A Break from Not Finding Wallabies

I’m currently working with a team surveying the Kakanui Range for the exotic and invasive Bennetts Wallaby. As with many other overseas species, this was introduced into NZ in the late 1800s (1874, near Waimate to be precise) as part of the efforts of the Acclimatisation Societies.

The feeling amongst some at that time was that God, having finished deploying a reasonable range of endemic bird species to these isles, had not got round to finishing off the job and adding mammals. As such they felt that it was their duty to ‘complete His work’, and add a few (their words, not mine). More practically, they were expected to add ‘sport’, meat and a fur / skin trade. Later introductions were brought in to control the out-of-control species previously introduced … ‘there was an old lady who swallowed a fly …’

The end results, as always with such exotic introductions, were disastorous both for native species who were eaten or out-competed, and for the naiscant European farmlands where introduced species destroyed crops and competed with stock for fodder - as is the case with wallabies. Those interested can google Acclimatisation Societies, or if you can get your hands on it, I recommend Graham Caughley’s readable but scientifically grounded social history of the time: ‘The Deer Wars’.

All that said, these exotic species have provided a century-of-so of employment for people, such as my team, attempting to limit their damage.


No major population of Bennetts Wallaby is currently established in Otago, but they managed to cross the Waitaki River (probably via the 2 dams or 2 bridges) in the early 2000s and establish themselves on the Canterbury side of the Kakanui / Hawkdon Ranges. Occasional individuals and small groups have made it across the divide into Otago. A rolling programme of surveillance is carried out to ensure that they do not become established on the Otago side. And we’re currently paid to grid-search 60,000ha of hill country rising from the 500m Maniototo Plains to the 1500m ridgeline for wallaby scat, prints and animals.

Looking for animals that for-the-most-part aren’t there can try the concentration a bit, so the odd break is well needed. And given the scattering of SOTA summits along the range, several unactivated, SOTA provides such a solution.


This week I managed two-such lunch-break activations: Mt Alexander - 1357m - [ZL3/OT-350] and Mt Nobbler - 1550m - [ZL3/OT-324]. Direct access to both summits is via private land for which permission is required, which thankfully we had, and my survey-lines for the week took me over both.

Weather was not exactly co-operative, with a bitter southerly and light snow-flurries being the pattern of the week. Combined with the need to cram the activation into a 30 minute lunch break that meant that a single-band HF activation on 40m was the only realistic option. Both 10-minute activations resulted in a rapid series of chasers – to whom I’ve very grateful. 12 on Mt Alexander on the Saturday, including 2 summit-to-summits and a summit-to-park, and 4 on Mt Nobbler on Wednesday.

Combined with set-up, tear down and sandwich + thermos-coffee both activations were achieved in under 30 minutes. Such brief activations will likely not be popular with some chasers - especially those not able to reach me on 40m - but the result was a summit where there would otherwise have been none. Feedback on that is welcome.

Kakanui Range (west) - taken 3 weeks ago after the last major snowfall

Looking down on Mt Alexander - 1357m - ZL3/OT-350

Mt Nobbler - 1550m - ZL3/OT-324

Activating Mt Nobbler - ZL3/OT-324


Thanks Matt, very interesting report with photos. Good luck in finding the wallabies.

Geoff vk3sq

We are all introduced species here in vk . Mountain Goats are one I can think of. The local government had a deer shoot last year in our Council district and got 600 odd deer mostly by helicopter and employed some Roo shooters on the ground seeing most of the Roo’s died in the 2019 drought the shooters were out of work. I see lots of goats when I hike to summits for SOTA. Those deer where drought here by the first land holders to make their estates look more like the old country. Bit sad to destroy animals they can’t help where they are born bit like us really.
Ian vk5cz …

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An interesting write up regarding he world wide problem of non native introductions of wildlfie.

Well done for slipping in a SOTA activation and posting pictures of our forthcoming autumn/winter weather…BBBbbbbrrrrr! :cold_face:

Hi Matt,
All understood re the rapid activations. Although it would have been nice to have those summits in the log, as always the activator is King and makes the decisions. You are at work and not paid to play radio so any activation be it ever so short is a plus.

Nice pics.



Great write up Matt. Very informative!

I get torn by this too. Then I give myself a reality check. Especially if the weather is poor, I have limited time or on multi-top expedition.

One of the MT (Andy) once commented that it was my gig and that I could do what I liked for as long as I liked, as I was the one putting in the effort.


hi Matt,
Well there are constraints on all activations and when you have to fit all that into 30 mins, you do what you can. If you can qualify the summit within the available time you have done well. If you manage to put the summit into a few extra chaser logs as well, that’s good too. You have to be realistic and not feel you have to please everyone. One suggestion regarding the bands used, I think 40m would have been the only useful band in the last week, but a multiband antenna and auto ATU does help the QSY-quick function on an activation. I use the ZS6BKW multiband doublet but there are others. It means you can be on a second band within seconds instead of minutes and cuts down the effort involved in trying it.
Great photos again, good story, you are tougher than I am.
73 Andrew VK1DA/2DA