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Innovative accommodation on Mid Dome for biosecurity contractors

16 January 2019

Portable accommodation built from a repurposed 26,000 litre plastic water tank is the latest innovation in the fight against wilding pines in Southland’s vulnerable high country. 

A ‘Turk’ – a self-contained shelter – was helicoptered into place on Mid Dome in early January, and will serve as on-site accomodation for contractors working in the remote Northern Southland region. These contractors undertake aerial spraying and ground clearance of pinus contorta, a highly vigorous invasive conifer species which threatens landscape values, biodiversity and farming productivity. 

The work is carried out under the supervision of ecology and biosecurity consultancy Boffa Miskell, which has been working with the Mid Dome Wilding Trees Charitable Trust since mid-2014. Trust chair Ali Timms says this new strategy will make an immediate impact. 

“Bringing the Turk on-site is a fantastic initiative by Boffa Miskell,” says Ali Timms. “Purchasing the Turk was a significant capital investment for the Trust, but we’re confident it’s going to make a big difference both in terms of efficiency, and in the well-being of the hard-working people on the ground.” 

Mid Dome’s remote location meant that biosecurity contractors typically had to travel up to three hours, by vehicle and foot, at the start and finish of each workday. Programme Manager Marcus Girvan of Boffa Miskell says finding a solution was a priority. 

“Clearing these remote areas is tough work; when you add in that amount of travel time – and this isn’t easy driving on well-used roads – the potential level of fatigue was a health and safety concern. The contractors were very keen to stay on-site, so we needed to find a way to make that happen.” 

The Turk was designed by Arrowtown adventurer Erik Bradshaw, who personally oversaw the installation of the Turk at Mid Dome as he did with three others in Antarctica in 2018. It’s very light for its size, and easily moved by helicopter. The plastic walls are flexible but strong, and capable of withstanding winds greater than 200kmh. 

Once in place, the Turk is levelled, and ballasted at the bottom to insure stability. Low-cost, quick-to-assemble and highly effective – this one is able to sleep four – it was the ideal solution for the Mid Dome Trust. 

“As of this week, we’ll have a team on-site in the Turk. They’ll stay nine nights at a stretch and then have four days off,” says Marcus. “We’ve piped in water from a nearby stream, and there’s a solar panel to charge phones and other devices. We’ll make adjustments and add other amenities over the coming months, as we settle into this new way of working. We’re pretty excited about it.” 

The Mid Dome Wilding Trees Charitable Trust governs the activities of the Mid Dome Wilding Trees Control Programme, which aims to eradicate wilding pines from Mid Dome and surrounding land. Lodgepole pines (pinus contorta) were planted on 250ha of Mid Dome between the 1950s and 1980s for erosion control, and have since spread to threaten over 100,000 hectares. 

Boffa Miskell manages the Mid Dome Wilding Trees Control Programme on behalf of the Trust; and works with stakeholders including local Iwi and landowners, LINZ, DOC, Environment Southland and MPI. 

Source: Boffa Miskell