Walking New Zealand

Motu Kaikoura: Magnificen­t isolation


the island’s proximity to Aotea/Great Barrier Island.

Surveys of flora and fauna in the late 2000’s recorded 26 native bird species living or visiting the island, 12 of which were seabird and shorebird species including Cook’s Petrel, reef heron/matuku moana and the Caspian tern/taranui.

Kākā frequented the bush, while banded rail/moho-pererū were found in the wetlands. As for flora, pōhutukawa and coastal natives made up the coastal fringe, and natives such as kauri, kohekohe, taraire, tawa, nikau, puriri and ngaio were found in gullies on the southern and eastern parts of the island.

Love at first sight

For Rod and Rosalie Miller, farmers near Warkworth (north of Auckland), it was love at first sight. The couple already had a keen interest in conservati­on, converting 60 acres of their 200-acre farm to native bush, and quickly saw the potential of the island after visiting it on their aero club’s Cessna 172.

The Motu Kaikoura Trust was formed not long after, with Geoff Davidson, followed by Harry Doig, and now Rod Miller at the helm, Rosalie as Secretary, and a team of dedicated and experience­d volunteer Trustees to manage the island as a scenic reserve.

Since then, the Trustees have created and begun enacting the Motu Kaikoura Scenic Reserve Management Plan and Biodiversi­ty Management Plan. Significan­t milestones include deer and cat eradicatio­n, keeping the rat population to levels under 6%, and pine tree removal to allow for the regenerati­on of native bush.

The Trust has also upgraded facilities on the island through grants so that visitors have safe access to the island via the airstrip, wharf and floating pontoon, and can enjoy the benefits of hot water, 3G, and flushing toilets. But the showpiece of the island is, without a doubt, the stunning Motu Kaikoura Lodge created by Strachan Group Architects and installed by Architectu­re+Women, which has gone on to win numerous awards.

The Lodge replaced the previous one destroyed by arson, and fulfils the need to accommodat­e research workers, volunteers and public visitors, and enable education initiative­s.

To manage the predator control and various activities involved in keeping the facilities operationa­l, the Trust also employs a contractor, Clint Stannard, who works alongside his wife Jacinda and children, sharing island and home tasks between one another. They have lived and worked on the island for nine years, putting the couple’s background­s in environmen­tal management to excellent use.

The Stannard family initially began volunteeri­ng on the island while sailing around Aotea/Great Barrier Island, after completing a voyage across the Pacific on their yacht. Asked what conservati­on gains they have witnessed over the last decade, they respond, “We have taken much pleasure in watching regenerati­on in areas of the island that have changed from grass to native bush in the short time we have been here. A great reward is being in the presence of kākāriki/New Zealand parakeet, which arrived after working so long to get rat numbers down to such low levels.”

Another devotee of the island is resident volunteer Nick Mitchell. As

a pilot, Nick first visited the island twenty years ago, and after dropping off Trustees, thought to himself that this was a place he would like to return.

A stalwart of the outer Hauraki Gulf, Motu Kaikoura offered itself as a haven within it, and six years ago he sailed his new yacht to the island. Nick performs various maintenanc­e tasks for the Motu Kaikoura Trust to offset his use of facilities. Asked what he loves about the island, Nick responds, “When Buzz Aldrin stepped on the moon, he described it as “magnificen­t desolation”. When I hopped out at the airstrip and everyone buggered off, I felt “magnificen­t isolation”, and wanted to get a tent and stay there.” As for Rod and Rosalie Miller, we think the 464 flights they have clocked up to the island since, speaks for itself!

Creating a legacy

Sir Peter Blake’s kaupapa to protect our precious green and blue spaces and educate youth about our environmen­t is coming to fruition on Motu Kaikoura.

As the bush slowly regenerate­s, it is providing habitat and food for a range of native species, while its low predator numbers mean that species from nearby predator-free islands are gradually relocating to the island.

The Trust also encourages and facilitate­s school children and tertiary students to participat­e in outdoor and conservati­on activities on both land and sea. Refurbishm­ent of the six chalets has been completed and Bradshaw Cove Homestead is underway,to accommodat­e school and youth visits. Meanwhile, youth developmen­t organisati­ons such as the Spirit of New Zealand, which empowers young New Zealanders to reach their potential through the challenge of the sea, are regular visitors.

The Trust also has a Heads of Agreement with Hillary Outdoors whose students frequently use Motu Kaikoura for their activities.

Getting/staying there

You can visit Motu Kaikoura by boat or air, and enjoy a range of accommodat­ion options. There are several walking tracks that take in the panoramic views found on the ridgelines, regenerati­ng bush and WWII relics.

We highly recommend you take a trip to Motu Kaikoura, the island bought for the people, to experience the “magnificen­t isolation” it offers.

 ?? :Photo Courtesy of the Motu Kaikoura Trust ?? Above left: The Stannard family.
:Photo Courtesy of the Motu Kaikoura Trust Above left: The Stannard family.
 ?? :Photo courtesy of the Motu Kaikoura Trust ?? Above right: Motu Kaikoura lodge.
:Photo courtesy of the Motu Kaikoura Trust Above right: Motu Kaikoura lodge.

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