Motuarohia: An island restoration story
Thriving forest, alive with birdsong – that was the vision of Mike Alexander when he started the restoration of Motuarohia Island in the 1970s. The restoration at the time attracted Maggie’s Garden Show: now Minister of Conservation, she couldn’t be enticed back in May for the release of pōpokatea to the pest-free island.
In a 2011 email to Fleur, Mike recalls his time on the island spending “just-on 30 years doing what I did. It would take volumes to recall it! …the kiwi were managed, we had a close relationship with them, penguins, moreporks and even seahorses. You see, it was pretty much kept under wraps”.
He says that he identified 23 species of birds, and planted over 200,000 trees, with some 160 different types. “My wife and I had a very unique experience living full time with this nature – one seldom, if ever, repeated.”
Current landowners on Motuarohia continue Mike’s legacy. To the west, the five landowners recently converted their outdated cross leases to a management plan subdivision, working with DOC and FNDC. Now, the landowners have a smaller pocket of land around their dwelling and a large communal area that is under an ecological management plan. At the eastern end the landowners have been working with DOC and the Guardians over the future management of the Phoenix palms, from which seedlings are popping up all over the place now that there are no rats to eat them.
The landowners continue to plant trees, with another 2500 planted this year. They also contributed to Project Island Song’s translocation of pōpokatea (whitehead) from Tiritiri Matangi this year.
All landowners and caretakers cooperate with island biosecurity, checking plants and alert DOC in advance if there are any large loads of cargo going to the island. It takes the efforts of many to contribute to wider the conservation of Ipipiri.