Kapiti Island – an environmental history “microcosm” – Part 2

In 1870, Kapiti was identified by naturalists as a possible site for a bird sanctuary. But it was over a quarter of a century before the Kapiti Island Public Reserve Act (1897) was passed, and the island became a reserve.

Remnant forest, scrubland and previously farmed land was left to regenerate (except for one remaining farm at Waiorua, which continued to be farmed until the 1950s). However, nothing was done to eradicate the introduced species – cattle, goats, sheep, and possums (which had been introduced in 1893 – only four years before Kapiti became a reserve), and these animals kept regeneration of the forest in check through their constant browsing. Continue reading

Kapiti Island – an environmental history “microcosm” – Part 1

Kapiti Island is the summit of a submerged mountain range created by seismic activity 200 million years ago. It is 10 km long and about 2 km wide, covering an area of 1,965 hectares. The highest point, Tuteremoana, is 521 metres above sea-level.

The history of Kapiti Island neatly encapsulates – both geographically and temporally – the key phases of New Zealand’s environmental history. In a relatively short space of time it has been the object of intensive exploitation that saw its natural resources stretched to their limits, before entering a new phase as a predator-free haven for our rarest native birds. As such, it is now on the forefront of New Zealand’s battle to preserve its natural heritage. But, a lesser known part of its environmental history is the hundreds of years that it sustainably supported a small Maori population. Continue reading