Thursday, February 26, 2009

2009. Poisoned Orongomai Trail, Kennedys Bush

I parked my Toyota at Sign of the Bellbird carpark beside two other cars, as I wanted to walk the Orongomai Trail, a circuit track through Kennedys Bush, which included three smaller circuit tracks returning to Sign of the Bellbird below Summit Road. I snapped Lyttelton Harbour, as grey clouds were flying in from the Pacific, and I wondered whether I'd stay dry on my walk?

2009. Brodifacoum Poison Sign found at the beginning & end of Orongomai Trail in Kennedys Bush, Port Hills, Christchurch

Going left below Sign of the Bellbird on Orongomai Trail, I crossed a wooden stile into native bush. A black-and-white POISON LAID skull-and-crossbones sign was stapled to a fence pole. Down the trail, another skull-and-crossbones sign on a wooden pole stated in red, black and white:


DO NOT TOUCH BAIT [Blue-green pellets.]
DEADLY TO DOGS [Caused dehydration and internal bleeding.]


Christchurch City Council poisoned rodents and exotic Aussie possums with poison toxic enough to kill kids, adults, dogs, possums and other animals, for the fantasy of conserving a native bush remnant, which possums gobbled in a valley.

In the next "private" Hoon Hay Valley exotic, monoculture pines replaced native bush, with the promise that matai and totara would be restored to native glory within a century. What a farce.

Down wet Orongomai Trail I walked down many mossy, stone steps, covered in slippery leaf- litter. I passed gorse and blackberries, and passed a TOTARA TRAIL sign, showing a short walk back to Sign of the Bellbird.

2009. Kennedys Bush gap, Orongomai Trail overlooking Canterbury Plains

Down wet Orongomai Trail, I came upon a big rock with a view through the bush over Canterbury Plains. A man passed me on the one-man-wide trail, wearing boots, shorts, red tartan shirt and hat. My jandals were unsuitable for walking wet tracks. I needed walking boots.

I zig-zagged down the cool, dark trail past a FANTAIL TRAIL sign which showed another short walk back to Sign of the Bellbird. I zig-zagged down more leaf-litter trail, down more slippery steps, through more native bush to a QUARRY TRAIL sign showing another circuit walk back to Sign of the Bellbird.

I continued down less travelled Orongomai Trail down more slippery stone steps and leaf-litter, through ferny understory, and five-finger shrubs, and taller sophoras, and leggy trunks of dark native bush. I recognized flaky, black bark and knobbly roots of a kahikatea white pine. Other trees were difficult to identify, as trunks were covered in moss, vines or black fungus. Although it was early afternoon, canopy darkness made it hard to identify leaves. So dark, my Nikon went into automatic flash mode whenever I coolpixed.

Orongomai Trail zig-zagged near a dry stream, down the valley over more slippery stone steps. I found a white plastic poison dispenser with an orange lid, on its side in leaf-litter - no poison pellets inside. I crossed the dry stream and heard bird calls. I wondered if that was what early Maori and early white settlers heard in native bush, as Brodifacoum poison could kill birds? The valley was so damp, water droplets guttated from five-finger leaf edges.

I crossed the dry stream bed again. At the bottom of Orongomai Trail I found a confluence of two streams going further down the valley. I saw no totora nor matai trees, due to mossy trunks, high canopy and low light. It took 45 slippery minutes to reach the bottom of Orongomai Trail.

2009. Poison Dispenser by Orongomai Trail in Kennedys Bush, Christchurch

Following Orongomai Trail upwards, beside the trickling second stream through native bush, I saw totara leaf-litter and found my first totara. I saw another plastic poison dispenser attached to a tree - also empty. I wondered how much Brodifacoum poison filtered into the stream? I passed many ferns and some tree ferns in the gully. Tree-nettles lurked by the trail too.

2009. Going up Orongomai Trail in Kennedys Bush, Christchurch

2009. Fantail, Orongomai Trail, Kennedys Bush, Christchurch

Varied native plant species in Kennedys Bush were more genetically diverse than pine monoculture in "private" Hoon Hay Valley and "private" Cashmere Valley nearby. A fantail flittered from branch to branch near me, twittering.

2009. Kennedys Bush gap, Orongomai Trail overlooking Canterbury Plains

Near the top of Orongomai Trail, someone had hacked away thistles, broom, bracken, gorse and blackberries. Weeds won, still growing trackside. I passed russet paperbark trunks of tree fuchsias, Fuchsia excorticata. While cloudy sky shone through the trees, I passed kanuka, sophoras, cabbage trees, dodonea, flax, olearia, pittosporums, hebes, lancewoods, two young totaras.

2009. Kennedys Bush plantings near the top of Orongomai Trail, Christchurch

Back at Sign of the Bellbird I crossed another wooden stile, with a POISON LAID sign and a WARNING POISON sign nearby. I took 1 hour 10 minutes to reach the top. A motorbike man sat on a Sign of the Bellbird wall, drinking from his thermos.

I sat on the stile and watched clouds race past Cass Peak (546m) and Mount Ada, sucking moisture over the Crater Rim from Lyttelton Harbour and the Pacific. Harry Ell had chosen his Sign of the Bellbird site well, as no low clouds covered Sign of the Bellbird.

When we'd lived in Halswell for eight years below, I'd asked a neighbour about Christchurch weather. "Look at the Port Hills," she said. "When clouds fly from the Pacific over Kennedys Bush, wet weather's coming."

2009. Stile below Sign of the Bellbird at the beginning / end of Orongomai Trail, Port Hills, Christchurch

At the carpark another car was parked alongside, and a Christchurch Park Ranger's white utility vehicle was parked too. I sat in my car watching clouds flying, before driving home.

Content & pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

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