New bylaw means stricter dog leash rules
A new Auckland Council bylaw will signal the end of some long-held Waiheke dog walking privileges.
The new regulation, which comes into effect on 1 July, says dogs must be kept on leashes on all footpaths. In the past Waiheke was exempted from the leashed areas except for a group of roads, reserves and parks.
The bylaw from the former Auckland City Council said owners walking their dogs on Waiheke roads and footpaths need only have them “under control”.
The new regulations takes the place of the seven previous bylaws from Auckland Council’s legacy bodies.
Waiheke Local Board deputy chair Jo Holmes, owner of a seven-year-old toy Yorkshire terrier, said she was “absolutely in favour” of the new bylaw.
“The old regulation said dogs walking along roads here had to be under control. The problem is that more and more cars are on Waiheke roads and it is almost impossible to keep a dog under control without putting it on a leash.
“It’s quite common to see dogs running 20 to 40 metres away from their owners. They risk being run over and that is not a pretty sight.”
Cr Noelene Raffills of Auckland Council’s regulatory and bylaws committee says the new measure will end a lot of confusion.
“Previously there were seven ways of doing things which was not practical to enforce. It was confusing for the public who may have known the rules in their community but not in other parts of Auckland.
“Now we have one approach across Auckland for the things that are important no matter where you are.”
An Auckland Council spokesperson says current Waiheke rules on dog access to local parks and beaches will remain after 1 July.
“These include areas under control off-leash, under control on-leash, prohibited areas and beach time and season restrictions.” •
Big shoes to fill at High School
The tall, be-suited figure of principal Neil Watson will no longer be synonymous with Waiheke High School from the end of this term.
After six and a half years, he is stepping down to take up the position of principal at Otahuhu College in South Auckland, whose ‘old boys’ include former prime minister David Lange, boxing champion David Tua and former South Auckland mayor, Sir Barry Curtis.
Taking on a decile one school with a staff of around 100 teachers and a roll of 1400 predominantly Maori, Pacific Island and Asian students is going to be very different, he admits.
“I’m excited by it but it’s going to be a big responsibility as well. It’s a very diverse community, very different to Waiheke and the school has a proud history. I’m actually looking forward to getting to know how it all works, both at the school and in the wider community.”
However, he says leaving the school and Waiheke itself was always going to be hard.
“I don’t think you can spend six and a half years on this island and not have it change you. It’s a special place with a strong community feel and that’s its real strength. I hope it never loses that.”
In terms of his own legacy at the school he says, it is without doubt, the quality of the teaching staff.
“I am so proud of the outstanding teachers, which flows on to the kids and their achievement and engagement.”
Particularly gratifying, he says, is bumping into past students in places as far flung as London and hearing of their success.
“That’s what we are all here for in the end.”
During his tenure, student attendance achievement has radically improved, with NCEA pass rates going from the mid-60s to the mid-90s in 2012, moving the school into the top 20 percent at Levels 1 and 2 Auckland-wide.
Student participation in cultural areas like music has also grown, as has the community’s involvement in the school, particularly in subjects with a natural link like viticulture and hospitality.
Mr Watson oversaw a major upgrade of the administration block, hall, library and other student facilities as well as finally sorting out the 15-year debacle of the school’s water and sewerage systems, with the Ministry of Education now expected to take financial responsibility for it and backdate a sizeable cheque to the school’s coffers for past outlay.
The person who has worked perhaps the most closely with the departing principal is his deputy, Tony Sears.
“In my career I have worked with 11 principals and I would rate Neil the highest. He is an extremely hard-working man who is focused on ensuring that each student achieves to their very highest potential. He has high expectations of both staff and students…and is a true curriculum leader, constantly looking for ways that we can improve for the good of our students.
Fundamental to his success as a principal, he believes, is the care that he takes in staff appointments.
“Neil’s ability to support, motivate and challenge each person is what sets him apart as a true leader. He leaves the school in much better shape than he found it.”
The challenge for the new board he says, will be to appoint a principal with the capacity to build on the direction Mr Watson has successfully charted for the school.
“Figuratively and literally, the new principal has huge shoes to fill.”
Long-serving former board of trustees member Jane Scorey also developed a strong working relationship with the outgoing principal during her six years as board chairperson.
“Neil has been ‘steering the waka’ onwards and upwards and always striving to better the academic results for our students.
“He has really focused on student achievement and expecting the best out of our students in their subject areas.
“He believes our decile six school can do as well as decile 8 to 10 schools and that with strong leadership and good quality teaching in the classrooms, this can happen. He has also earned major respect from the staff and has strong leadership.”
Board of trustees member John Stansfield says that while he and Mr Watson come from different sides of the political fence, after working together on the board for three years, he has great respect for both the man and the educator.
“A school is always an uneasy partnership of interests between its staff and community and Neil has got some solid backing from the staff and in particular from leaders I respect in the Maori community.
“He has grown with the school and brought much needed stability and improvement to the academic and cultural achievements of our kids. He completed his Masters in education while with the school and has contributed to scholarship and our understanding of school leadership and management.”
After he leaves, Mr Watson would like to see the school keep on with the upgrading of facilities – at least 20 classrooms have to be entirely replaced – keep attracting good teachers and board members and work on improving the path for students into further training.
A regret, he jokes, is that he won’t be around to see long-serving staff member Bob Upchurch finally retire.
“I think if I’m honest, Waiheke High School is the thing I am most proud of in my life to date. I’m really going to miss it.” • Julianne Evans
A rare species resurgent in the Hauraki Gulf
Martin Moore caught a ride with the Department of Conservation team to watch the release of Motutapu’s newest resident, Ariki the takahe
Motutapu Island’s population of rare takahe grew by one last week with the release of another of the endangered flightless birds by the Department of Conservation.
The latest release brings the population to 17 birds, nearly half way to the Department goal of 20 breeding pairs, which would make it the largest population outside of Fiordland.
There are so few takahe left that each bird gets its own name, and last Thursday’s release was a young male from Tiritiri Matangi Island named Ariki (Maori for ‘paramount chief’).
The Department of Conservation has been releasing Takahe on Motutapu since it and adjoining Rangitoto were declared pest free in 2011 after an extensive eradication programme to remove everything from wallabies to rats, cats and stoats.
Takahe were once common around New Zealand, but were become gone extinct some time around 1900 following the introduction of foreign species like deer and stoats. Deer competed for the same foods as takahe while the stoats would eat their eggs, which are laid in nests on the ground.
A small population of about 200 birds was discovered near Lake Te Anau in 1948 by a local tramper named Dr Geoffrey Orbell. Their numbers continued to fall, dropping to just 100 by the 1980s.
Since then a targeted DOC conservation programme has replenished their numbers to more than 260, with populations scattered across Fiordland and the pest-free islands of Kapiti, Mana, Maud, Tiritiri Matangi and now Motutapu.
“The whole idea is that we want more to ensure the survival of the species and Motutapu is playing a significant role in this,” says DOC spokesperson Nick Hirst.
Most of the birds on Motutapu are about two years old now, and he hopes they will begin breeding soon.
The takahe, alongside the other native species on the island such as little spotted kiwi, kokako, kakariki, tuatara and wetapunga, are also proving to be a tourist draw-card for Auckland, with more than 130,000 people visiting Motutapu and Rangitoto each year.
“The great thing is that you can come and see them because they are curious creatures and they will stand and look back at you,” Mr Hirst says.
John Eccleton of the Motutapu Restoration Trust says they are thrilled to have a growing takahe population, and this helps to make Auckland a unique and attractive city.
“All these translocations are incredible. There are just 263 takahe left in the world and we’ve got 17 of them 25 minutes away from Queen Street.” •