Sunday, February 24, 2008

Here are a few more pictures from New Zealand.

Monday, February 11, 2008

An Early Farewell to New Zealand

We left New Zealand 6 weeks early, in mid-February, because of a family health crisis.  Alan's mother was suddenly diaganosed with ovarian cancer in early January.   During January, we called home almost everyday to monitor and provide support.
Although his parents said continue the trip, by early February, it was clear they needed our help to deal with recovery and chemo -

It was a difficult decision, but going home was the right one.  We left our new Kiwi friends with the promise to return, perhaps next summer, ie. our winter.  Alan still dreams of hiking the Milford Track in Fiordland.

So we are living in Philadelphia, probably for a couple of months, helping to take care of Alan's parents - and starting to plan our next adventure.  If all goes well, we will be in (some or all) France, Scotland, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and Holland this summer.   

Alan and Cyane

Hugh Wilson and Hinewai Team

Hinewai: Photos

Friday, February 8, 2008

Jan 20 - Feb 3, 2008: Hinewai Reserve Overview

Alan and Cyane were fortunate to spend two weeks at Hinewai Nature Reserve, a 1,200 hectare/2,900 acre protected area on Banks Peninsula, southeast of Christchurch.

Hugh Wilson, Preserve Manager, is a preeminent botanist of New Zealand. He has authored three botanical guides and is at work on the fourth. He has spent the last 20 years leading the effort to acquire degraded farmland on this corner of Banks Peninsula and regenerate native "bush," the original mixed New Zealand Beech-Conifer-Hardwood forest.

The Hinewai approach to regenerating native forest is "Minimal Interference Management." Close observation of a particular site identifies serious problems that can be positively affected. As Hugh puts it, humans are bungling idiots, who often cause problems, even when trying to help the land. The Hinewai approach is to leave nature to repair things where possible, and to help the process where necessary.

Example: Gorse is a thorny legume originally brought to New Zealand as a living fence. It has become a weed of open ground and farmers spend untold hours and millions to spray and bulldoze it. Hugh has figured out that gorse, like many weeds, thrives on high light and disturbance levels. At Hinewai, gorse is used as a nurse crop for native trees, that shade it out over time. Eventually the gorse dies out as part of the natural succession! Hugh reckons that gorse is actually an ally, in that it had diminished land values enough to allow for purchase and preservation; also, it acts as a nurse crop and pioneer colonizer, while diminishing over time.

There are, of course, problems that cannot just be left to nature: a handful of introduced invasive plants and introduced browsing animals. The persistent plant pests are eradicated when found: Monterey Pine, Sycamore Maple, and Clematis vitalba. Goats and sheep have been fenced out of Hinewai and there is an active Australian possum eradication program. Also, wildfires are controlled, as they set back the succession of natural regeneration.

Minimum Interference Management at Hinewai aims to support natural succession, allowing revegetation to restore forest cover similar to what prevailed before human interference. "Nature comes first, people second in this process."

Hinewai appears successful on many levels. It has grown from 100 to over 1,200 hectares since 1987 and this is land that will be preserved forever. The cover of native vegetation has grown from about 5% to over 60%. As predicted, gorse is disappearing when shaded out by native trees. Remnant patches of bush in gullies have spread their seed through abundant birds. The site is exhaustively studied and documented. Visitors are invited (on foot only), and thousands come. There are good relations with the community and surrounding farmers. An expanding membership base of more than 1,200 supports the Trust through donations.

Spending time with Hugh Wilson is akin to a visit with Charles Darwin, both being keen naturalists with encyclopedic knowledge and thoughtful insights. Hugh has added dashes of both Karl and Groucho Marx: a wonderful sense of humor lightens a clear dedication to social justice. No cars are allowed at Hinewai and muscle power is employed rather than fossil fuels. Hugh, at 62, goes everywhere on a bike, bus, or train.

Nature first, people second. No cars. Muscle power when possible. Know your site. Interfere as little as possible. Work with nature. It is eyeopening to experience how these principals are succeeding at Hinewai.

Hinewai is not on the internet. There is a book of Hugh Wilson's writings on the first 20 years: Notes of a Naturalist. If you want to support Hinewai and receive the wonderful newsletter, send a check to the Maurice White Native Forest Trust to:
Hugh Wilson
Hinewai Reserve
632 Long Bay Road
Akaroa 7583
New Zealand