Mysteries of Matiu Island

Tuesday, September 5th,

Today our class found ourselves on the glorious island of Matiu, or as some call it Somes island as well. Being owned by the Maori but operated by the Department of Conservation I was curious to see how these ideas came together on the island. While the previous day the rest of the group and myself went off exploring the island and interacting with its environment, today we got to see the Maori portion, or lack thereof in Matiu Island’s case and how it intersects with the environment.

A view of the island’s edges.

After our class session and some down time on the island, we got to meet with one of the rangers who provided our group with a lot more information on the Kaitiaki Plan and the Maori representation on the island, which other than the carved gate we saw at the wharf of the island was simply non-existent. From the ranger, we learned of the reason for this: despite the lower down rangers wanting to get the local Iwi’s (tribes) who owned the island involved more heavily, their efforts got consistently bogged down by the bureaucracy. The rapid turnover that takes place on the trust board that deals with Matiu Island makes things incredibly slow to move forward on the island. Furthermore, there is a lot of other Taonga (treasures) that this trust board has to deal with which take up time as well, and without proper resources to be able to address these areas, Matiu Island then lacks the proper cultural representation. Sadly this is many times a fact in democracies and with the bureaucracy, the wheels turn at a snail’s pace, and it is quite frustrating to deal with.

The carved gate to Matiu Island.

In a bit brighter spot from the lack of the Maori representation on the island, the environmental preservation and conservation programs seem to be doing quite well. The island’s had recent successes with several endangered species, including the Tuatara, a lizard native to only New Zealand, and the Kakariki, another endangered parakeet as well. Coming from what was once a barren island that was a quarantine station for Wellington and the surrounding area, now it is a verdant green island that is predator free and well protected. Though, as an environmentalist, the tree situation here was amusing and irritating; most trees aren’t from the area, or even New Zealand. I understand why this is though, back when the trees were planted, they put whatever they could get on the island, and are working on changing it now.

All in all, I was really interested in being able to explore and experience Matiu/Somes Island. I think that the island was a good look at how the Maori and Environment intersect, and the various issues relating to these themes. Also, I’m interested to see further into the government’s perspective in Wellington after getting a glimpse of it on the island. The trip out was a wonderful experience and I look forward to what Wellington will bring us in our knowledge.

–Nathan Vallejos

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