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Introduction of Trout into the Ruatakuri River
Oct 14th, 2008 at 9:03pm
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This isnt from me. Baz sent it to me in an e-mail to put on the site. It covers both trout and deer so tossed a coin. The outdoors won.


The Introduction Of Trout Into The Upper Ruakituri River

Some years ago I wrote an article in the Fish & Game Magazine that featured trout angling in the Ruakituri River. Some months later a response to my article appeared in the magazines letters section written by a Mr Rupert James.

Mr James's letter, briefly and I might add very humbly, explained some of the history and methods used towards the introduction of Trout into the Upper Ruakituri River.

To my deep regret, I never contacted Mr James to thank him for his letter and his brief historical explanation.

However, I was recently given a copy of an account that described in detail the introduction of trout into the Upper Hangaroa, and a tributary of the upper Ruakituri, the Anini Stream. I was interested to discover that the account was written by Mr Rupert James.

It seems that Mr James played a far greater part, than his modest letter to Fish & Game suggested, towards the establishment of both the Upper Ruakituri, and the Hangaroa River fisheries.

I thought it would be fitting, and perhaps of interest to anglers to reproduce some extracts from his historical account, to serve as a memorial to Rupert James, and all those whose pioneering spirit and foresight has left us with a wonderful angling legacy.


We had seen the crop from the seed we had planted so many years before, and we were satisfied. Good fishing for all who would follow in our footsteps. Perhaps if we were lucky, some day we might return and again feel the thrilling tug as the mountain bred fish siezed the fly.
Rupert James.


When I arrived to take up management of Waimaha Station in 1940, I certainly found myself on the "wild frontier". The very remote station had been under fluctuating Maori control for some years but there was at the time a single pakeha shepherd, a rather unique character who lived alone in a cottage on an outlying part of the run. As there did not appear to be any meat available for man and dog, I enquired of him where the killers (mutton sheep) were kept? He hesitated to reply while he cogitated on the meaning of my question.

"Oh" he said, "We don't kill any sheep here. We have plenty of time with nothing to do so we can always get wild pork."

This pork business soon proved to be the main industry in this part of the world. Pigs, wild, semi-wild and Kuni (ie the Urewera breed of domestic pig, short nosed and much given to adiposity) filled the minds of the "Children of the mist" at all times.

It was shortly after that I met Kuki, the station stockman.

Kuki's education was nil, but his brain was 100%, he could work out a better way to do any station job, and make a better job than most too.
He was a first class stockman, and I haven't said that about many men, white or brown, in my thirty odd years as a head shepherd and manager. He could get inside an animals mind and understand why it did what it did. On the long hard stock drives through the rough bush tracks into the station, on that 12,000 acre property, no man ever had a better mate than Kuki was to me for three or four years.

On our long rides out to muster stock, Kuki and I talked a lot about the old days in the headwaters of the Urewera rivers, and of the old Maori trails through the bush. We talked especially about Rua's track, which as far as I could make out, The Public Works Department had formed about the turn of the century to encourage the Ruatahuna Maori to go to the East Coast to help Poverty Bay runholders with their shearing problems.

Rua's track was so named because of Rua Kenana, the Ringatu prophet, who had a big Pa at Maungapohatu. George Glennie, who kept a store at Rere in those days, told me of how Rua would load as many as 100 pack horses with stores and head back to his stronghold. Certain parts of the track, where it passed through the upland Birch-swamps, were corduroyed with logs to give the horses a firm footing. If one of the animals was unfortunate enough to get off of the corduroy, it was relieved of it's load and saddle, and a bullet put an end to it's predicament, for it was impossible to free the animal from the suction of the bottomless bog. In some of these places it is still possible to find horses skulls with a neat hole in the centre of the forehead.

In 1943 Kuki and I talked ourselves into making a start on opening up the first part of the old route. In that country of high rainfall, a track soon becomes overgrown, and in many places there was no sign of the original trail, but during that winter we cleared a rideable track as far as the clean ridges leading up onto Rangitata.

Soon after this, circumstances arose which led to Kuki and me parting company to our mutual advantage, but, although Kuki had departed, he left behind him the ambition he had aroused to see those fabled places, and as I had been born on the first day of the "roaring season" in 1905, and consequently had always loved the tall deer, I was anxious to test a theory I had that the Waikaremoana deer must be working through into this country by now.

Still, it was war-time and with little or no help, a big station kept me more than busy and it was not until New years day 1945 that I finally forced a way along the old track as far as the Anini ford. I had slept under a log the night before, beneath Rangitata, and in one place I took the saddle from my mare and led her under a fallen Rimu tree-- impossible with the saddle on her. I was alone except for one of my sheep dogs, and the whole trip thrilled me from start to finish.

Wild cattle where everywhere, and I killed several huge bulls who did not care to move off the track to give me passage. Kakariki, the red fronted Parakeet watched me in amazement as he sang from a high Beech, and flocks of Kaka took off from their grub hunting to offer ribald encouragement. The whirr of Kereru, the wood pigeons wings was heard on all sides, while less conspicuous, but none the less interesting, flocks of Whiteheads and the busy little Rifleman wrens, who somehow make me think of tom thumb, flew alongside to satisfy their curiosity. Many other small birds were there too, Robins, Silvereyes, Tuis, Bellbirds and cheeky Piwakawaka, the Fantail, to mention a few, and it was obvious that none of these creatures had ever before beheld a man or a horse. In later years, when Deer began to grow more plentiful, they too would stand in wide eyed wonder until one rode within a few yards distant.

At this time, there was just a few Deer through this country. You could see odd tracks, here and there, and could pick up quite a few cast antlers on the Anini clearing, which was a wintering place for stags when they left the hinds after the roaring season. Wild cattle however, were very plentiful and as they had never been hunted, there was some fearsome old bulls about. All mixtures of breeds, Jersey, Shorthorn, Hereford and Black, but the Shorthorn characteristics predominated.

We used to accuse these old bulls of belligerency, as they would never move off of the tracks, and we shot them on sight, but I think the truth of the matter was that they had never seen a man before and their curiosity was their undoing. The wild cows on the other hand were maternally hostile, their horns were sharp, and they were very active. We never took them cheaply. There were plenty of pigs in as far as Rangitata, where the heavy bush gave way to Beech country, but I think these eventually starved to death. We found one or two that had done so.

A week or so later, the three of us, who intended to spend our annual holiday at the Anini clearing, rode in with several pack horses and two of the boys who were to take all the horses out, and bring them back when we were ready to come out. The trip went very well except for minor incidents. At one stage one of the packhorses was cast on its back on top of its load, with its four legs up in the air, but no damage was done to the load or horse.

AN IDEA IS BORN.

We stayed in for ten days or so, as far as I can remember, and explored the river and surrounding country. We were all keen trout anglers, and constantly scanned the river's pools for fish, but neither fin nor scale did we see.

In the long evenings, when we yarned around the fire we discussed the possibility of establishing trout into this stream, with its clean gravels, perfect for propogation, We knew we would return again and again to this wonderful spot, and we knew there was just one thing it lacked. We realised that the three great leaps of the Waitangi Falls were the upstream limit for the trout, both brown and rainbow, that were so plentiful in the lower reaches of the river. These great natural barriers no fish, even in the madness of the spawning urge, could climb.

For some years I had run a small hatchery at Waimaha for the East Coast Acclimatisation Society, hatching some 40,000 or 50,000 rainbow ova each year, and liberating the fry in the various head streams of the Hangaroa river. We had ready access to ova and fry. How could we get some out alive over the long, rough pack track and into the Anini stream? We talked and thought about this problem all winter, and when the ova arrived for the hatchery in September 1945, Ralph and I thought we would give it a try.

THE FIRST ATTEMPT.

Accordingly, after getting the main lot of eyed ova arranged in the hatchery troughs, late in the afternoon we set out for the whare on the back of the station, a place called Rangiora. We had back-packs, in which we had packed a quantity of eggs, in the trays in which they had arrived from the stripping station at Turangi, Lake Taupo, and with a good quantity of moss to keep them cool and damp. We may still have had some ice, but I had forgotten if this was so.

We stayed the night at Rangiora, leaving the ova in running water, and I would think at this stage it was still in excellent condition. We made a very early start the next morning, reaching the Anini possibly a little after midday. This turned out to be a very warm day for the time of year, and riding westward, the sun beat on our backs all the way.

Added to this, the roughness of the track meant that our loads were never still, and by the time we reached the end of our journey, we had grave doubts of our precious ova withstanding the unceasing pounding. However we planted them carefully in the gravel of the two little creeks which joined the main stream at this point.

A few weeks later, when the alevins had hatched at home, we went out into the bush to see how our experiment had fared. We dug into the gravel at the points we had marked, and as we feared, the egss were still there obviously dead. Though not unexpected, this was still a great dissapointment, but we could not see that we could do much about it, as we did not consider it practicable to transport live fry in over the track, particularly as there were fairly long stretches without water.

I worried about this problem for a week or two, for I just could not give up the idea of getting trout into this lovely stream.

OUR SECOND ATTEMPT.

In the shearers quarters at Waimaha Station we had a large enamel teapot, capable of holding perhaps a gallon or a gallon and a half. I rigged this up with a strap to hang over the carriers shoulder, and a length of tube inserted in the spout, down which the carrier could blow at intervals to keep the water aerated. Two thirds filled with water this was an awkward parcel to carry on a horse, especially over such a bad track. I roped in two or three station hands and again we set out, once again staying at Rangiora, and arranging the teapot so that water flowed through it constantly, but no fry could escape. We all took turns carrying, half an hour at a stretch, believe me that was plenty, with one hand for the helm and one for the teapot. I worried a lot on this trip, but we had the satisfaction of liberating nearly all the fry alive. (1946). There would be perhaps 200 or 300 in this batch.

On subsequent trips I found that the fry would stand up to more rough treatment than I would have believed possible and consequently was able to increase the number carried, and also reduce the attention given en route and so make better time.

I saw these first fry about six weeks after they were liberated, all swimming happily in the little creeks at the Anini clearing. I did not have any opportunity to follow up their progress, and saw nothing further of them for a considerable time. I transferred to Marewa Station early in August 1947 and that meant that no fry were hatched for the Hangaroa river that season.

At New Year 1948 all hands were away from Marewa for a break, and my wife suggested we ride out to the Anini and spend a couple of nights there. We did, and took a fly rod. After a hot but pleasant ride, we boiled the billy at the clearing and hung a tent-fly over the ridge pole to keep the dew off us for the night. I lost no time in putting the rod together, and was soon into the river, full of hope but not much confidence.

Imagine my delight, when after a few casts, I was into a 15 inch fish (38cm) which was duly landed, admired and returned to the water. We considered this to be a wonderful rate of growth, as this fish could not have been more than 16 months old. Later that afternoon we were to beach a three pounder, which as it was pricked in the gills, we were unable to return alive. We ate it of course, but as I remarked at the time, remembering the babies I had nursed so devotedly in the teapot I felt like a cannibal. I searched the river next day but could see no further sign of fish, and in fact, did not see another fish there until four years later.

Well after catching the fish in 1948 we did not interfere with them again, although we spent some time in there stalking deer each year. When the river was clear we would search carefully, but never a fish did we see, except for one year when we saw them in two different pools, down the river a long way. It must be remembered though, that during the month of April when we were there the water would usually be discoloured.

We took in further batches of fry on several later occasions, but I'am unable to remember just how many times and when. I know we did so in the spring of 1948, the reason being the big floods that occured in the winter of that year.

RALPH THE MATCHMAKER.

During one of our expeditions during the roar, the stream remained clear for several days, and we located several good fish in pools well below the ford. In a hole below what we used to call the Hardwood Ridge there was a nice female fish, and try as we might we could not catch her. The pool was small and shallow, with a pleasant sandy beach, a favourite place for stags to roar at night. Each day there would be fresh tracks and antler marks in the sand where they had been rooting about.

Downstream from this pool I'am speaking of, there is a shallow stoney reach of about a quarter of a mile. Here the river takes a right angled turn to the left, and on the right bank a sparkling little creek bursts joyfully out from the dim, green embrace of the bush. A deep pool is formed at this bend. I have never been able to see far into it or guess what the bottom is like, but one day, when we were down there with the rod, a fish rose, and a carefully placed nymph soon had him on the bank.

Now Ralph my mate on this occasion is a bachelor, and has been that way for so long, it looks fairly permanent. The fact that nearly all the fish seemed to be bachelors too, had been upsetting him for days.
I remarked that the fish was a handsome jack, Ralph stared at me for a few moments, then without a word he siezed the fish in his arms and started to sprint up the stoney riverbed. For the life of me I couldn't make out what he was up to. He would sprint at his best pace for a few chains and then stop and lower the trout into the water, holding it there for a few minutes, then away he would go again. he kept this up until he reached the pool at the Hardwood Ridge, where he released the jack into the company of the big female.

I had followed Ralph up the riverbed and by the time I had reached the little beach at the pool it had begun to dawn on me what was on his mind. Worried about the mess nature was making of this propogation business, Ralph had stepped in to do a bit of match-making on his own account.

No outraged spinster, be she ever so frigid, could have out done that hen fish in her indignation. Round and round she hunted the innocent and unwitting Romeo. Vainly he sought for shelter, a rock or a log where he might escape, but in the strange water he knew not where to go.

Ralph's disgust was really a thing to see. I'am sure that this experience confirmed him in the wisdom of his single state. When we left the beach there was no indication that the affair would ever have a happy outcome, and when we next passed the pool the hen was again in solitary and undisputed possession.

MEMORY HOLDS THE DOOR.

By the time next years stalking season came round Ralph had moved his dwelling place far away, and I had but a few months to go when I too would leave this place, probably forever. For my part. I knew that I must leave a big piece of my heart behind. So when Good Friday came I saddled up and took my last ride along familiar but ever exciting Rua's track. There had been a long spell of fine weather and travelling conditions were perfect, and there had been no one near the country for months.

As I rode on, savouring the wild beauty of this lovely place. I thought of the men, and women too, who had ridden with me in the years that had passed away. I thought of the early struggles to break a way through the tangled jungle that had striven to hide the rude marks of mans desecration. I thought of the great old bulls which had given us so many thrilling moments as they barred our track: and of course, I thought a lot about the little fry in the teapot, and of the great hen-fish in the pool near the Pukekako junction. As the harsh vines brushed my face. and the pungent scent of horse sweat and leather stung my nostrils, I knew the years ahead would hold many nostalgic moments.

Years passed, and swiftly too, as they do when a man is well past the half-way mark in his allotted span. Gradually under the presence of new scenes and new interests, the sharp, chrisp outlines of the lonely bushland became shadowy ghosts of what they had once been.
Then one day, a stranger came to my house and told me his story and threw apon the screen the pictures he had made of the Urewera tracks and streams. The spell of the wild hills had me in it's grip again.

He told me, on several occasions they had spent a few days in the valleys of the Ruakituri and the Anini and the fish they had encountered were of fantastic size and strength. One slide showed two lovely 11-pounders taken on the same day from the big pool at the junction of the two streams. Well there was no doubt that our early efforts had met with complete success. We yarned as long as we were able and it was a great satisfaction to me to know how things had turned out, and it was pleasing also to know that people were interested to know how these remote waters had been stocked, and who had been responsible for the job.

Geoffs visit aroused all my old interests in these places and I thought about them regularly for a long time, but somehow, it did not strike me that we might go back some time and try these waters for ourselves. It must have been nearly a couple of years later when Ralph suggested we walk in from Papuni and have a look at the Ruakituri River above the waitangi Falls.

I must confess I had little confidence in my ability to carry a heavy swag in over those rough tracks, but in February of 1963, 17 years after we had liberated the first fry, we came out just after dusk at the rivers edge above the Falls. We pitched the little tent and in no time at all, I had put my gear together, and after the first cast was into a big one in the pool above the Falls. It was a good long pool with plenty of room for the fish to run and I'am afraid I was very careless, for the fish broke me off and escaped. I was disappointed of course and I think the fish felt like a big one, But I reckoned we would encounter plenty more big ones tomorrow.

It was nearly dark when Ralph returned with a beautiful 8 pound hen that he had taken in a small run by our camp. We settled down for the night in our tent, but it was cold and uncomfortable on the sand, and Ralph was troubled most of the night with cramp.

It was raining fairly steadily up in the higher country and from time to time we had a light scud at the tent, but our hopes still ran high for the morrow and in the morning light there was no sign of any rise in the river level. We were glad to leave our sleeping bags and fix a meal, and get away up the river. The water level was low and the going was easy and free from anxiety. We did not cros the river at all but kept to the true left bank. There were not too many attractive pools, but any place that would hold a fish produced a strike. When these fighting rainbows hit your fly they did not leave the matter in doubt, but there was many a broken cast, and they fought so hard that many a hook pulled out.

The river was a true mountain torrent, small dark pools, deep and mysterious, and filled with promise. Where the galloping, white maned rapids entered the pools, the bubbling, yeasty water was surging with life and movement. What a fitting home for the clean, deep flanked beauties that had come from the little tea-pot fry.

We fished our way upstream for a mile or so and I landed several, the biggest a hook jawed jack of 7 pounds. He was well past his prime so I killed him and hung him up for our return. The rest I turned back to the water with a word of praise for the gallant battle they had fought. It was not the size of the fish that roused my admiration, but their incredible vitality. pound for pound, they would lick anything in nature for power. I had always thought of the fresh-run rainbows of the Tongariro River as projectiles of silver. These Ruakituri fish were projectiles alright, but they were made of stainless steel! I confess that most I hooked beat me in the end, but I landed a few. Ralph was unlucky, he hooked a few but didn't land one.

It rained most of the morning, very heavily at times, and the river soon began to show some colour. We came at last to a great gorge, high sheer cliffs confronted us. Hung in places with spray drenched ferns. The river appeared to bend sharply, and bands of mist hung amongst the cliffs. Lacking a suitable map, we could not know how far this gorge extended. The rain was falling in earnest now, and the river was visibly rising, so we reluctantly began the journey back to our camp above the Falls. Before we reached it the rain has passed and our clothes were beginning to dry and our bodies to warm. But the river was rising fast so we carried on.
By the time we had eaten a meal in camp, a real flood was pouring over the Falls and we had no option but to roll up our swags and tramp the weary miles back to the car.

We had seen the crop from the seed we had planted so many years before. and we were satisfied. Good fishing for all who would follow in our footsteps. Perhaps if we were lucky, some day we might return and again feel the thrilling tug as the mountain bred fish siezed the fly.
« Last Edit: Oct 17th, 2008 at 3:06am by blackbunny »  
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Re: Introduction of Trout into the Ruatakuri River
Reply #1 - Oct 14th, 2008 at 9:17pm
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WOW! Thanks TJ and Baz ... the Ruakituri is one of my favourite places (I shot my first deer 1km from the Anini confluence this year) and this is a fascinating bit of history.

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Re: Introduction of Trout into the Ruatakuri River
Reply #2 - Oct 15th, 2008 at 12:12am
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I had meant to ask if Baz is Barry Davies from Gizzy.. if he is I remember him well from his Guy & Dunsmore days when i was a fresh faced sales rep. He knows a lot about a lot.
  
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Re: Introduction of Trout into the Ruatakuri River
Reply #3 - Oct 15th, 2008 at 1:04am
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Thats him Snuffit
  
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Re: Introduction of Trout into the Ruatakuri River
Reply #4 - Oct 17th, 2008 at 6:55am
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Thats awesome TJ and Baz, that bit about the T-pot is the stuff legends are made of!!  Cool Cool
  

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Re: Introduction of Trout into the Ruatakuri River
Reply #5 - Oct 18th, 2008 at 12:05pm
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awesome story... gotta be one of the best i have read on here

just wish i could catch fish haha they are tastey
  
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Re: Introduction of Trout into the Ruatakuri River
Reply #6 - Oct 18th, 2008 at 7:01pm
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Thanks TJ for posting this article.
I found it very interesting as I spend a bit of time hunting and fishing in the area.
Hi Snuffit-thanks for that. Guy & Dunsmore was a while back huh? What company were you a rep with?
Glad you enjoyed the yarn Cleaky- A few years back a mate and I walked in via the Ruakituri River and up the Anini junction, then out to Waimaha stn via Ruas track. Epic journey. 
Thanks engauge for your comments-All credit to Rupert James and his teapot.  Smiley
  

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Re: Introduction of Trout into the Ruatakuri River
Reply #7 - Oct 18th, 2008 at 8:33pm
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Baz I was repping for Grid. Mark was still with G&D back then before he went off to that marine place.
  
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Re: Introduction of Trout into the Ruatakuri River
Reply #8 - Oct 19th, 2008 at 1:04am
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What a well written and interesting story! great job! it was a terrific read.
  
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Re: Introduction of Trout into the Ruatakuri River
Reply #9 - Oct 19th, 2008 at 8:20pm
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Thanks so much for the story guys. Fascinating reading.

Last year I read a book called "The People of the Axe", about the pioneering bushmen of the Ruakituri valley. Great stories of tough people making a life for themselves in some rough country.
  
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Re: Introduction of Trout into the Ruatakuri River
Reply #10 - Oct 19th, 2008 at 8:33pm
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Yea . Gee it must have been amazing. Fit bastards.
I use to try and con dad into dropping a tree with the old crosscut. For some reason the idea didn't have much nostalgia for him  Roll Eyes
  
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Re: Introduction of Trout into the Ruatakuri River
Reply #11 - Feb 17th, 2009 at 9:35am
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What a great read, thanks for a fascinating piece of history.
  

It's filling with water.
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Re: Introduction of Trout into the Ruatakuri River
Reply #12 - Feb 18th, 2009 at 6:31am
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that was beautifull Cry
  
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Re: Introduction of Trout into the Ruatakuri River
Reply #13 - Feb 18th, 2009 at 6:59am
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Interesting bit of info there, thanks for that.
  

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Re: Introduction of Trout into the Ruatakuri River
Reply #14 - Feb 21st, 2009 at 6:02pm
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Best story ive read on the forum yet,thanks TJ.
  

Up high the tahr grazed,the sun sank low,a river roared in the distance.We sat there,just the two of us,the mountain and I.
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