014.

Other similar projects include the national kereru (native pigeon) survey, recording the arrival of the first shining cuckoo and mapping the distribution of kiwi, and that’s just scratching the surface.

If you want to be a bit more engaged with the research there are some cool marine projects as well.

With your camera in hand, you can take photos or video to post on-line to help monitor track conditions, flooding patterns or help predict the changes in the coastline as a result of global climate change.

If the camera is a Go-Pro, the footage you shoot can be useful, not just for analysing your performance or re-living the experience, but for providing data about all sorts of things – even as evidence.

Those who paddle kayaks and other small watercraft are well placed to film activities – some of which will sadly be illegal - taking place on riverbanks and in marine reserves.

But even if you don’t want to be pro-active about doubling the benefit of your recreation through “citizen science” or “citizen surveillance”, just posting to social media can multiply the benefits of your efforts.

Posting comments and images of your day out can help build appreciation of the great places we have to enjoy, foster community pride in them, motivate people to care for them and even prod others just to get out there and see for themselves.

On its own your next run, ride or paddle may not save the planet or make the world a better place but the small act of sharing the experience with a friend could be an almost effortless step in the right direction.

Oh yeah, in case you are wondering, the collision with the powerpole very fortunately resulted in only minor injuries.

This post was written by

Steve Brightwell - who has written 17 posts

Steve Brightwell is a partnership ranger with the Department of Conservation.

He has been a part of the Virtually On Track team from the project's inception.

Steve lives in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, has a communications background, and is a weekend warrior of modest multisport ability.

The views he expresses for this blog are his own and do not necessarily reflect or imply official policy of the Department of Conservation.

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