A dream life for an­i­mals and birds


Mana Is­land is one of the the Wellington re­gion’s best-kept se­crets.

The is­land off the coast of Porirua is a key con­ser­va­tion spot and home to many en­dan­gered species.

Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion ranger Jeff Hall lives on the is­land and is re­spon­si­ble for its day-to-day up­keep and pro­tec­tion.

‘‘Be­ing preda­tor and pest-free, it is one of a hand­ful of is­lands that can sus­tain species that won’t sur­vive on the main­land. One of my big­gest tasks is to en­sure the is­land re­mains preda­tor free,’’ he said.

In 2011 when a rat got on to the sanc­tu­ary, it caused havoc among the bird pop­u­la­tion and almost dec­i­mated the na­tion­ally en­dan­gered shore plover.

‘‘That was a big re­al­i­sa­tion in terms of the im­pact one thing can have on such vul­ner­a­ble species,’’ Hall said.

The rat caused birds to leave the is­land to nest in­land.

Last win­ter the last cou­ple of pairs of shore plover liv­ing on the is­land were taken into cap­tiv­ity to breed.

In many ways ar­riv­ing on the is­land is like be­ing in a time warp. It is quiet, and an­i­mals and birds roam as if hu­mans do not ex­ist.

All rub­bish is taken off the is­land and the toi­let waste goes to a sewage lake.

The only build­ings are a his­toric wool­shed and a few 1970s build­ings.

Hall said that re­plant­ing the is­land’s for­est canopy was done with help from com­mu­nity groups like Friends of Mana Is­land and For­est & Bird. More than 500,000 trees have been planted.

Un­til re­cently, vis­i­tor num­bers were low.

Now, Hall

said, on some week­ends up to 40 peo­ple vis­ited on pri­vate boats.

‘‘The is­land has de­vel­oped to the point where there is quite a bit for peo­ple to see. It’s be­com­ing more of a des­ti­na­tion.’’

More school groups have been vis­it­ing and ed­u­ca­tion is be­com­ing a key role of the re­serve.

‘‘It’s a fan­tas­tic learn­ing op­por­tu­nity. It’s a place where peo­ple can see some of th­ese species and some of the his­tory.’’

With the in­crease of vis­i­tors comes en­vi­ron­men­tal threats.

The Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion took on Mana Is­land in 1987. In 1998 the Waikoko wet­land was de­vel­oped where a wet­land ex­isted be­fore the is­land be­came a farm in 1832.

To­day the is­land is home to the Cook Strait gi­ant weta, takahe, brown teal, McGregor’s skink, yel­low-crowned kakariki and gold­stripe gecko.

Good catch: Ranger Jeff Hall checks a ro­dent trap.

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