Waitōtara Conservation Area, Whanganui – January 2023
A team of volunteers supported by the Backcountry Trust recently spent time working on the Waitōtara Track, which links the Waitōtara River with the Matemateāonga Track in the Whanganui-Taranaki backcountry. The aim was to clear all the many windfalls on the entire track with chainsaw crews, thus completing hand-clearing work undertaken the summer before.
The Backcountry Trust’s Megan Dimozantos reports: ‘We had three ticketed chainsaw operators on the job. Freshly ticketed, I worked alongside two super experienced operators, David Eaton and Nick Powis. Both of these top blokes gave their skills and expertise for free, meaning we could clear all the large and complex windfalls. I learned so much from them.’
‘We paired each chainsaw operator with a buddy or two, who cleared stuff off the track as the operator worked. The buddies also carried heavier packs (containing fuel, water, and spare equipment) to help free the operators of their burden.’
‘The buddies included Julia Collins, Corine Pontbriand, Mark Robbins and Taylor Waddel. It was hard, grunty work.’
‘The first day, one team went to Trains Hut, with the other two headed to Tahupo Hut. The teams worked towards each other, then headed back to Tahupo Hut for the night. For the rest of the trip, the three teams worked in series, leap-frogging each other. That meant we could help each other out when needed, and also hang out together for lunch.’
‘On Day 2, we worked our way to Puteore Hut. On Day 3, we worked to Charlie’s Clearing, and then on Day 4, we made it all the way back out to the Matemateāonga Track end.
While Day 3 had some really big, complex windfalls, the big pine on Day 4 took the cake. We needed all three operators, working from different sides, with constant analysis of the compression and tension. It was a huge team effort (see team photo). The days were really long, and never ended before 8 p.m.’
‘The work also required a number of awkward re-routes and re-marking around some windfalls. The section from the ‘letterboxes’ out to Whaka Road was painfully overgrown and poorly marked. We cut it back hard, meaning it’s in pretty good nick now. But it needs people walking over it to keep it clear, so get in there!’
‘The only sections we didn’t manage to cut were:
‘DOC has a new bridge ready to replace the old ‘Pounga Bridge’ between Charlie’s and the letterboxes, and will install it when next doing other work in the area.’
‘It bloody hard work to cover 45 kilometres of track with a chainsaw, carrying your sleeping gear and clearing windfall along the way… but some of the team even said it was fun! It’s inspiring and I felt proud to be a part of it. Thanks team ... looking forward to our next adventure together!’