Mu­sic rings out on is­land sanc­tu­ary for con­cert

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By DEL­WYN DICKEY

Boat­ies en­joy­ing an­other fine day on the Hau­raki Gulf must have won­dered what was hap­pen­ing as thun­der­ous blasts came from Tir­i­tiri Matangi Is­land.

Closer in, they would also be puz­zled by the sight on the lawns be­neath the light­house.

It was a pied piper scene as dozens of peo­ple streamed be­hind a group of ‘‘mu­si­cians’’, many play­ing strange whim­si­cal in­stru­ments. They were led to a white build­ing with a bright red roof and a mas­sive horn pro­trud­ing from one wall.

A se­ries of ear-shat­ter­ing moans fol­lowed from the 19th cen­tury di­a­phone fog horn as part of the mu­si­cal per­for­mance.

A week of cel­e­bra­tions on the sanc­tu­ary is­land was or­gan­ised by Friends of Tir­i­tiri Matangi, who co-run the is­land along with the De­part­ment of Con­ser­va­tion.

The sad­dle­back bird was be­ing cel­e­brated as one of the come­back con­ser­va­tion success sto­ries there.

Vis­i­tors wan­der­ing the tracks close to the light­house came across would-be ‘‘ sound artists’’ tucked away on the walks.

Rather than crafted mu­sic, they pro­duced sound that was of­ten beau­ti­ful and ethe­real from con­ven­tional in­stru­ments and from odd gad­gets and equip­ment.

Among them was Unitec art and de­sign tu­tor Sam Mor­ri­son whose sounds were made of threads of beads at­tached to the spin­ning heads of old tape play­ers ping­ing off hang­ing cups, pots, plas­tic bags and wooden rail­ings – all pow­ered by a so­lar panel.

House painter Ivan Mr­sic, who has a masters of fine arts, struck hang­ing wooden ta­ble legs and var­i­ous plas­tic and metal lids. A brass bowl gave an eerie ring when moved about af­ter be­ing hit.

A trans­par­ent tube with blow­ing holes, cov­ered at each end with elas­tic ma­te­rial, had a small ball in­side that bounced off the ends. The player ac­com­pa­nied him­self by rolling a gi­ant cat bell on the ground.

Birds largely ig­nored the strange sounds and of­ten stranger mech­a­nisms or peo­ple pro­duc­ing them, and flut­tered around their water troughs, but one vis­i­tor com­mented on the large num­ber of sad­dle­backs hang­ing around a trom­bone player.

The ‘‘con­cert’’ then started, with a sur­pris­ingly ef­fec­tive clink and grind ses­sion as the artists used just stones as in­stru­ments. Over­all, the au­di­ence seemed to really ap­pre­ci­ate its unique­ness. En­dan­gered takahe ig­nored the whole thing.

Also en­joy­ing the event was Ray Wal­ter, the is­land’s last light­house keeper.

Ray had a pas­sion for the iso­lated life­style. His first post was at the re­mote Puy­se­gur Pt light­house in Fiord­land as a 20-year-old. He’d been pes­ter­ing to get an ap­point­ment for three years.

Ray be­came an anom­aly in the high-turnover ser­vice. Keep­ers with their fam­i­lies (they had to be mar­ried) were bonded for three years, and on av­er­age lasted up to five years be­fore mov­ing on.

Ex­treme iso­la­tion and cor­re­spon­dence school for chil­dren were hard for most, but he and his fam­ily thrived on it, he says.

There were 43 fam­i­lies in the ser­vice when he joined, but on­go­ing au­to­ma­tion saw just four light­houses still need­ing keep­ers by the time Ray ar­rived on Tir­i­tiri Matangi with wife Bar­bara and their three teenage chil­dren in 1980.

Three years later it too was au­to­mated and Ray, em­ployed by the Min­istry of Trans­port, was trans­ferred to the Lands and Sur­vey De­part­ment over a four-year pe­riod while re­train­ing as a nurs­ery­man on the is­land. It had been a work­ing farm but was be­ing trans­formed into a na­tive for­est wildlife sanc­tu­ary.

Re­tir­ing six years ago and liv­ing in How­ick, the cou­ple still vol­un­teer on the is­land.

The is­land birds had an­other week of noise when Sil­verdale con­trac­tors Hicks Brothers got stuck into fix­ing three of the is­land’s six dams.

The con­trac­tors ar­rived with their dig­gers, com­pactor and truck to dig out and re­pair the leak­ing dams.

Tree roots grow­ing into the dams, water over­flow dam­age to dam walls and a failed clay bot­tom were re­paired in the $63,000 project. The dams are used as part of the habi­tat for wad­ing birds on the 220 hectare is­land, in­clud­ing brown teal ducks, Wark­worth De­part­ment of Con­ser­va­tion of­fice spokes­woman Liz Maire says.

Get­ting the heavy earth­mov­ing equip­ment on to a barge cre­ated a bit of a stir on the wharf, con­trac­tor Dave Johnstone of Stan­more Bay says. Three trips were needed to get it all on the is­land.

It was the first time he’d been to the is­land and he says he’s been im­pressed with the va­ri­ety of birds.

He and the team were par­tic­u­larly taken with a takahe fam­ily, in­clud­ing a chick, which live in the north­ern area where they were work­ing. There are only 255 sur­viv­ing takahe and the is­land has four res­i­dent pairs. Off­spring are trans­ferred to other safe ar­eas when old enough.

Pied pipers: The con­cert rose to a boom­ing crescendo as the di­a­phone fog horn joined in the fi­nal piece.

Sound garden: Unitec tu­tor Sam Mor­ri­son tunes his sound equip­ment on one of Tir­i­tiri Matangi’s walks.

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