Written by Zoe Wolfe and Adaobi Onunkwo
This week has been one full of learning, exploration, and togetherness. We began class on Monday with a lecture from Peter about mining in New Zealand and the difficult balance of energy needs and environmental concerns, and then we discussed a paper on the geological formation of modern day New Zealand with Meg. In the afternoon, we went on another visit to the Whanganui Regional Museum to see Āwhina Twomey. She gave a fascinating presentation called “Extending the Strapped Hand,” where she spoke about a trip she took to the United States with a group of students and professors from Te Panekiretanga o Te Reo Māori, a total immersion school for fluent speakers of the Māori language. They travelled to North Dakota, Utah, Minnesota, and various other states to meet with teachers of Native American and first nation languages. There, they did workshops and discussions with the teachers to help them improve their programs and take vital steps toward revitalizing the declining languages. Āwhina’s story was powerful because it reminded us all that the cultural issues we are learning about here in New Zealand are not always so different from the cultural inequalities we have back home. The connection made between the Native Americans that she encountered on her trip throughout the United States and the Maori communities that she is a part of in New Zealand,allowed us to bridge what we have learned in New Zealand and what we have been taught in the United States. This comparison strengthened our understanding of the ostracization of the Māori community which was eloquently illustrated by Āwhina when she stated, “They are on your doorstep as well.”
Tuesday, everyone headed back to their respective internships, where we all seem to be settling into a routine. Those at Bushy Park monitored stichbird feeders for hours on end; the bird rescue folks continue to be enamored with Dawn (their boss); those at Pūtiki Kindergarten washed their hands furiously to avoid getting the stomach flu (again); and the students working with Ash Patea helped teach Māori in the schools, to name just a few of the internships. On Wednesday, we were back in the classroom, this time visited in the afternoon by Tūrama Hawira, an expert Māori historian and environmental advocate. He spoke to us about the Māori worldview and how it ties in with many of the environmental stances the iwi take today. His class was captivating; he interwove his knowledge about the land from his ancestors with knowledge about environmental impact of his sacred land. Lucky for us, we get to have another class with him later this semester.
On Friday, the group took a trip to Bushy Park, an enclosed forest reserve that was established on farmland given to the Forest and Bird Protection Society by Frank Moore in 1962. Since then, a predator proof fence has been erected, most of the invasive mammals in the park have been eliminated, and endangered species have been reintroduced. We began our visit with an introduction the homestead that still remains on the property. There, we were treated like true guests with coffee, tea, and scones in the beautiful dining lounge.
Afterward, we split up to go on walked around the various tracks with Peter, Chris Divine (the sole paid employee at Bushy Park), and Terry (a longtime volunteer at the park). While some walked through the wetlands, others climbed the gully, and some even got to see a nest full of stichbird chicks. Stichbirds (or hihis), saddlebacks, and North Island robins are the three main species of bird that have been introduced to Bushy Park with aims to rebuild their populations. The aim to rebuild of these populations are of particular interest because of New Zealand’s connection to these species. The saddlebacks and robins have done extremely well, and the hihis are slowly but surely increasing their numbers. In order to monitor them more carefully and record better data about nesting, all of the hihis that were introduced have bands on the ankles to identify them. However, seeing unbanded hihi birds is exciting because the lack of bands means that they were reared in the park.
On Saturday we loaded up in the vans again for a trip to Kāpiti Island, another forest reserve off the coast near Wellington. Like Bushy Park, the reserve is protected from mammal predators, but for Kāpiti, that barrier is water—the entire island is devoted as a reserve. That night, we stayed on the mainland coast and enjoyed an evening at the beach. Unfortunately, our plans to go by boat to the island the next morning were thwarted by the wind and waves. We made the most of our time, though, and went on a beautiful hike along the coast, over farmland, and through native forest with Anthony, who will be leading us on our Marlborough Sounds trip at the end of the semester. The walk we had with Anthony was exhilarating, climbing on top of high peaks only to be knocked back by breath taking views. It was not uncommon to hear a member of the group ask, “is this real life?” Indeed it is, what an honor it has been to see such a beautiful country and we cannot wait to see the many beautiful sights that await us.
Until next time,