Great Barrier Island Environmental News



by Emma Waterhouse

Hirakimata (Mount Hobson), Whangapoua beach and estuary from Waikaro Point. The ecosystems that stretch from the summit to the sea represent many unique assemblages of fauna and flora, influenced by topography, altitude, climate and human activities (see pages 4-9).

Change is in the air. And recently, some of these changes have been things that at one time we thought might never happen. Think Brexit, Trump, record atmospheric CO2 levels, and, closer to home, cell phone coverage at Okiwi and Glenfern Sanctuary finally in  public ownership.

While some of those changes may seem somewhat remote from our corner of the world, the last one isnít. It is significant and itís also just the beginning. Securing the future of Glenfern provides an opportunity to build further on the legacy of Tony Bouzaid and his team. A catalyst for the advancement of conservation and environmental education, research and technology on the island. And a significant community assetó a world-class attraction for island visitors and a source of ongoing employment.

The opportunities reach far beyond the boundaries of Glenfern. Lou Sanson, the Director General of the Department of Conservation, recently visited Glenfern. In the recent D-G Update (DOC Conservation Blog, 21 July 2016), Mr Sanson stated that ĎThe ultimate vision is to work closely with iwi and DOC on achieving a predator free Northern Great Barrier Island/Te Paparahií. Or as Scott Sambell, manager of Glenfern, recently put it to me, thatís about Ďtaking down the fenceí.

Now thatís probably not something Tony Bouzaid would have believed when the Glenfern fence went up!

So its an exciting time to be back. Iíve lived away from New Zealand for 10 years. Now, Iím looking forward to lowering my carbon footprint and to putting my energy into this country, and this island. Sometimes you have to do without something to realise just how important or special it is. Great Barrier certainly falls into that category for me.

During those 10 years away, on every trip back I would, again, be amazed at how close this island is to our largest city, but how little most people know about it.

Home of Ngati Rehua Ngati Wai ki Aotea and our fourth largest island, Great Barrier is an ecological microcosm of New Zealand. It is endowed with stunning scenery with both regenerating and comparatively intact ecosystems. The largest tract of possum-free forest in New Zealand, it is a biodiversity hot spot in the Auckland region that goes largely unnoticedófor now.

As the cityís population grows towards two million by 2030, Auckland is fortunate to have this wild and beautiful island, with its rare and threatened biodiversity, right on its doorstep. 

In recognition of the islandís value, we now have the Aotea Conservation Park. The Conservation Management Strategy seeks removal of rats within 10 years.  The consultation process to create the park highlighted support for future protection if it enables a thriving community and a sustainable economy.

A year on, the parkís Conservation Advisory Group is yet to meet, DOCís permanent  staffing and resources on the island continue to shrink (although there is now a large new headquarters at Okiwi).

Unless action is taken to protect and enhance this asset of national significance, a decline towards the degraded state of many mainland New Zealand ecosystems is inevitable. 

Thatís why the recent purchase of Glenfern is so exciting, why Lou Sansonís support for on a pest-free Te Paparapi are so encouraging. We on the brink of a step-change in the future of Aotea.

However, if we wait for DOC alone, we may wait a while. Ngati Rehua Ngati Wai ki Aoteaís Hapu Management Plan identifies the environmental, economic, social and cultural policies and objectives for Aotea. One of the main goals of the Great Barrier Island Local Board is the sustainability of the community and the environment. We also await the outcomes of the community visioning work with great interest.

Clearly, effort is needed on multiple fronts, funded through multiple sources. But it has to be well-coordinated, with alignment of all stakeholders behind a roadmap, to be determined by them.

Restoring significant ecological and cultural sites Ďoutside the fenceí such as Hirakimata and Te Paparahi will be significant steps forward for Aotea, paired with ongoing private efforts.

What excites me though are the opportunities such efforts could bring about on multiple fronts ó for further expansion of environmental educational programs, research and technology development, and the sustainable economic and community benefits that this activity will bring. 



Rakitu from Tataweka, the highest point in Te Paparapi. The promised rat eradication for Rakitu is yet to eventuate, despite funding being earmarked for the project over two years ago. Photo: K. Waterhouse











Environmental News Issue 36 Winter 2016