Archives For Somes Island

By Amy Brasch, Partnerships Ranger, Wellington

An island biosecurity hui was recently held on Matiu/Somes Island to review the best island biosecurity management practices, current biosecurity procedures, and to discuss methods for increasing awareness and participation.

Local iwi, DOC rangers, relevant community groups, island associates and media gathered on Matiu/Somes Island to review the importance of island biosecurity and discuss opportunities for strengthening procedures.

Emma Dunning (DOC) welcoming the visitors to Matiu-Somes.

Welcoming the visitors to Matiu-Somes

The hui was not only a great opportunity to hear biosecurity ideas and improve our practices, but also to share those ideas with our partners that help us care for these incredible islands. The reality is there will always be biosecurity risks to our islands.

Attendees of the biosecurity hui on Matiu/Somes Island.

Biosecurity hui

DOC Island Services Rangers and other DOC staff work hard to keep these islands pest-free by putting considerable effort into removing and controlling pests and carrying out appropriate quarantine measures on islands.

Pest plants and animals can have detrimental effects on native biodiversity, so it was great to partner up with local iwi and businesses to figure out ways to keep pest animals and plants off the islands together.

Matiu/Somes Island.

Matiu/Somes Island

Come behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Today we profile Stacey Perkins, Service/CITES Programme Manager, Wellington.

Stacey Perkins watching the sunset in the Wairarapa.

Te Kopi (Wairarapa) sunset on New Years Eve 2011

At work

Some things I do in my job include… co-ordinate/manage the area’s business plan, health & safety, fleet/uniform, recruitment/payroll, general administration/finance and Wellington/Lower North Island CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) operational functions. I’m also an occasional island minder and standby officer.

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by… providing our people with the equipment, resources and tools they need to effectively achieve conservation outcomes. The Human Resource work helps DOC employ people with the skills to carry the organisation into the future. The CITES work contributes to the protection of endangered species of animals and plants nationally and internationally along with 177 other countries that are party to the ‘Convention’.

The funniest/strangest/loveliest/scariest/awesome-est DOC moment I’ve had so far is… there have been many memorable moments in my 18 years with DOC so narrowing this to one is difficult…but I will go with the Irish single malt whiskey treasure hunt on Matiu/Somes Island (Wellington Harbour) to see in the New Year (2011) with a group of about 20 colleagues and friends. This evening had it all: good times, good company, amazing weather, interesting wildlife and a beautiful (DOC) location. It was great fun!

Stacey standing on a bridge on Matiu Somes Island.

The day after the whiskey trail on Matiu/Somes Island

The DOC (or previous DOC) employee that inspires or enthuses me most is… this is also difficult to narrow down, as there are so many wonderful people at DOC (past and present), but I will have to go with my old mate, Keith Dyett. Keith epitomises having a positive outlook on life. We have had many work and social gatherings together over the years. He is always willing to listen and share stories and experiences from life. Keith is one of the most philosophical and wise people I have had the pleasure to meet so far.

I would also like to give special mention to Colin Giddy. I have worked with Colin since 2010 when Kapiti Wellington Area was formed and we have become good friends. Colin has continued to have a really positive attitude even through recent difficult times of change at DOC. Thanks Colin for continuing to fight the good fight! There are many other great and inspiring people I have meet at DOC but cannot mention them all in the scope of this ‘profile’ but hopefully they know who they are?

Stacey on a dogsled on the Yukon River.

Dogsledding on the frozen Yukon River

On a personal note…

Most people don’t know that I… am very keen and interested in dog sledding and have been to the Yukon twice (in 2009 and 2012) to participate in activities. I would like to live in the Yukon for one to two years to help train and compete in the Yukon Quest, a 1,000 mile dog sled race from Whitehorse in the Yukon to Fairbanks in Alaska during the Arctic winter. I have also written poetry since 1985 and have a collection of approximately 30 poems.

The song that always cheers me up is… having a collection of 1,000+ CDs, 200+ cassette tapes and a few LP records (that are slowly but surely growing in number), it is very difficult for me to pick one song. But the one that resonates the most for me and has regularly gotten air play at special occasions over the years is ‘Lightning crashes’ by Live! (YouTube it).

Other long time favourite songs of mine include ‘The River’ by Bruce Springsteen, ‘Nightswimming’ by REM, ‘God of Wine’ by Third Eye Blind, ‘Mrs Potters Lullaby’ by Counting Crows, ‘Patience’ by Guns ’n’ Roses, ‘North’ by Digawolf, ‘Washed away’ by Tom Cochrane and ‘Iris’ by Goo Goo Dolls to name a few.

My stomping ground is… being a Hutt Valley (Petone) boy at heart I would have to say most of the lower valley including, Percy’s Reserve, Rimutaka Forest Park, Day’s Bay and Matiu/Somes Island. Also, Petone Memorial Park for soccer and Lyall Bay and Titahi Bay for surfing. Beyond the fair shores of Aotearoa I would have to say Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia (for relaxing) and Whitehorse in the Yukon, Canada (for outdoor pursuits, nature and adventure). I like spending a large portion of my leisure time near the sea and now reside close to Plimmerton Beach, Wellington.

If I could trade places with any other person for a week—famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional—it would be… Nostradamus. When I was 10 years old I did some research on and a speech about Nostradamus. I wasn’t great at doing research and I didn’t like speaking in front of groups of people but when my mother suggested I do a speech about Nostradamus I found it fascinating, and doing the speech was surprisingly easy due to my interest in the subject. I think he was an amazing person—several centuries ahead of his time, very intellectual and holistic. He gave great insights to the future of humanity and the world with some only being realised now. Being able to predict the future would be an interesting ability to have… although I am not sure I would like what I would see?

Stacey outside the Yukon Quest building.

Dreaming of being in the Yukon Quest

My greatest sporting moment/s was when… not that I am a great sportsman but I do have some sporting highlights as a spectator, player, participant and coach. As a spectator: in 1990 I was at a Cricket World Cup – One Day International (ODI) between India and West Indies at the Basin Reserve and caught a six hit by the great Viv Richards.

As a player: in 1987 I got to play my one and only game in the Petone men’s soccer first team against Stop Out at Hutt Park Raceway and represented Petone at the National under 19 tournament.

As a participant: in 1985 I completed my first triathlon in Wellington, with a 1500 metre swim in Oriental Bay in cold/windy conditions where at least six people were pulled from the swim with early stages of hypothermia. I was in the last 50 competitors (out of about 400) out of the sea then made up 150 places on the 40km bike ride, and another 50 places on the 10km run.

As a coach: I was awarded the Junior Soccer Coach of the year in 1999 at Petone in my first and only stint as a junior coach with the tenth grade, with my team winning their competition.

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote (or three) is…
#1 Travelling:  (from ‘Northern Exposure’ temporary DJ at KBHR, Bernard Stevens) “Thoughts turn to homecoming. Journey’s end. Because in a sense, it’s the coming back, the return, which gives meaning to the going forth. We really don’t know where we’ve been until we’ve come back to where we were. Only, where we were may not be as it was because of who we’ve become. Which is, after all, why we left.”

#2 Dreams – (from ‘Northern Exposure’ DJ at KBHR, Chris Stevens) “Be open to your dreams, people. Embrace that distant shore. Because our mortal journey is over all too soon.”

#3 Life – (Stacey Perkins) “Make the most of today, as tomorrow never comes.”

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is… before you respond by email to something you are unhappy about, do a draft and save it. Speak to someone you can confide in for advice, sleep on it, re-read and edit it the next day then consider carefully if you should send or delete it! This advice has saved my blushes in the past…thanks Rob!

In work and life I am motivated by… people who contribute to the world in a positive way and people who impart knowledge to those worthy of it, in a meaningful way.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is… before throwing things in the rubbish or washing things down the drain ask yourself ‘Would I like that to be going into my food or water and can I re-use this some way?’ By asking this and acting on it you will improve the health of the ecosystem we all have to live in. Also, through my cultural heritage as part Maori from Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa and Ngai Tahu Iwi, I have the belief that our natural resources are a taonga and we are the guardians, not the owners, of these so we all have a responsibility to care for and conserve them!

Stacey with friends at Cape Reinga.

Early surfie days at Cape Reinga (Northland) with two mates

Question of the week…

What story does your family/whanau always tell about you? A story or event that my family re-visit and often talk about is from a time when I was 9 or 10 years old and we were on a family holiday at Flat Point, Carterton, Wairarapa. I was out diving for kina and paua with my step-father, Frank.

While he was under the sea I suddenly felt a punch or thump to my chest then a whack to my abdomen, right thigh and right knee. Then I grabbed a large tail and was dragged about 10 metres out to sea before I let go. When I looked down at my chest there was blood throbbing from a wound to my chest near the heart. When my step-father re-surfaced all he could see was a lot of blood around me. He got me to the shore where my sister, Tara, came to help me but I collapsed as my right knee ligament had been severed. My sister ran along the beach to get more help and found a lady (who to this day I still don’t know who she was…maybe my guardian angel?), who bandaged me up to reduce the bleeding from the four wounds. The worst puncture/stab wound pierced the outer wall of tissue to my heart and I lost a lot of blood.

I was rushed to hospital in Carterton in the back of a Bedford van then taken to Wellington hospital by ambulance. I spent three days in the Intensive Care Unit but survived to tell this story. After thinking long and hard about what happened we concluded that I had startled then been attacked by a large sting-ray and was stabbed/sliced by its barb in four places. We still talk about and reflect on this incident occasionally and still are in awe of how unbelievable it was. I was lucky, unlike Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, who died from a similar attack and injuries from a sting-ray’s barb! This experience taught me to respect nature and its environment!

I’ve just returned from a couple of days camping on Matiu Somes Island. Not many people know that you can camp there, so everyone I told before I went over was surprised (except my colleagues at DOC of course). But yes, for a number of years now, you’ve been able to camp in the middle of Wellington Harbour – a short ferry ride away from the bright lights, buildings and bustle of New Zealand’s capital city.

View from Matiu Somes Island.

View of Wellington from Matiu Somes Island

You’ve got to book this campsite in advance, so you can’t really be spontaneous, pick a fine day, and go for it. As a result, the day we went over was, shall we say, sub-optimal. In fact, as far as wind goes, it was just about “as bad as it gets” (using the words of the no-nonsense island ranger, Jo Greenman).

My family at the railway station waiting for the train to take us into town where we would be catching our ferry to Matiu Somes

My family at the railway station waiting for the train to take us into town
where we would be catching our ferry to Matiu Somes

We heeded the advice of the helpful East by West Ferry staff and took the first sailing of the morning (not my preference, but likely to be the only one running that day due to the weather).

The trip to the island was more roller-coaster than ferry ride, much to the delight of the men folk in my family who enjoyed being up top and outside in the spray and splashes.

On arrival, in the Whare Kiore/quarantine building, which is located next to the main wharf, all bags are inspected

On arrival, in the Whare Kiore/quarantine building, which is located
next to the main wharf, all bags are inspected

We’d let Ranger Jo know when we were arriving – as per the guidance in our camp booking confirmation email – and she was there to greet us when we landed.

Since ship rats and other pests were eradicated from Matiu Somes (in the late 1980s) the island has become a sanctuary for native plants, birds, reptiles and invertebrates. For this reason all our gear had to be checked thoroughly on arrival, to make sure we hadn’t inadvertently bought any nasties onto the island with us.

Wind turbine.

The wind turbine, together with solar panels are designed to provide nearly all of the island’s energy requirements

Campers are their biggest risk, says Ranger Jo, as we scrape our shoes, rummage through our bags, and unpack our tent and turn it inside out to shake the blades of dry grass from our last camping trip onto the floor of the Whare Kiore (we really needed to be more thorough with our check and clean at home – if biosecurity had been busier, and there wasn’t the time or space to sort out our tent on the island, we could’ve been sent home).

Once we were given the all clear Jo gave us directions to the island’s campsite and some hints about the best place to pitch our tent so we didn’t get blown away.

There were a couple of trolleys at the wharf to help cart gear up the hill and we used one of these to save us having to pack our tent back up after the biosecurity check.

Trolley for gear.

One of the trolleys available to cart gear from the wharf to the campsite

So, with packs on our backs, children in tow, and trolley full of inside out, unwieldy tent, we headed up the island to set up home for the next two days.

The kids enjoy helping pitch the tent.

The kids enjoy helping to pitch the tent

There were no tents or signs of campers when we arrived on site. It was when I went to explore the bathroom and kitchen facilities that I met the campers from the night before – a group of teenagers packing up and getting ready to leave. The wind had driven them out of their tent and had them camping on the floor of the small camp lounge room. Their stuff was everywhere. I’d never seen so many sugared breakfast products on one dining room table before! Never-the-less, they were very nice and, more importantly, they were leaving.

I was pleasantly surprised by the campsite facilities. I’d brought a lot of stuff over that I didn’t need to. There was already clean tea towels and cloths, dish washing liquid, dishes, and pots and pans. There wasn’t just a small gas hob on a bench top, as I’d imagined there’d be, but a full gas oven. The lounge had some worn but quite comfy seating, with loads of cushions and a small coffee table. The bathroom was basic but had a vanity, large mirror and flushing toilet. Sweet!

We sat, pleased to finally be there, and ate our packed lunches at the picnic tables provided (including a small kid sized one that my children loved).

Our tent took a while to put up. The wind was determined to see it fly and we were determined to pin it down. Having the added challenge of turning the complicated three room thing in the right way again, in gale-force winds, was… interesting. And yes, it was my fault that we’d bought our big tent over to the island. We have a smaller, and in hindsight much more appropriate, tent at home. It is the one my husband would’ve chosen to bring if I’d let him, but no, I wanted the luxury of three rooms and a standing height stud thank you. Hmmm.

Camping on Matiu Somes Island

Camping on Matiu Somes Island

Anyway, we got there in the end and the kids were, as always, excited to set up our little home with places for torches, clothes, relaxing and sleeping, which the younger kids and myself tested almost immediately (the place for sleeping that is).

We were keen to head out at night to see some of the island’s nocturnal wildlife (little penguins, weta and tuatara) so having afternoon sleeps was necessary for my normally in bed by 7 pm littlies. And my excuse was… I’m on holiday – afternoon siestas just go with the territory.

Admittedly I didn’t actually get much sleep – the wind poked, pushed, pulled, and generally bullied, the canvas of our tent mercilessly. The kids slept like the dead.

Quarantine Station.

Quarantine Station

It was exciting to be at the waters edge at dusk. The waves were crashing right over the picnic table down by the wharf and the seagulls were flying backwards. Unsurprisingly, there was no one else about.

We spent a happy hour or so looking for penguins, playing hide and seek with the wind (it always found us) and enjoying each other’s company in the area Ranger Jo said the penguins could sometimes be seen.

I wasn’t sure how my three year old would cope with the walk, the wind, and the lateness of the hour, but I shouldn’t have worried. Despite not seeing penguins there wasn’t a single complaint from anyone. We had a great time and, miraculously, everyone walked, all the way there and back, without a single “mummy carry” from the little miss.

Master Seven and Little Miss Three playing around the campsite

Master Seven and Little Miss Three playing around the campsite

That night was wild. Stupid, mad wild. I thought the tent might break as the walls bent crazily in on us. The rain started. Needless to say, hubbie and I didn’t get a lot of sleep. The kids, once again, slept like the dead.

The next day dawned fine. We spent breakfast time crowded around the warm sunny dining room table in the campsite kitchen pouring over a map of the island and planning our adventures. The older boys had already explored a fair bit of the island (while we slept the previous day) but were excited to revisit and show us around.

We role played Dora the Explorer with the three year old, to keep her entertained as we traveled  We had a map, a backpack and our list of landmarks that needed crossing off, just like Dora. She loved it. “Lookout, pond, lighthouse, lookout.”

The Matiu/Somes Island lighthouse was the first inner harbour lighthouse in New Zealand

The Matiu/Somes Island lighthouse was the first inner harbour lighthouse in New Zealand

The views from the island were amazing. Spotting kākāriki/red-crowned parakeets flitting in the trees, and skinks sunning beside the paths, brought squeals of excitement from us all.

The weta motel, animal quarantine station and gun emplacements, were highlights for the kids (truth be told I think the decomposing, unidentifiable dead thing in gun emplacement number three was the biggest highlight for the boys!)

Weta motel

Weta motel

The island isn’t big. Spending a couple of hours out and about and then easily being able to get back to base camp for meals, play and relax time, was great.

I'm not often caught on camera but here I am catching up on some holiday reading

I’m not often caught on camera but here I am catching up on some holiday reading

Sleep was much easier to come by on our second (and last) night, and our last day on the island dawned a picture of perfection.

As we relaxed into a leisurely pack up another family arrived to set up camp (the only others since the teenagers departed).

Enjoying the views from Matiu Somes Island.

Enjoying the views from one of the lookouts on Matiu Somes Island

Down on the wharf the place was bustling with day trippers. Ranger Jo was on the phone to the ferry company. They keep a strict eye on the numbers of people on the island. It was reaching capacity for the day and it looked like they’d have to stop selling tickets soon. Hearing that made me feel happy. It made me happy that people knew about this beautiful island sanctuary and were making the most of it. It made me happy to work for DOC who look after the island on behalf of all New Zealanders (with lots of volunteer help). It made me happy that it was right here – a short ferry ride away from the bright lights, buildings and bustle of New Zealand’s capital city – my home.