Travel and Culture

Conservation on the Chatham Islands

Di Gregory-Hunt has lived on Pitt Island, part of the Chatham Islands group for the past 60 years.

Greeting and Kia Ora folk from Pitt Island. Anna has asked if I would write something on conservation, so I’ll do my best. What is write is purely my take on things and could be seen or read differently from others and that’s fine. The Department of Conservation became such in April 1987 and was a combination of hands and survey, the wild life service and the forest service.

The Department administers approximately 50% of Pitt Island and about 11% of the Main Island of Chatham. There is an area manager on Chatham with 12 permanent staff and sometimes volunteers are brought in to help in specific areas which could include island work offshore from Chathams and Pitt.

Oyster Catcher. Photo: Marion Emeny

The Chatham Islands has 25% of threatened species and we don’t have ferrets, stoats or weasels (mustelids). Main Chatham has possums, rats, hedgehogs and cats and mice. Pitt Island on the other hand has no possums, rats or hedgehogs but we do have cats and mice.

As everyone knows cats eat birds so ideally the Department of Conservation would like to rid Pitt Island of feral cats but we all know we humans don’t always agree on things and although there are about 35 – 40 people (men, women and children) living on Pitt not everyone agrees to getting rid of feral cats.

Some think the mice population would increase some won’t agree because they have a problem with the Department! I’m sure it would be the same anywhere and to get a total consensus on anything is almost impossible folk.

For me personally getting rid of feral cats is not a problem even though we have always had / owned house cats of which we have 2 very fat healthy ones presently. There are 2 islands quite close to Pitt Island. Both are nature reserves and have special significance with the Black Robin being on both although the majority are on the island of Rangatira (South East Island) which is a few miles to the south east of Pitt and the other Mangere Island which is a few miles on the southwest side.

Both islands are very lovely and I think I can correctly say quite different. Each summer there are certain people (experts in their field) who spend time on those islands studying and re-viewing the whys and wherefores of the black robin, shore plover, petrels lives, habitats etc. There is still the hope of trans-locating the black robins and although it was tried on Pitt some years ago it sadly wasn’t successful.

It is quite important to find somewhere because they have probably reached their capacity on Rangatira but it is getting the right place, habitat and that is still to be resolved. Of course, there are other off shore islands with other species e.g. the Pyramid Islands also off Pitt with many albatrosses. Royal Albatross and Chatham Albatross and over the past 5 year a number of these have been trans-located to an area on main Chatham.

Flower Pot Harbour. Photo: Marion Emeny

Another conservation body called the Taiko Trust are going great work down here also (on Chathams and in more recent years (20 – 30 perhaps) rediscovered the Chatham Taiko (a black petrel) which was thought to be extinct but is now slowly being nurtured and encouraged to rebuild their species by a very dedicated group at the south end of main Chathams.

We on Pitt are hoping to reintroduce the Parea (called Kereru in NZ) soon, after they disappeared from Pitt some years ago. Personally, I believe from fires as I recall there were quite a few fires on Pitt in my earlier years.

I’m sure there are lots of opportunities to enhance and promote our Conservation possibilities on Chathams and of course on Pitt Island also. I guess it is like most things, you just need people to work together for the benefits it could bring for all and of course for those who follow us in the future.

You can read more about Di Gregory-Hunt’s arrival to Pitt Island here and her return to live on the island here.

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