Monday, May 27, 2024

DOC’s chimney-top eye in the Taranaki sky

A high-tech surveillance camera has been fitted to Taranaki’s tallest structure to aid the Department Of Conservation’s monitoring of the Tapuae Marine Reserve.

The camera sits near the top of the 198 m concrete chimney easily spotted on the city’s skyline. The chimney was part of a now-decommissioned power station, and the site is now owned by Port Taranaki.

Department of Conservation (DOC) Marine Ranger, Cameron Hunt says he identified an opportunity to increase surveillance of the marine reserve last year – with the chimney’s height offering obvious advantages for the positioning of a fixed camera.

“Marine reserves are vital to protecting our sea-going wildlife and monitoring them is an essential part of our work,” he says.

“The installation of the high-powered camera is a valuable new tool for ensuring people adhere to the rules protecting wildlife in the marine reserve.”

The camera was installed late October, and in the first two weeks of its operation it picked up three people dropping crayfish pots into the reserve’s waters, and two vessels fishing illegally. The camera monitors activity within the boundary of the marine reserve.

“The clarity of the images and the area covered by the camera far exceeds our expectations,” Cameron Hunt says.

Although the chimney towers above the city, installing the camera was a straightforward task, taking about four hours. The chimney has an internal elevator for access, and it’s also fitted with the cabling needed for power and internet.

The camera was supplied by Groundtruth, a firm with extensive experience in environmental technology, including cameras for monitoring wildlife and pests for conservation work. Groundtruth’s Chief Technical Officer Daniel Bar-Even says the camera is remotely controlled via the internet, continuously records what it captures, and DOC staff can quickly log in to review footage as needed.

“We’re really proud of our contribution to this project and also wider conservation work across New Zealand,” he says. “This is the latest in a series of conservation initiatives we’ve supplied expertise to – initiatives which have seen us working closely with DOC at other sites around New Zealand.”

Advanced Security was contracted by Groundtruth to carry out installation of the 10 kg camera and linked it to an existing internet connection supplied by internet provider Primo, without which the project would not have gone ahead.

Port Taranaki Head of Commercial, Ross Dingle says, “Port Taranaki has a responsibility and a real desire to help protect and enhance the marine environment that we operate within and alongside every day.”

“As such, we work closely with a number of conservation organisations, including DOC, in support of environmental and wildlife initiatives and monitoring.

“The Tapuae Marine Reserve is an important safe haven for marine life to live and breed, and we’re very happy to help DOC with its monitoring of the area by enabling the camera to be placed on the Port Taranaki chimney.”

Mr Hunt says the installation of the camera is a timely reminder for those out on the water that New Zealand’s marine reserves are strictly ‘no take’ areas with penalties ranging from fines to prosecution. It is the responsibility of those on the water to know the rules.

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