DOC gets increased funding to support New Zealand’s wildlife and landscape

One of the major treasures of New Zealand is its stunning and unique wildlife, landscape and native bush. Given the growing attraction of this country for increasingly large numbers of tourists, the challenge is afoot for New Zealand’s government and its Department of Conservation to ensure that this treasure is maintained and protected. Sustainable tourism is essential, if New Zealand is to retain its beautiful natural environment.

New Zealand’s government has recently announced its 2018 Budget, which delivers a significant funding boost for the Department of Conservation, with an additional $181.62 million to be delivered to DOC over the next four years:

  • $81.28 million to help New Zealand’s unique wildlife thrive by controlling and eradicating predators
  • $16.24 million for strengthening DOC’s organisational capacity and capability
  • $5.5 million for managing the impacts of more visitors to public conservation land
  • $2.6 million for protecting plants, wildlife and landscapes in the Mackenzie Basin
  • $76 million as a contingency to fund biodiversity initiatives across land, freshwater and marine ecosystems.

It’s one of the biggest ever funding increases for the Department of Conservation and will benefit New Zealand’s distinctive native plants, wildlife and natural landscapes.

Discovering Mou Waho Island and Lake Wanaka with Eco Wanaka


Last month I was in Wanaka, enjoying a fabulous four day autumn retreat in this beautiful town. The leaves of the trees along the lakeshore had already turned a brilliant gold by the time we arrived, and the bright blue skies and sparkling sunshine were an incredible backdrop. Every time I put my camera away, I’d have to pull it out again in a vain attempt to capture this special corner of New Zealand.

One of the best trips we did during our stay in Wanaka was an excursion with Eco Wanaka Adventures out to Mou Waho Island nature reserve. Chris Reilly was our Guide for the day, and he regaled us with fascinating insights into the history of this nature reserve. Mou Waho is about 20 minutes by boat from Wanaka. It was a beautiful ride, and we were surprised to see how long Lake Wanaka is. From the town itself, you don’t get an appreciation for how far north it runs, and for all the bays and cliffs that edge the lake. We drove past Mou Tapu, a striking and sacred island where the Maori buried their dead, and then pulled up to a little jetty on Mou Waho.


The first thing we noticed was the beautiful bird calls drifting down through the bush: we could pick out bell birds, fantails and wood pigeons. Chris showed us examples of native plants on the way up to the top of the island – mistletoe with little yellow berries (a favourite with the wood pigeons) and fuchsia, whose purple flowers are adored by bell birds (the little green birds end up with purple faces from the pollen of these flowers). Chris also showed us some wineberries, and explained how the wood pigeons love to over-indulge in these small red berries. On a hot day, the wine berries ferment in the pigeons stomach, the pigeons get drunk on the berries, and you can see them swooping crazily up and down the island. Chris told us about how he nearly got hit in the head by one drunken pigeon a few years ago.

Another lovely aspect of this trip is that every group of visitors gets to plant a tree on the island, to give something back to the island, and to New Zealand’s environment. We planted a totara tree, and have already planned to go back and visit in a few years time, to see how it has grown. Another memorable part of our visit to Mou Waho was our interaction with two of the delightfully curious Buff Weka, a flightless bird that has been extinct on the mainland since the 1920’s. Sally (one of the Weka’s whose territory extended to the lake on the top of the island, where we stopped for morning tea) wandered around our legs while we sipped our tea, and was very calm and accepting of our presence. We got some fabulous photos and videos from very close up.

The view from the top of Mou Waho looking back over Lake Wanaka and up to the surrounding mountains was absolutely stunning. The light breaking through the clouds and the imposing mountains all around was a dream for any photographer. Every corner we turned looked out onto new breathtaking vistas which I kept trying to capture. A highly recommended trip for anyone wanting to experience New Zealand’s birdlife and native flora with a fabulous guide, and for anyone wanting to see this beautiful part of the country from a different perspective.

Waitangi Treaty Grounds

The Waitangi Treaty Grounds provides a fascinating glimpse into New Zealand’s history. It was here on 6 February 1840 that the first 43 Maori chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi with the British Crown, whereby (the British Crown claimed) British sovereignty was established. The Treaty House was built in 1832 and was originally a home of British resident James Busby. It is now preserved as a museum. The iconic carved meeting house – Te Whare Rūnanga – is stunning. The fine carvings on the meeting house represent the main Maori tribes.

We can also highly recommend the cultural performances at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, which take place during the summer. You can experience the thrill of a challenge from a Māori warrior as you make your way through the grounds. If you pass, you’ll continue on to Te Whare Rūnanga where you’ll encounter a traditional Māori welcome, and an energetic cultural performance by the resident performing arts group – Te Pitowhenua. After the show you can return to the café for a delicious hāngi dinner – cooked in a traditional Māori earth oven – in which your food is steamed to perfection.  Expert hāngi chefs will educate you on the cooking process as they tantalisingly reveal your feast.

You can get a glimpse into what awaits through this video clip filmed at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds: Waitangi Treaty Grounds


McKayson’s New Zealand Women’s Open Golf Championship 2017


The New Zealand’s Womens Open is New Zealand’s richest golf tournament with NZ$1.85 million in prizemoney. It will be staged at the new Windross Farm golf course in Auckland from 28 September to 1 October this year. The New Zealand Women’s Open is part of the global LPGA Tour which comprises 35 events in 15 countries, with the New Zealand event to be broadcast to more than 150 countries.

Eight Major winners, including three from the winning 2017 USA Solheim Cup team, have completed final confirmation for the MCKAYSON New Zealand Women’s Open taking place in just over three weeks.

The trio of Paula Creamer, Brittany Lincicome and Danielle Kang were part of the winning American Solheim Cup team. The other Major winners include Canada’s Brooke Henderson, Korea’s Na Yeon Choi, Taiwan’s Yani Tseng, Scotand’s Catriona Matthew and tournament host Lydia Ko.

Tseng and Ko have been so dominant that between them they were the world number one for more than four years. Tseng was the youngest player either male or female, at 22 years, to win five majors – the US Women’s PGA Championship twice, the Women’s British Open twice and the ANA Inspiration. Lincicome, 31, is a two-time Major winner and likely to be one of the most popular players at the tournament, on the back of her big hitting game, which has earned her the nickname of BamBam. Choi is another player with a remarkable record in the game, with nine LPGA wins including the US Women’s Open in 2012. The 29 year old has won over NZ$15 million in earnings, with her first professional tournament victory in Korea at just 17 following an incredible amateur career. Henderson, 19, already has four professional wins to her credit including her breakthrough victory when she beat Ko in a playoff to claim her first Major, the 2016 Women’s PGA Championship. Matthew has 11 tournament wins to her credit including the British Open in 2010 and four wins on the LPGA, amassing more than NZ$13 million in her career. Creamer is a 12-time winner who has amassed more than $NZ 16 million in prize money including a win in her first year to become the youngest winner of a multiple-round tournament. She claimed her Major at the US Women’s Open in 2010 with her last win coming at the HSBC Women’s Champions in 2014. Kang, 24, won her first Major with victory in the KPMG PGA Championship this year, pushing her one spot outside the top-10 in the Rolex World Rankings for the two-time US Amateur champion. And then there’s the 20-year-old Ko, who was world number one for a remarkable 104 weeks and in her very short but meteoric rise in the sport, has already won 14 times including two Majors along with 60 top-10 LPGA finishes.

“To have golfers who have won so many Major Championships between them is a testament to the quality of the field coming to New Zealand,” said tournament director Michael Goldstein. “To this you have a number of outstanding players who have won many times on either on the LPGA or the LET Tours. We have a large number of proven champions in the women’s game competing in Auckland, and it will be a privilege for New Zealand fans to watch players of this calibre in action. It is a level of golf that has never been seen in this country before.”

You can read more about the championship on their website:





Anzac Day: 25 April

Today is Anzac Day. April 25. To me, Anzac Day conjures up vivid images of my university time in Auckland, when on this day each year my friends and I would get up in the dark, and walk through the Domain to the Auckland War Memorial (by the Museum). We would gather in small groups, whispering, and waiting for the first rays of light, and the emotional moving sound of a solitary bagpipe, that indicated the start of the ceremony. Most people were well wrapped up against the cold, but all would be wearing a red paper poppy somewhere on their jackets, to mark the day.  Wreaths, decorated with poppies, would be laid around the memorial, and returned servicemen decorated with medals would be an intrinsic part of the ceremony, many often in wheelchairs.

In this way, thousands of New Zealanders and Australians in New Zealand, Australia and all around the world today attended dawn ceremonies and parades to commemorate Anzac Day. This public holiday (in both Australia and New Zealand) commemorates all New Zealanders and Australians killed in war and conflicts and also honours returned servicemen and women who have fought and protected our country.

The date itself marks the anniversary of the landing of New Zealand and Australian soldiers – the Australian and New Zealand Armed Corps – the “Anzacs” – on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915. The aim was to capture the Dardanelles, the gateway to the Bosphorus and the Black Sea. At the end of the campaign, Gallipoli was still held by its Turkish defenders. Thousands lost their lives in the Gallipoli campaign: 87,000 Turks, 44,000 men from France and the British Empire, including 8500 Australians.  Among the dead were around 2700 New Zealanders, about a sixth of those who served on Gallipoli, and over 5000 New Zealanders were wounded.

New Zealand Justice Minister Amy Adams spoke at a dawn service at Gallipoli today. I found her speech very moving. You can see it here:

Gallipoli – Anzac Day 2017


Auckland Arts Festival 2017

Between 8 – 26 March, New Zealand’s largest city will be hosting a huge range of performances at The Auckland Arts Festival. From dance to poetry and visual arts to circus, the Festival is one of the biggest arts festivals in the southern hemisphere. It draws performers and audiences from around the world, and includes many free events and lots of family-friendly offerings.

In last year’s festival, 1,160 artists from 41 countries descended on Auckland to provide locals and visitors to the city with exceptional arts experiences. For 19 days, at more than 100 locations, Auckland was delivered a brilliant cross-cultural, cross-geographical and cross-generational programme of music, performance and events.

You can find out more about what’s on this year by clicking on the following link:

Auckland Arts Festival

Discovering Fiordland from Te Anau

Most visitors to New Zealand include a trip to Fiordland (to see Milford Sound or Doubtful Sound or to do one of the fabulous walks in the region) while they are in the South Island. Unfortunately many travel agents arrange for their clients to do this as a day trip from Queenstown. We always recommend that our clients stay in Te Anau or Manapouri if they are visiting Milford Sound or Doubtful Sound or wanting to experience Fiordland. This cuts down on the long driving time from Queenstown and gives them the added bonus of experiencing the warm Southern welcome given by local hosts in this area. If you are looking to go on a guided walk in the region, there are also several fabulous options departing from Te Anau.

There are also lots of other great things to do and see in the Te Anau area if you have time. Take a cruise across the pristine waters of Lake Te Anau, surrounded by the untouched beauty of the Fiordland National Park. There are primeval forests, picturesque islands, hidden coves and stunning mountain views waiting to be discovered.

Real Journeys offer tours of the glowworm caves, which begin with a cruise to the western shores of Lake Te Anau on a scenic cruise vessel. Deep inside the caves, you will be taken by small boat into a silent hidden grotto inhabited by thousands of glowworms.

Southern Lakes Helicopters are based in Te Anau and offer stunning scenic flights in the region. Departing from the lakefront helipad, you fly over Lake Te Anau for a birds-eye view of glacial carved fiords and bush clad mountain tops. Just above the north end of Lake Te Anau you will make your first landing at a remote glacier. Once airborne again you will fly over the Milford Track before landing at stunning Lake Erskine with its pristine blue waters.

For visitors interested in scuba diving, there is also the option to dive in the Milford Sound / Piopiotahi marine reserve. Milford Sound is unique for diving as the fresh water layer on top of the salt water makes plant and animal life usually found very deep in the sea much closer to the surface here. Because of this, divers are able to find stunning and unusual wildlife only a few meters down, and spend more time exploring. Diving trips are available for experienced divers and also for first time divers.

If you would like any help planning activities in the area, please let us know!

Escaping the European Winter

It is this time of year that I find living in Europe hard! The long cold winter stretches out before us for a few more months. The warm glow and cheery chatter of the Christmas markets are gone. The Christmas Tree has been thrown out, and the decorations packed away for another year. An icy wind blows across the fields and through the streets, cutting to the bone. Snow turns to slush, and people hurry from their houses to their cars, in a rush to turn up the heater before they freeze.

Meanwhile in New Zealand it is high summer. My friends and family send emails and photos of themselves at the beach – the kids playing cricket and rugby on the sand, or practicing life surfing and body boarding through the waves, while their parents wander along the beach, or grill sausages on the BBQ and enjoy the sunshine. It is the perfect time to do one of New Zealand’s Great Walks or one of the hundreds of other trails traversing the country, connecting isolated beaches, rugged coastal cliffs, farmland, river valleys and virgin forest, or high country tussock lands and dramatic mountain ranges. The weather is normally settled at this time of year, and it is the perfect temperature for walking or biking or kayaking, or one of the many outdoor activities on option in New Zealand. It is also the perfect time of year to visit one of the many wineries, and linger for a long lunch under the vines, while sampling the local pinot noir or sauvignon blanc.

In my opinion, February and March are the best months to visit New Zealand (and the best time to flee the long winters in Europe). Most of the “high season” tourists using their Christmas holidays to travel have left the country, and the local schools are back in session (so kiwi kids and their families are back home) and everything is much emptier. There are more accommodation options available to choose from, and the prices are usually better than during the Christmas period. The water is also warmer, as it has absorbed the strength of the sun’s rays during the summer months. There is also better availability for airfares (and more competitive rates).

It’s not so easy to travel during this time if you have children at school in Germany, but for anyone else, this time of year is highly recommended for your holiday in New Zealand! If I could, I would flee the European winter every year in February or March, for a taste of warmth and paradise on the other side of the world!!


Stargazing from a hot pool!

The small township of Tekapo sits on the shores of the remarkable turquoise-coloured Lake Tekapo, within the world’s largest International Dark Sky Reserve. It is a popular destination with stargazers from all around the world and is home to the Mount John Observatory. From early next year (2017) there will be a new way to enjoy the spectacular night sky in one of the world’s best stargazing locations.

At the Tekapo Springs hot pool complex, guests will be able to navigate the Southern night sky’s bright stars and constellations from the warmth and comfort of hot pools. They can enjoy an after-hours soak (from 9.30pm onwards) whilst listening to relaxing background “astro music”, as qualified “Star Guides” point out the brightest features in the night sky.

Once guests have enjoyed the pools, they will be invited to get closer to the stars and planets by looking through two new 9.25 aperture Celestron telescopes sitting on the patio outside the complex’s Tahr Bar & Café.

Tours are scheduled to start early 2017. They will be 1.25 to 1.5 hours long and will run throughout the year.

This night sky video gives you a taste of stargazing at the complex:


It’s all happening in Auckland

If you are visiting Auckland in the next few months, there are some exciting events coming up. Here’s a run-down:

17-22 November 2016: Royal New Zealand Navy celebrates its 75th Anniversary

In 2016, the Royal New Zealand Navy celebrates its 75th Anniversary. There will be an International Naval Review as part of these celebrations in Auckland from the 17th to 22nd of November. A number of foreign navies, including the US Navy, are participating. The ships will enter the Waitemata Harbour in formation on Thursday 17 November. There will also be a march by 1000 sailors down Queen Street, public open days on New Zealand and international naval vessels, and an exhibition at The Cloud on Queens Wharf.  For more details see the Navy’s website here:

14-21 December 2016: Youth Sailing World Championships

From the 14th to 21st of December, Auckland will host the 2016 Youth Sailing World Championships. This is expected to attract about 400 young sailors to New Zealand. Torbay Sailing Club (on the North Shore) is hosting the tournament, in conjunction with World Sailing and Yachting New Zealand.

2 – 14 January 2017: ASB Tennis Classic

The ASB Classic takes place from the 2nd to the 14th of January 2017. In a major coup for Auckland’s annual international tennis tournament, Serena Williams will be playing. Other internationals confirmed for the 2017 tournament include Venus Williams, Caroline Wozniacki, Ana Ivanovic, Jack Sock, John Isner, Roberto Bautista Agut and David Ferrer. The Auckland tournament continues to be a hit with top international players, winning the players’ choice WTA Best Asia-Pacific International Tournament 2 years in a row. To buy tickets, see the ASB Classic Tennis website:

28-30 January 2017: Tamaki Herenga Waka Festival

The Tamaki Herenga Waka Festival takes place in the Viaduct Events Centre and Viaduct Basin over Auckland Anniversary Weekend (28 – 30 January 2017). Enjoy three days of traditional and contemporary Maori culture, from emerging and established Māori musicians including Sammy J, Maisey Rika and Ria Hall, as well as traditional and modern kapa haka performances. Wander the village marketplace and discover delicious kai from Māori chefs and a variety of authentic arts and crafts. Experience traditional Māori games, storytelling, and workshops, plus exciting waka experiences on the Waitematā. There will also be a ‘Koro Lounge’ where pakeke (older visitors) can sit down, relax and have a complimentary cup of tea or coffee. Here is a link to the full programme: Tamaki Herenga Programme

9-12 February 2017: Auckland Lantern Festival

The Auckland Lantern Festival takes place between the 9th and 12th of February, and is Auckland’s largest cultural festival. Hundreds of handmade Chinese lanterns are set amongst the heritage trees and gardens of the Auckland Domain, while food stalls showcase delicious, authentic Chinese cuisine. There are performances, martial arts displays, arts and craft stalls, and a fireworks show at the end of the Festival.