At Friends of Hunua Ranges we are passionate about conserving and promoting all that is special about Auckland's largest Regional Park. In September of 2016 we bade farewell to one of the Hunua Ranges' closest friends, Park Ranger Scott Kusabs as he moves on to another chapter in his book of life to take on an important role with the Bay of Plenty Regional Council based out of Rotorua.
After over 13 years looking after the Ranges, "Scotty" as he is known has played a major role in protecting and nuturing this great area. He has worked closely with many interest groups, the general public and has been central in some amazing projects that will continue on into the future.
We felt it important to reflect on his time at Southern Regional Parks so that we may record some important aspects of the Hunua Ranges in the past decade and get a good perspective of things without him. So FoHR reporter Gabb caught up Scotty after a morning of trail maintenance (one of the many Working Bees organised by Scotty and the Auckland Mountainbike Club).
Before joining Regional Parks, Scotty studied for a Diploma in Resource Studies at Lincoln University where coincidently he met a couple of chaps he was to work with as fellow Rangers in the future: soon-to-be Ranger Kelvin Floyd and soon-to-be Ranger Phil Lugton (who both studied in Parks and Recreation).
Upon returning from some time in Australia, Scotty secured a 6 month contract with Southern Regional Parks of the then Auckland Regional Council, working from his home in Papakura. But before that contract ended, he got the opportuntiy to join full time as a Park Ranger. Things kicked off with an induction program which he took with soon-to-be Ranger Stan Hall from the King Country who went on to be at Ambury Regional Park followed by the important role as the first Ranger for Waitawa Regional Park.
But Scotty's role was Ranger for the Hunua Ranges.
This appointment saw Scotty with his #1 supporter and wife Megan move into the Ranger's house right at the Hunua Falls along with 10 week old son Darcy. As the years went by the Kusabs family grew with the addition of Ashton and Riley - quite the energetic bunch! So for these three young Kusabs, the move to Rotorua sees them in only their second home in their lives (we hear they're loving it!).
Whilst his tertiary education was not specifically about recreation, Scotty was given the Mountainbike (MTB) portfolio for the Hunua Ranges taking over from Ranger Phil for what would the longest tenure of this role yet. Gabb and his friends from Auckland Mountainbike Club have already commended Scotty for a sterling job, something that he certainly enjoyed getting involved in the recreation side of the park: "Recreation leads to convservation as a person sees an environment worthy of appreciation and protection, especially some of our city folk". The fact that many mountainbikers have told Ranger Scotty that this small network of trails in the valley are their favourite place to ride has left him rather chuffed! It has has also made him a lot of friends in the MTB community: Hayden, Edd, Geoff, James, Gabb, Lockie, Krusty Kris and many others.
Ranger Scotty scopes out a new Hunua trail with Friends of Hunua Ranges Chairman Merv Hood and Auckland MTB President Hayden Russell.
Often Scotty's work with volunteer groups was captured as youtube videos by perenial volunteer Elvis Zaskarelli, such as the time lapse of Scotty and Gabb updating signage, building a Pump Track, creation of the Fred Flintstone track and track building and tree planting,
When we spoke to Scotty about his proudest acheivements with MTB in the Hunua Ranges, he spoke of the River Track project that began around 2006. Whilst budget constraints downgraded this 2km trail from 2-way to 1-way it was still a major project that was a great addition to the network, replacing a large stretch of gravel road riding with superb technical single track that he was rightly very proud of. Following the Mangatawhiri River from the foot of the dam, this track began life with several scope-out missions by Scotty followed by digger work with John, Colin and Te Ngahere. Various school groups also contributed greatly, hauling materials for the bridges for contractors to assemble on location.
Ranger Scotty at one of the Rotten Rock drop sites along the excellent River Track in the Moumoukai Valley of the Hunua Ranges
Other projects Scotty can be proud of was the planting of natives around the Moumoukai Valley Campground, adding shade and natural wonder. He also fondly remembers the hard work he, contractors and volunteers put into the wetlands native planting and willow removal along the Mangatawhiri River.
Another great ongoing legacy of Scotty's is the Hunua Habitat created in 2009 by an intiative by he and Ranger Mags Ramsey. The area around the iconic Hunua Falls was heavily infested with rats and possum wasting away Kiekie, Bush Lawyer and the general under growth. Almost a decade on and the efforts of Hunua Habitat are very evident in the wonderful array of native flora (and fauna) in the area now being enjoyed by thousands of visitors every year. This project has approximately 12 volunteers currently, and Scotty estimates around 80 have been involved over it's first 8 years.
Many a weekend would see our Scotty in the bush of the Hunua Ranges working to make our experience better.
Another project that saw a huge effort by Scotty was his work helping Ranger Mags kick things off at the Piggots Campground area when she found a breeding pair of Kokako close by. This resulted in some hurried pest control and the rest is history - the Kokako had chicks, the Kokako Recovery Project sprang into life and at last count there were over 50 pairs in the Hunua Ranges spilling out of the initial pest control area to populate the surrounding bush. Well done Scotty and Mags!
Over his tenure Scotty has worked with many groups and individuals with whom he has formed a great relationship. Groups like Conservation Volunteers New Zealand (CVNZ) and American Volunteers Abroad (AVA) have provided many volunteer hours to caring for the Hunua Ranges. Church groups, corporate teams, schools and youth programs from South Auckland and beyond has advanced the recreational and conservational value of the Hunuas - Auckland Grammar, Botany College, Waikato Diocesan, Otahuhu College to name a few. There was even the time Scotty had around 250 volunteer Catholics from France on their way to see the Pope in Sydney - ever resourceful Scotty arranged them as a Chain Gang to pass buckets of gravel along the Coseys Gorge Track, completing half of the whole track in under 3 hours!
So it is quite a legacy that Scotty leaves us. When pushed for what he would like to see happen in the near future, he mentioned the Family Trail that has been planned for the mountain bike network for many years but is yet to be built, "Being close to the MTB carpark, this will add a much needed element to the trail network - much needed because much of the trail network is technical single-track which is great for the seasoned rider but a tad too much for the beginner type rider." Naturally he would like to see the great balance between recreation and conservation that he helped maintain during his time at Hunua, something that we at Friends of Hunua Ranges are certainly committed to - we won't let you down Scotty!
Scotty, we are sure we are echoing the thoughts of so many people you worked with over those 13 years when we say a mighty Thank You and all the very best for the future.
Friends of Hunua Ranges would like to welcome Scotty's replacement Ranger Rebecca Smith to the team. Ranger Becks has had little time to get settled in with several extreme weather events keeping her busy through 2017. But she has already met with many of the stakeholders of the Hunua Ranges to introduce herself.
We look forward to working with Ranger Becks and all the Southern Regional Parks team.
Higher risk tracks in the Hunua Ranges Regional Park are closed from 1 May 2018.
A number of higher risk tracks in the Hunua Ranges Regional Park are closed. A Controlled Area Notice (CAN)* is in place across the forested areas of the Hunua Ranges as well as the Waharau Regional Park.
SCRUB | SPRAY | STAY on the track
Every year the Rangers of Southern Regional Parks put on a day of food and activity as thanks to volunteers who have given their time over the year. This year was special in that volunteers got a sneak preview of work on the soon-to-be-opened Waitawa Regional Park...