Making Motutapu a Legacy

From Country Life, 9:28 pm on 2 June 2017

Sparkling sea views, rippling green grass, the deliberate walk of the takahe and the captivating call of the tieke...

These are all part of Motutapu 2017, a Department of Conservation-owned island in the Hauraki Gulf which is just stone's throw from downtown Auckland, but not visible from her shores.

Motutapu hasn't always been a showcase of an island, however.

Twenty-five years ago when city boy Rick Braddock put in a tender to lease the land, it was a weed and pest infested place.  Possums were threatening to wipe out New Zealand's largest pohutukawa forest on neighbouring Rangitoto Island, bird life was absent.

Thistles and thorny apple weed covered a great portion of Motutapu's 1,500 hectares and the job of taming them was far harder and more costly than Rick thought.

It gobbled up tens of thousands of dollars.

"I was young and naive at the time and thought I could deal with it. But I couldn't.

"I didn't pay taxes for a number of years. But that's turned around now."

Rick Braddock runs up to 3,000 Angus cattle and a number of young dairy heifers on the island, but he also shares the space with an outdoor education centre, a volunteer ecological restoration trust, iwi interests and the conservation department.

He says over the years the various parties have settled into having a good relationship and now that DOC has rid both Motutapu and Rangitoto of all pests, it is wonderful to support the reintroduction of brown kiwi, tieke and takahe. 

Shore plovers and dotterel have homes here, along with tui, fantails, kereru, kingfishers, quail and kakariki.

Rick's hugely enthusiastic about the conservation measures but admits it wasn't in his mind early on.

"I've come to realise the importance of these islands and what I'm involved with. We've [his family] got to love ecological restoration and almost by default become promoters and involved in the reintroduction of natural flora and fauna."

An economic decision twenty-five years ago has, Rick admits, "become a legacy."

If you're keen to be part of the volunteer team which helps with replanting native trees and shrubs on Motutapu, sign in on the Motutapu Restoration Trust page.