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As I write this we are six weeks into our COVID-19 lockdown in New Zealand – and what a beautiful time it has been here on Waiheke Island – while the pandemic has, sadly, raged elsewhere.

It has been quite incredible to see the positive impact on nature of our nationwide lockdown.

Without the noise of car engines, boats on the water and pressure from numerous humans, we have been seeing birds in much greater numbers, and they have been coming much closer to us.

We have also seen our bays full of fish, with large flocks of fluttering shearwaters (or pakaha) feeding on them in numbers I have never seen in the 20 years I have lived on the island.

It has become obvious that the noise, disturbance and pressure from human activities drives wildlife and sealife away and places these ecosystems under pressure in ways that were not previously observed or understood by people who live here.

I have been out walking daily during the lockdown, usually along the same coastal paths we walk with our clients. It has been wonderful to connect with nature and see wildlife reclaiming their space.

Little Palm Beach, Waiheke Island

Little Palm Beach ‘au naturel’ during COVID-19 lockdown. Photo: Gabrielle Young

Although we can’t yet welcome you back, we are preparing for the time we can, while being part of the ongoing conversation and work to redevelop tourism on Waiheke and in New Zealand.

We want to ensure that when we re-open, we will be giving more to nature and our communities than we take from them.

Main picture: Fluttering Shearwaters feeding at Little Oneroa Beach. Photo: Gabrielle Young