They say good things come to those who wait: my trip to Kāpiti Island with Kāpiti Island Nature Tours proved the adage. This blog sets the scene for a series of posts (and photos) about my time as a guest of my Māori hosts.
Shaped by ocean currents, wind and quakes or, as legend says, sliced from the mainland with blows from Kupe’s paddle, this island has become a lifeboat for New Zealand’s flora and fauna.
Interestingly such of the vegetation there has more in common with the South Island than the North suggesting a land bridge to the south and not the close-by Kāpiti Coast.
After two aborted trips to the island, because of bad weather stopping the boat, in late 2014 I finally got to visit one of NZ’s longest restoration stories. In 1897 the island became a nature reserve after being acquired, or taken, by governmental legislation, for use as a bird sanctuary
New Zealand history says “At the end of the 1880s scientists were concerned about the loss of native plants and animals and the impact of introduced predators and pests. Taking their lead from Potts, who in 1878 suggested the creation of ‘national domains’ as refuges for native birds, scientific societies helped create offshore islands as flora and fauna reserves. These included Resolution Island (1891), Secretary Island (1893), Little Barrier Island (1895) and Kapiti Island (1897). The societies were led by notable figures such as botanist Leonard Cockayne and politician Harry Ell”.
Large scale colonisation didn’t begin until Ngāti Toa, under Te Rauparaha who was at the height of his powers, captured the island from Ngāti Apa and Muaupoko and began farming to supply the whaling and coastal trading ships
The first whaling station had started in 1829 and by early 1830 there were seven on the island with some 4000 Māori and 600 whalers living on the island.
Now one of New Zealand’s most valuable nature reserves, these 1965 hectares, our 2nd largest offshore natures reserve, is free from introduced animals (and predators). As a sanctuary for wildlife, its vegetation is of equal importance and restoring and preserving vegetation that was once common in coastal and lowland parts of central NZ.
Bookmark this blog to read more about my hiking there and to see more photos of the wonderful bird life – the abundant birdsong was clear as soon as we stepped off the water taxi.