John Duder has had a long connection with Kawau Island ever since his father bought a block of land there back in 1951 for family holidays. John built a house for himself on the site 8 ago and his daughter Georgia and her husband Simon also live permanently on the site, in a yurt dwelling run by solar power.
Kawau Island lies 40km north of Auckland in the Hauraki Gulf and is perhaps best known for its stately Mansion House, the former residence of governor and later prime minister Sir George Grey between 1862 and 1888. Much of the island is highly modified and has many exotic species including wallabies and pine trees introduced by Governor Grey.
The Duders’ 5.5ha property lies across the harbour from Mansion House. Its steep slopes have escaped development and a remnant patch of kanuka forest with old puriri and pohutukawa trees gives an insight to what the island’s original vegetation once would have looked like.
John says it has always been the family’s aim to preserve the native trees on their property as a contrast to the pinus monoculture that surrounds Mansion House.
‘It was the Trust’s then chair Sir Paul Reeves who first suggested covenanting with me,’ John says.
This has now been achieved and the Duders are proud to be the first to establish a QEII National Trust covenant on the island. Actually, five covenants, as about half of the property has recently been subdivided giving each new section its own piece of covenanted bush.
‘Our vision is that the new owners of these blocks will form a community that helps care for this pretty special bit of Kawau and that other islanders will be inspired to covenant land as well,’ John says.
The first section has been sold, and the Gilpin family are looking forward to their first summer on Kawau.
Getting the land to covenant-worthy state hasn’t been all plain sailing. The possums, rats and wallabies are under control now, but weeds have been pretty challenging and controlling Californian and other thistles, pampas grass, and gorse is an ongoing battle.
‘It’s just something we will have to continually keep an eye on. Our National Trust representative, Chris Floyd, has developed a control plan with us, so that will keep us focused,’ John says.
With pests knocked back the covenants’ North Island weka and kereru populations are doing better and John believes they have even heard kiwi in the bush.