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Chatham Islands Training

23 August 2018

Chatham Islands Training

South Island Trainer, James Pinchin recently conducted a VHNZ training course in the unique setting of the beautiful Chatham Islands, and what an intriguing environment to learn in and test out the groups newly established height and rescue skills! Continue reading James’ story below...

by James Pinchin, Industrial Safety Trainer

From 21st-25th May I facilitated training for Department of Conservation (DOC) and Environment Canterbury staff in the Chatham Islands. The course was designed as a 3 day height and rescue, to allow these workers to install and manage fence-lines atop of coastal cliffs on the Island. First impressions of the landscape felt empty, desolate and isolated. There were the odd features such as volcanic peaks and limestone formations appearing at random through the tussocky moorlands, reminiscent of Iceland or Scotland, with shades of NZ's central plateau. It felt like stepping back in time somewhat, arriving on a 70 year old plane, no cell networks and limited mains power.

The course participants were well versed at working in various environments, laid back but showing signs of having an underlying resilience reflecting their community being extremely self-sufficient and resourceful. This was evident in the way they interacted in the training sessions, being able to think outside the box with limited resources and support systems. The course needed to focus a lot more on planning and problem solving, rather than compliance with a set strategy or system of work. Everything on the island has been well considered, single use items or manufactured obsolescence has no place in the Chathams. However, when things reach the end of their life they are left to the mercy of the elements. It is not uncommon to see old machinery disintegrating into the land, or boats firmly planted on a pristine beach.

By the third day of training we were able to expand the knowledge and have some fun, setting up an abseil where all participants took part and descended down a steep bank to Waitangi's main beach.

In the future we expect to conduct industrial ropes access training on the island. This will enable conservation workers to access remote locations by way of ropes, so they can assess and manage the growth of risky flora/fauna. These opportunities will take place in the springtime and may likely involve further work as these remote areas are explored.