Ko te waewae Kāpiti o Tara raua ko Rangitāne: the full name of Kāpiti Island recognises its significance to Māori as a place where rohe boundaries meet.
Last month, Kāpiti was a gathering place for members of Ngāti Toa Rangatira, Te Ātiawa ki Whakarongotai, DOC staff and international volunteers.
DOC schedules maintenance trips to the Kāpiti Island Nature Reserve three times a year. This one involved 20 staff, 11 boatloads of gear and two kōtuku rerenga tahi–rangatahi from Kāpiti iwi.
The two young men were among the first iwi members to formally work alongside DOC on the essential tasks of keeping the predator-free island safe, secure and running smoothly. Their participation came about from a youth development programme.
Natanahira Parata (20, Te Ātiawa ki Whakarongotai and Ngāti Toa) and Ruben Kearney-Parata (19, Te Ātiawa ki Whakarongotai, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Toa) are both students at Victoria University of Wellington. They volunteered for the physically demanding work, in return for three days living on part of the motu not usually accessible to the public for overnight stays.
Being surrounded by the calls of kiwi pukupuku (little spotted kiwi), and waking to a korimako (bellbird) dawn chorus – plus a few snoring DOC staff – was a privilege, according to Natana.
“There’s nothing quite like stepping onto the beach at Rangatira; you’re totally immersed in an environment where tūī, kererū, takahē, korimako and toutouwai are all dancing among the native forest around you. It’s like stepping back in time.”
Ruben and Natana found themselves pitching in before they even set foot on the island. First, they prepped their gear to be “bio-secure” – everything was checked and cleaned to keep invasive plants, animals and diseases off the island, which is critical to the endangered species recovering there.
Next, the boat headed to the inaccessible southern end, where staff had been stationed to install “no landing” signs to keep the island predator-free. Bundles of gear were passed hand to hand in a “human chain” from the shore. The rangatahi did not need to be asked – they willingly leapt ashore and joined the team.
Over the following days, mahi included a two-hour uphill grind, laden with bags of cement and a hefty wooden sign; with no vehicles on the island it would take the island’s sole ranger days to shift this load. The sign will inform visitors about one of the reserve’s rarest taonga, the endangered hihi (stitchbird).
This walk also brought reward – reaching the summit of Tūteremoana with views of Te Waipounamu, Taranaki and Ruapehu. Here, Ruben and Natanahira got a chance to kōrero with fellow volunteers – US Fulbright Scholar and writer Clare Jones, and Israeli traveller Igor Bren. These global mātātahi shared their mātauranga about respect for the environment, peace and politics; they spoke with united passion to learn from mistakes of previous generations.
From Ruben’s point of view, meeting people from all other parts of the world was a huge benefit of the trip.
“It was inspiring to spend time with Igor and Clare – who were more than happy to tell their stories from all over the world and all walks of life. It was an informing and eye-opening experience to hear their stories and hear about travel – something that I hope to do in the near future.”
DOC Kāpiti Island Ranger Gen Spargo wants to see the relationship with iwi rangatahi continue and deepen.
“In sharing the work duties, the dishes, and the discussion, these young men enriched the experience for all involved. They contributed their kaitiakitanga to Kāpiti and for this we are immensely grateful. We invite iwi rangatahi to come and experience this for themselves.”
Both Ruben and Natana have already signed up to come back later in the summer season.
“The only condition,” said Gen, “is that they bring more of Nan’s delicious baking with them!”
Triumphant Trig of Tuteremoana – Te Maungateitei o te motu o Kāpiti
By Ruben Kearney-Parata
Are the candescent cackle of Kereru.
And on our backs laid six pound sacks of cement,
As we trek and traverse to the triumphant trig of Tuteremoana.
Beware of those birds though – they can be looters
So, whakarongo te ora o Tāne-Mahuta.
You can hear – the natural fast pa-ced-ness;
Of Korimako, Stitchbird and even Tui.
You can witness – the utmost graciousness
Dropping in on them mid-hui.
A playground that has been pest free,
Since back in the day – the late nineties!
Roams the Kiwipukupuku (little spotted Kiwi)
It’s not until you touch – the rākaunui.
That you will feel – serenity
Like tiny yellow feathered Hihi.
Then you’ll be – at peace at glee,
With Papatūānuku and Ranginui –
Kotahitanga me arohanui.
Staring over te waewae Kāpiti o Tara raua ko Rangitāne.