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A Decade of Dedication
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A Decade of Dedication

Alison and Michael Hamilton: Recipients of the 2018 Faye Schaef award

Alison and Michael Hamilton were recipients of the 2018 Faye Schaef award for ZEALANDIA volunteers. This award was given in recognition of their work and dedication over the last decade, in which time they’ve done a range of volunteering activities from hihi feeding to mouse audits to being part of the transect team.

I met up with Alison and Michael recently to talk about why they volunteer as much as they do and what keeps them coming back.

Once a week, Alison and Michael are out with the Transect Team. The team works in groups of three to four, maintaining the transect lines to make them as safe as possible for staff and volunteers. They do this by clearing vegetation, marking the route with pink tags and maintaining the bait stations.

“The bush in ZEALANDIA is sliced in a series of parallel transects that cover the whole sanctuary at 50m intervals,” Michael explains. “These create rough routes through the bush. Staff and volunteers use these lines for all sorts of things—from bird-counts, pest-audits, planting, shortcuts between locations, and the annual bait out. So it’s really important that the lines are maintained. We’ve been part of the transect team for two years now and the team has cleared around three quarters of the lines.”

“This is our way of getting to know the ecosanctuary, beyond what you see if you visit for a day. We get to see all the nooks and crannies and some of the unexpected landforms. Apparently there’s a transect with waterfall out there, but we’ve yet to encounter it.”

And so, every week, the team will choose a transect line and head out into ZEALANDIA. Sometimes they’ll get from one side of the sanctuary to the other in a day, but sometimes rough terrain will mean they get through a fraction of what they thought they would. There have been many highlights scattered in amongst the hard work.

“Team members sometimes find surprises” Alison says. “Part of our job is to check the bait-station boxes so they’re ready for pest audits and pest control. When checking the boxes, the team has encountered a sleeping kiwi, forest geckos, cave wētā, and huge leaf slugs. That’s pretty special.”

As well as being members of the transect team, Alison and Michael are also volunteers in the avi-aider team bringing fresh sugar water to the hihi bird-feeders. These small, yellow and black birds are the only known species in the family Notiomystidae and are classed as Nationally Vulnerable. There are specific bird feeders for hihi around the sanctuary, which are designed to keep the larger birds, like kākā and tūī, out. Alison and Michael have been topping up these bird feeders once a month for a decade.

More recently, after the weasel incursion, Alison and Michael volunteered as a “fresh set of eyes” checking part of the perimeter fence for any damage, potential issues, or anything that might be an indicator as to how the mustelid got inside the ecosanctuary.

Talking to Alison and Michael, it was easy to detect their enthusiasm and passion for ZEALANDIA and to see why they are so deserving of this award.

Faye Schaef was a volunteer who passed away in 2014. The award is given in memory of Faye to volunteers who exhibit the qualities and characteristics that Faye embodied: kindness, generosity, modesty, dedication, friendliness and approachability. Despite having volunteered consistently for the last decade, Alison and Michael are relaxed and humble about their contributions. They are, quite simply, eager to help and enjoy the ecosanctuary.

Written by Lucy Dickie.
Photo by Judi Lapsley Miller.

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