We had just come back from walking to the south side of Rakitu when we were hailed by Charmaine Foster, the daughter of the man who last owned Rakitu before it was sold to DOC. Over a cup of tea we learned the story of the island and of her passion to work in partnership with DOC to restore it to what it once was long before human habitation. Her father brought it in 1953 from the Alisons, worked it as a farm and sold it to DOC in 2003 for the benefit of New Zealand public.
Charmaine also lent me a copy of Tane, a journal of the Auckland University Field Club’s trip to Rakitu in 1982 which surveyed the island archeologically, as well as for plants, marine life and birds.
Maori lived here with extensive evidence of cultivation in the valleys and a total of seven pa sites on the island. When the first Europeans landed on the island in 1868 and documented what they saw, the local Maori said most of the petrels had been eaten by the rats and today there are not known to be any.
Ecological restoration on Rakitu Island
Weka were introduced in 1951 by the NZ Wildlife Service and have thrived, but it appears that they have a negative impact on other native species and will be removed when DOC starts to restore the island.
It reminds me of the story of Great Mercury Island, which I posted after Christmas. After 700 years of human habitation, and many rats later, very little bird life was left. But after the pests were eradicated the petrels, kaka and other birds have returned.
Since we came to the island last time five years ago, we can see much more regeneration and it’s great to hear that this year, at last, DOC aims to make it pest-free so the seabirds and other wildlife will return. They will also be introducing Kiwi.
It is always wonderful to visit these places and meet the Kaitiaki (guardians) who care so much about ecological restoration and making these beautiful islands into havens for our native species. They are the quiet heroes and models of how we all need to play our part in halting the decline of our native species.