Department of Conservation Approves Trip for Radio Enthusiasts to Antipodes Islands

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The hut on Antipodes Island, damaged by a landslide, will need to be repaired to provide shelter on the rugged island for researchers and radio operators.

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The hut on Antipodes Island, damaged by a landslide, will need to be repaired to provide shelter on the rugged island for researchers and radio operators.

After careful consideration, the Conservation Department has given permission for a group of radio enthusiasts to travel to the Antipodes, but insists this does not set a precedent.

The group of international radio amateurs sought to broadcast from the Antipodes Islands, located 860 km southeast of Stewart Island.

Access to the Antipodes Islands is only by permit and the group has offered to make a significant contribution to the mouse eradication program that DOC wishes to implement.

DXing is the hobby by which radio operators receive and identify remote radio signals, or establish two-way radio contact with remote operators.

DOC Murihiku’s director of operations Ros Cole said the trip was approved because it would allow DOC staff to do much-needed work on the islands for their mouse eradication project next winter.

It was about balancing the benefits with the costs, Cole said.

“It is an exception rather than a precedent.”

A trip was planned to the Antipodes Islands aboard navy ship HMNZS Canterbury in March, but the ship was called back to rescue after Cyclone Pam, Cole said.

The DX radio group chartered a ship to the Antipodes that would also carry researchers studying Gibson’s albatross.

Trips to the Antipodes took a lot of planning and a lot of resources, Cole said.

The opportunity offered by the radio operators would allow DOC to make repairs to a hut on the island ahead of the 2016 operation, Cole said.

The impact of the radio operators was probably minimal as they would be spending their time in the hut.

“It’s not like they’re disturbing the wildlife.”

At a Southland Conservation Council Meet last month, the chief ranger for the southern islands, Jo Hiscock and Cole, asked the board for advice on the radio group’s proposal.

Hiscock said the problem is figuring out where the line lies in terms of balancing the donation received and the benefits sought.

“Basically how much money do you have to pay before you can buy your way to the sub-Antarctics, which is what these guys are actually doing.”

Hiscock said she understood that broadcasters could potentially make money from their radio work, but didn’t know how much.

DOC had previously received requests from radio groups seeking to broadcast from the southern islands, Hiscock said.

Radio groups had traveled to the Campbell Islands and the Auckland Islands to broadcast, she said.

“It takes about 5 or 8 years and all of a sudden you start getting the requests again because you have a new group of people who have radios.”

Board member John Twidle said he had no problem with the proposal and wanted to see it take the form of a conservation partnership.

“I’ve seen people in costume drop Kiwis and that’s how it works. It’s not negative, it just has to be dealt with.”


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