Call (+64) 3 304 7654, or Email marie@theseventhgeneration.org

Living into the Wild

For wilderness is not space, but the life force that inhibits that space.

Marie Haley

In 2007, I spent the first of three summers working on Campbell Island, amongst the royal albatross and New Zealand sea lions. They were to be some of the most formative episodes of my life. It was here with the vast expanses of ocean around me that I first felt the freedom experienced by wild animals, and it was like taking a deeper breath than I known was possible. A breath that still manages to fill my soul with a mix of joy and hope. For wilderness is not space, but the life force that inhibits that space.

To live in a place where no humans reside, where animals rule, turns what we know of the world on it’s head. Our daily experiences are defined by interactions with the world that are controlled and measured, we know the weather forecast, we hear the daily news, we can adjust the thermostat to make our environment more comfortable and all of our experiences with animals tend to be with ones that are either domesticated or have habituated to a human modified world.

All in all we control our world so we are safe, and that safety limits our depth of experience of nature. On Campbell Island, we were the odd ones out, there were no tracks, no roads and no vehicles, no internet, not even a weather forecast and whatever news came was weeks too late for it to be new anymore. We had one heated room and spent weeks on end camping right in a sea lion colony or in tiny huts on the exposed headlands surrounded by albatross.

Living in such simplicity gave the mind so much time to slow down, to notice the finest details of life and to expand into poetic daydreams. The abundance of nature was captivating, so that I never felt a moment of boredom (that feeling of reaching for updates on your phone). There were always interactions to watch, penguins coming ashore in their daily commute or albatross gliding in from ten long days at sea, sea lions defending their place in the world or even just little pipit birds working as camp cleaners hoping around our feet for crumbs.

After some time I felt these experiences of freedom and the beauty of nature working their way inside my brain and rewiring my neural pathways so that I know I think differently than I did before. For me it has left me with a lifelong yearning for more wildness, more freedom. For some time I sought it out by moving from place to place, but when I found that wherever I went in this human world, it was not there, I decided to stay home and recreate it for myself in the world around me. I started to plant trees and flowers to bring in the birds closer around me and to slow down and watch the wild species that are actually all around us, that go unnoticed in our speed.

Marie Haley in ESCAPE Magazine: Do it the local way with this epic New Zealand tour

Local connections don’t get more local than Marie Haley, a seventh-generation resident and experienced tour guide in Akaroa, one of New Zealand’s most idyllic ports. The town is so small that Majestic Princess has to tender passengers from ship to shore.

Haley’s fascinating three-hour tour of the coastal community and surrounding farmlands weaves in important Maori cultural sites and history, such as the infamous Te Rauparara massacre that led to the Treaty of Waitangi.

Combining a deep knowledge of Akaroa’s English, French and Maori heritage with her own engaging family history, Haley takes us far from the town’s well-trodden tourist trail.

After morning tea and scones at Heritage Park, with its panoramic views of the vast Akaroa Harbour, we head for Hinewai Reserve and Wildside Conservation Project on blustery Banks Peninsula, where Haley spent much of her childhood.

The soon-to-be mum now lives on a farm in nearby Goughs Bay which she wants to turn into New Zealand’s first designated “quiet farm” where peace and tranquillity reign supreme — a local hero indeed. Tip: Carry rain gear in Akaroa as the weather can turn in an instant.

Danger in the Wilderness

O Te Patatu is a spectacular and sometimes dangerous stepping off point into the wilderness. Jutting out into the Pacific Ocean it is the most Easterly point of Banks Peninsula; a beautiful and temperamental in-between place, where ocean, earth and sky merge.

We made the voyage out to this far point last week to investigate the potential for establishing a predator-free sea bird colony. Submerged reefs drive upwelling of marine nutrients, while ocean currents and weather patterns bring a wide range of seabirds close to shore; often visible are royal albatross, giant petrel, prions and Hutton’s shearwater.

Predators drove the last of the burrowing sea bird species to extinction on this headland. A special place to local Maori, it was once an important kai (food) gathering place and has associated oral legends and waiata (songs). If we can build a fence and remove introduced mammalian predators then the natural ecosystem can be re-established.

After weeks of heavy rain and heavier cloud the land was sodden, my heart was racing when we lost traction in the 4WD eventually needing to fix chains to move forward. Out on the point the wind was freezing and ripped through our tough outer layers, but deep to the south a break in the weather appeared across the ocean. Finally after weeks, weak sun shone through the clouds and pushed the rain north, so that we were able to enjoy a cup of tea from the trucks deck and watch the wilderness from the top of a cliff at the edge of the world.

 

Sea Bird Survey 2017

The Banks Peninsula Sea Bird Survey 2017 got off to a spectacular start yesterday with perfect sea and weather conditions.

Marie Haley and a team from the Department of Conservation and Christchurch City Council surveyed the whole Wildside coastline from Le Bons Bay to Akaroa for the beautiful spotted shag, white fronted tern, red-bill gull and more.

Marie even landed on a predator free island to check out the fairy prion and little blue penguin colonies. The fairy prion are unable to nest where there are any mammalian predators such as rats or stoats as they are so small and delicate, but on these valuable islands they nest alongside other sea birds. In pictures shown here the different species are neighbours amongst the rocky rubble.

Banks Peninsula is a sea bird hotspot with 70% of the worlds population of spotted shags found along our coast and the white-flippered little blue penguins are endemic to our shores. With intensive predator control and predator fencing we hope to ensure that burrowing sea birds such as petrel and prions can again make mainland Banks Peninsula their home.

The coast of Banks Peninsula is spectacular in any weather but especially so on a fine day, we have had plenty of rain this winter and so all the waterfalls were flowing down to the sea. Dan Rogers and Nikau Palm waterfalls were especially spectacular.

  

Photos (left to right): spotted shag in breeding plumage, Nikau Palm Gully waterfall (the southern most palm tree in the world), Dan Rogers cliffs hanging gardens and rare waterfall, fairy prion on Crown Island, white-flippered little blue penguin nesting next to the prion. Credits: Marie Haley.