Episode 31: Precious Bounty
On the next episode, screening 17 September 2017 at 7pm on TVNZ 1:
When environmentalist Sir Rob Fenwick and his wife Jennie purchased 300 hectares of farmland on Waiheke Island 30 years ago, little did they know the one-time derelict property would be transformed into magnificent native bush, overflowing with bird-life.
‘A herd of wild black angus cattle had been marauding through the farmland for years,’ Rob says. The land was over-grown with gorse and tobacco weed. ‘It was like scorched earth.’
Rob and Jennie cleaned out the cattle and goats on the block, which is at the south-east corner of Waiheke, and have spent the last 30 years trapping rats, cats and stoats to rid the area of predators.
‘We wanted to plant right from the start,’ Jennie says. But experts told them to leave Nature to do its job and use the gorse as a nursery to shelter the natural regrowth of nikau, kawakawa and ferns. ‘Mother Nature works if you give her the chance,’ she says. ‘She can be very forgiving.’
Rob Fenwick says the best thing farmers can do if they have similar land on their properties is to fence the stock out, then wait. ‘Sit back and enjoy the recovery of the native bush. It really is something to behold.
‘New Zealand’s native bush is evocative,’ he says. ‘The stillness of the forest and the sound of the birdsong make it a wonderful place to be.’
When the Fenwicks bought the land, they also inherited the remains of a dilapidated oyster farm in Te Matuku Bay. They first thought of demolishing it, then decided to resurrect the farm.
‘We removed the timber racks and rails, and replaced them with a suspended basket system which leaves a friendlier footprint on the eco-system,’ Rob says.
Rob and Jennie and local investors Carlo and Ann Simoni say they have oyster farmer Nat Upchurch to thank for making the business what it is today.
‘Nat is a local Waiheke boy,’ Rob says. ‘He got a marine biology degree, then came home to grow oysters at Te Matuku.’
They did 20 years of research and trials with Nelson’s Cawthron Institute and have now bred oysters that are largely resistant to a virus that has decimated the Pacific oyster industry in recent years.
The oysters don’t spawn, which means they are able harvest plump shellfish, ready to eat, all year round. The oysters are supplied to local Waiheke Island restaurants and shipped daily by ferry to Auckland.
For more about Te Matuku Oysters, visit:www.tematukuoysters.co.nz
For more about The Cawthron Institute, visit:www.cawthron.org.nz
For more about Predator Free New Zealand 2050, visit: www.predatorfreenz.org
For more about The Next Foundation, visit:www.nextfoundation.org.nz
For more about Trees for Survival, visit:www.tfsnz.org.nz
For more information about Conservation Volunteers, visit: www.conservationvolunteers.co.nz
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