On Wednesday 10th September 2003 at a Meeting of the Parks and Heritage Committee of the Auckland Regional Council a deputation from NZ Forest Restoration Trust was heard regarding Kaikoura Island.
Over the past few months, there has been a considerable amount of public debate about the proposed national memorial to Sir Peter Blake (the permanent display of NZL 32 “Black Magic” in an external exhibition adjacent to the National Maritime Museum at the Viaduct Basin) and the alternative proposal to purchase, the privately owned, Kaikoura Island for this purpose. This debate around the Blake Memorial has rekindled interest in the future of Kaikoura Island, an issue which has been discussed publicly on several occasions over the past decade. As part of this renewed public interest in Kaikoura Island, the New Zealand Native Forest Restoration Trust (NZNFRT) has been promoting and co-ordinating a proposal for the Trust to secure ownership of the island which would allow the island’s biodiversity and landscape values to be protected and enhanced, as well as ensuring that public access to, and enjoyment of, the island is achieved for current and future generations of New Zealanders. Representatives of the NZNFRT (Brian Davis, Geoff Davidson, Jim Dart and Colleen Newton) met with Councillors Bull, Burrill, Coney and Lee in June 2003 to discuss their proposal to protect and enhance the island and to outline the NZNRFT’s efforts to date.
The purpose of this report is to introduce, outline and provide some background information to the NZNFRT’s proposal so the Parks and Heritage Committee can consider this matter in it’s full context. As part of this item the Parks and Heritage Committee Chair has agreed to a deputation from the NZNFRT addressing the Committee.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON KAIKOURA ISLAND
Kaikoura Island, located on the western side of Great Barrier Island, is 564 hectares in size making it the 7th largest island in the Hauraki Gulf. This rugged, almost triangular shaped island is strategically placed, forming the natural harbours of Port Abercrombie and Port Fitzroy – both of which are utilised by several thousand yachts and pleasure craft each summer, as they provide sheltered, deep water anchorages. The island is covered with mostly a mixture of kanuka/manuka, with gorse still persisting in the last areas which were farmed and grazed. Pockets of original coastal forest exists all around the island, with some kauri, taraire, karaka, pohutukawa, kokekohe and tawapou still remaining, especially in the gullies. Due to fallow deer being present on the island, many of the palatable native plant species are absent in the forest understorey and among regenerating areas. Other introduced pest species include pigs, cats, ship rats and kiore. Introduced or plant pest species present on the island include gorse, hakea, Dally Pine, macrocarpa, radiata pine and eucalypts.
Birdlife recently recorded on the island include native wood pigeon, morepork, kingfisher, tui, fantail, grey warbler and also several species of seabirds. Very few reptile species have been recorded and invertebrate numbers are also believed to be relatively low.
Overall the island is generally in poor condition in terms of wildlife habitat. There is a low diversity of wildlife species and many of those actually present are in low numbers because of the quality of the existing habitat, which has been degraded for a long period by the deer, pigs, cats and rats. Despite this there is a modified type of succession occurring on the island and various reports on the island’s biodiversity have concluded that if the significant animal and plant pest species were removed and/or controlled it is likely that there would be a significant increase in the natural biodiversity found on the island. In regard to landscape values approximately 75% of Kaikoura Island’s coastline is ranked as an “Outstanding landscape” in the Auckland Regional Plan: Coastal (being rated 6 on a 1 to 7 scale – from Low, rating 1, to High, rating 7). The remaining coastline area to the south of the island is ranked as an “Outstanding and regionally significant landscape” in the Plan (rated 5 on the same 1-7 scale of significance).
The island has a long history of Maori occupation up until the early 1850’s. Since then it has been in European ownership with many of the 20 or so owners using it as a pastoral run despite the largely clay soils and variable climate. Longer-term owners during the last century included the Bayly family (1911-1940) and the Crawford family (1945-1977). It is reported that the Crawford family introduced deer to the island and also took in paying guests. In the late 1970’s the “Lost Resort” wilderness retreat was opened on Kaikoura Island, however this was unsuccessful for a number of reasons and closed. The company, Westy Holdings Limited that bought the island in August 1990 was finally sold at below valuation to the present owner, a north Auckland businessman. Over the years a number of structures have been built on the island with those remaining being a house and some sheds approximately 1 km from the landing at Man of War Passage, a house of very poor condition at Old House Bay and also several accommodation cabins (in various states of disrepair) which were part of the “Lost Resort” venture. Further to this there is some deer-fencing present in various parts of the island along with a small airfield, which has been constructed along one of the ridgelines in the middle of the island.
PREVIOUS PROPOSAL TO PUT THE ISLAND INTO PUBLIC OWNERSHIP
Councillors should be aware that in 1995 there was a determined effort by the “Save our Islands Trust” to facilitate the public acquisition of Kaikoura Island. Auckland Regional Council officers and Councillors investigated the 1995 proposal, with this including a site visit and a number of reports on different aspects of the island being produced and considered. The Regional Parks Committee received a delegation from the Save our Islands Trust on 27 September 1995 and the result of this was the following resolutions being passed:
a That the deputation be received
b That the Council supports the Trust’s objectives in bringing Kaikoura Island into public ownership
c That the Council offer its assistance, if required, with negotiations towards the island’s purchase
d That the Council expresses its willingness to participate, with other agencies such as ACC, DoC and tangata whenua, in planning and development, subject to the availability of resources.
Despite the efforts of the Trust, there was little financial backing from relevant authorities and the island has remained in private ownership.
The proposal being promoted by the NZNFRT is that the Trust act in the role of catalyst and co-ordinator to bring about:
1) Ownership of Kaikoura Island by the NZNFRT by ensuring that sufficient finance is secured from as many sources as necessary to make the purchase. The NZNRFT is targetting contributions from central, regional and local government as well as funding from a range of private enterprise organisations, charitable trusts and private individuals. Two things that should be noted are that the NZNRFT is not requesting Auckland Regional Council (ARC) to acquire or directly manage the island as a regional park, only to contribute to its purchase, and also that the island is currently being marketed for a $10 million asking price, whilst the Auckland City Council rateable value is $4.7 million. As fundraising is likely to take more than a year the NZNRFT hopes to reach an agreement with Westy Holdings Limited to allow the Trust a period of two years in which to raise the necessary funds and to complete payment of the final negotiated purchase price. (It should be noted that the NZNFRT has not agreed to the current $10 million asking price).
2) The formulation of Management Plans which will ensure a swift transition from the company ownership to a management committee tentatively named the Motu Kaikoura Wildlife Sanctuary (MKWS). This purpose-designed Trust would be charged with the express goal of creating the habitat conditions to enable the establishment of populations of New Zealand’s threatened wildlife and plants as rapidly as possible. The NZNFRT have indicated that they envisage that representatives of each of the major funding contributors and the NZNFRT would form the MKWS. This would allow each organisation to maintain a degree of control and initiative in the actions of the management committee.
If and when acquisition of the island is confirmed the NZNFRT proposes that, in agreement with the MKWS, they would appoint a manager and caretaker of the island as soon as possible. As an interim measure the manager could be the NZNFRT’s current field officer. The NZNFRT also envisage that qualified staff of the contributing authorities would also have a direct input into the operation of the sanctuary. It is unclear on how such ongoing work would be funded.
3) A pest eradication scheme would be undertaken by MKWS, in conjunction with government agencies and residents of Great Barrier Island, to remove all introduced predators from Kaikoura Island and as much of the surrounding area of Great Barrier Island as is feasible. The NZNRFT envisage that this would be carried out expeditiously to enable the start of the wildlife re-establishment programme and would need the participation of professional exterminators to ensure that all pest species are removed simultaneously.
4) The introduction of endangered indigenous species from surrounding areas with the permission and assistance of the relevant government agencies. It is proposed that the MKWS would co-ordinate the input of volunteers to assist with this process although professional assistance and advice would also be sought.
5) The MKWS Trust becomes accepted as the most appropriate vehicle to oversee the island’s management. The NZNRFT acknowledge that other legal entities may be equally suitable and would be given further thought when contributing organisations are finalised. The NZNFRT consider that the sanctuary proposal is the only suitable land use for the island and that the project could not be established elsewhere.
Further to the above-mentioned aims, the NZNFRT is aware of the possibilities of establishing an environmental education camp on the island and that fundraising will be easier if such a proposal is adopted as part of the overall concept. This is currently being considered by the NZNFRT and opportunities for partnerships with environmental education organisations are being explored. NZNFRT representatives who will attend the Parks and Heritage Committee meeting will be able to answer any queries Councillors may have on the detail of their proposal.
PROGRESS WITH NZNFRT
Over the past few months the NZNFRT has been approaching a number of agencies in regard to acquiring financial contributions for the purchase of Kaikoura Island. The NZNFRT has already put in an application to the Nature Heritage Fund, the independently run land acquisition fund set up by the Department of Conservation which distributes about $10 million each year, and has recently had a $1 million contribution confirmed. There are a number of conditions attached to this contribution namely that the Nature Heritage Fund wish to lead negotiations with Westy Holdings Limited and that the funding contribution is subject to a review if the purchase is not secured by 1 December 2003. The attainment of a $1 million contribution from the Nature Heritage Fund has allowed the NZNFRT to prepare applications to the ASB Trust and other charitable funding organisations for similar amounts. The NZNRFT have also already approached the Auckland City Council (ACC), as the local authority within which the island lies, seeking support and a financial contribution. At the ACC’s Combined Committees meeting held on 25 June 2003 a NZNRFT deputation was heard and the matter discussed. Despite the following resolution being passed no financial commitment from ACC was forthcoming:
That Mr Davidson of the New Zealand Native Forests Restoration Trust be thanked for his presentation and that Council support a study of potential uses of Kaikoura Island to be funded regionally/nationally by Auckland Regional Council, the Department of Conservation, and/or others noting that this could provide options to link potential users with the establishment of the Te Papa and National Maritime Museum partnership and other organisations.
Waitakere City Council has also received a deputation from the NRFRT however no funding has been committed to the proposal at this stage. The NZNRFT also met with Sir Barry Curtis, Mayor of Manukau City, the result being that Sir Barry recommended that their proposal be presented to the Mayoral Forum for consideration. This occurred at the Mayoral Forum meeting held on 22 August 2003 and the forum requested that a working group of the CEO Forum prepare a report urgently on proposals for the acquisition of Kaikoura Island and that the report be forwarded to all Auckland local authorities for their urgent consideration.
This working group has been convened and officers of ARC and the Territorial Authorities are currently drafting a report for the Mayoral Forum to consider. Since the Mayoral Forum meeting John Law, Mayor of Rodney, has publicly stated (in the 28 August edition of the Rodney Times) that he supports the move to buy Kaikoura Island provided that any con-joint contribution from the Councils in the Auckland region is allocated on a population basis and that any possible contribution approved by the Rodney District Council would only be available in the next financial year. The NZNFRT’s proposal will be presented to Rodney District Councillors once the officers report has been presented to the Mayoral Forum.
Mr Geoff Davidson from the NZNFRT has also advised that a number of promising discussions have taken place and are continuing with commercial organisations in regard to sponsorship for the proposal.
It should be noted that the NZNFRT is well aware that the Regional, District and City Councils 2003/04 Annual Plans have already been approved and Councils which may wish to contribute are most likely do this in next financial year, unless they proceed with an Annual Plan amendment for the 2003/04 year.
In regard to the NZNFRT’s proposal there are a number of matters which the Parks and Heritage Committee needs to consider:
- The biodiversity restoration potential of Kaikoura Island (the NZNRFT deputation will outline the details of this in their presentation).
- Kaikoura Island ranks lowly in the Regional Parks Acquisition Plan, mainly due to its isolation and therefore low recreation potentials and it’s largely degraded environment. Essentially, there is land closer to the population centres of the region that has a far greater priority for consideration for purchase as a regional park. See attachment 2 for an outline of the criteria used to rank land for use as a regional park. As stated earlier, the NZNFRT is not requesting that ARC acquire and manage the island as a regional park – therefore the issue is whether the ARC wishes to support the NZNFRT proposal in the context of it being a regional landscape/open space protection and biodiversity enhancement initiative.
- ARC currently has limited resources for parks acquisitions after recent land purchases at Long Bay and Wenderholm. Approximately $500,000 remains in the Parks Purpose Reserve and the Committee needs to consider if it wants to commit ARC’s limited resources (from the Parks Purposes Reserve, loan funding, or rate funding) to the purchase of an island it would neither own nor manage as part of the regional parks network. Essentially, this would be a deviation from current strategic priorities.
- ARC has in the past contributed to such a purchase of land, it does not own or directly manage, for the purposes of landscape and cultural/natural heritage protection e.g. Otuataua Stonefields which was deemed to be of national significance in regard to its archaeological values and its potential to link public open space in the Mangere area.
- There is currently no allowance in the 2003/04 Annual Plan for any new land acquisition or contribution to the NZNFRT’s Kaikoura Island proposal. It should also be noted that no biodiversity or landscape protection programmes currently feature in the ARC’s Heritage budget or the Long Term Financial Strategy for this island. If any commitment were made for the 2003/04 year, then an Annual Plan amendment would be necessary. Such a possible amendment to the 2003/04 Annual Plan would need to be considered in the context of the current rating debate.
- The current asking price of $10 million is significantly more than the government valuation. The final negotiated price of the island would not be known for several months and therefore it is unclear as to what actual level of contribution is being sought from ARC, the territorial authorities and other possible funding agencies. It is also unclear on what the ongoing operational costs of managing the island and implementing biodiversity protection programmes would be.
- The Mayoral Forum has yet to receive and consider the officer’s report on Kaikoura Island, so it is still unclear on what the level of support (financial and otherwise) is likely from other Auckland local government agencies for the proposal. In light of the background information provided above, the Parks and Heritage Committee may wish to consider what level and type of support, if any, it wishes to offer to the NZNFRT proposal. Councillors may wish to consider this in regard to ARC funding priorities as well as its regional leadership role. Essentially this is a landscape, open space and biodiversity protection issue rather than a regional parks acquisition issue. However, it is likely that Councillors may require further information and wish to learn of the outcomes of the Mayoral Forum discussions before deciding upon a formal position on this proposal. Therefore it may be prudent for officers to report back to the October Parks and Heritage Committee meeting on any issues raised by Councillors at the September 2003 Committee meeting and the outcomes of the Mayoral Forum discussions on this matter.
a) That the deputation from the New Zealand Native Forest Restoration Trust be received and that they be thanked for their presentation.
b) That the report be received.
c) That officers report back once the CEO Forum working group’s report on Kaikoura Island has been presented to and considered by the Mayoral Forum.