A look back on the state of Matiu/Somes Island in 2017

September 6, 2017

This morning we woke up to a chorus of trees whipping in an intense breeze. The wind was so strong it dominated not only the conversation, but most aspects of the first half of the day. The whole group bundled up and headed down to the docks. I was very grateful for the hospitality that was shown to us by the people there, and the opportunity to spend two nights on such a special place. As we walked one last time through the Maori wood-carved gate that serves as Matiu/Somes entrance, I could not help but look back on how the history of the island has shaped the landscape we were able to take in. There is a dichotomy here, between the Department of Conservation’s efforts in environmental action and the Maori people’s history here. The power of decision making lies with the DoC, a body of the crown, but they operate under the guise of respect for the Maori culture on land they lost to the crown years ago. While on the island I took a walk through the building that was used to ensure the animals coming in to the island were disease free. Seeing the pens where the animals stayed before being shipped to the mainland was nothing short of haunting, an up close reminder of the long story Matiu/Somes has to tell. This building is not going anywhere anytime soon, it’s concrete walls housing metal machines leave a permanent scar on an otherwise beautiful piece of land. All that stands on the island to represent the Maori is a simple carved gate, the entrance to the island. So as we braved 40+ mph winds by the dock it became tough to see where the balance on this island lays currently. Clearly there is more Maori influence here than 50 years ago but is it enough? Is it even close to enough? Only one thing I can claim for sure, is that no one can take away the views this island gave us those two days.

-Tyler Myers

A panorama of the Matiu/Somes Island lighthouse looking out on Wellington Bay.

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