I have been working with Destination Great Barrier Island and the Great Barrier Island Local Board to create a new brand and website for Aotea/Great Barrier Island. The project leverages the Island’s new status as a Dark Sky Sanctuary (one of only three in the world). I spent a lot of time on the Island photographing places, nature and the night sky. I have been really inspired by the people, there are many environment advantages to small communities. Isolation and sustainability go hand-in-hand to create a more resilient system. The Island is already leading the way for how to live off-the-grid and as ecotourism grows I expect to see more green growth leadership on the Island.
Price, durability and stability were the big factors when designing this underwater tripod. The final design ended up incredibly simple and getting great results (I will upload some time-lapse footage at a later date). I have made four of them and I got this great shot of a red moki (who usually avoid me) at Goat Island on Monday.
Ok so this is a bit less portable and lacks some flexibility from my previous setup but with more than twice the light and one hand free I love this new configuration. I am spending less time messing around with positioning lights which should allow me to capture more interesting behaviours. The shadows are lovely:
The Okiwi Estuary (Whangapoua, Aotea / Great Barrier Island) used to contain the last naturally occurring soft-sediment mussel reef in the Hauraki Gulf.
“Aggregations ranged from a few individuals to meters in diameter. Mussels were frequently attached to pipis, partially buried in the sandy substrate. There were an estimated 3.2 million adults. Compared to other sites Okiwi mussels had the poorest condition but highest densities of invertebrates” – Ian Mcleod’s 2009 thesis on soft-sediment mussel systems in northeastern New Zealand.
Unfortunately they were nearly completely wiped out by a major storm.
I went for a swim on the outgoing tide (excuse the murky tannin stained water) to investigate 2 years later (April 2017).
Only 50 meters or so upstream I found some small regenerating clumps.
I was really pleased to see juveniles. Note the abundant red (not green) algae. Short video below.
If we left the bed alone, I wonder how many years it might take for it to completely regenerate?
UPDATE January 2018
I was able to visit the site again and was so impressed with it’s growth. The bed is awesome:
- There are still areas with lots of shell including old mussel shell that have not been colonised by green-lipped mussels.
- Most mussels were 4-5cm long but there were much smaller juveniles too.
- The estuary has a lot of cushion stars and sea hares but no eleven armed starfish or octopus which predate mussels. It was quite strange to not see eleven armed starfish there.
- The network pattern was similar to that of both restored and reefs and the one at Marsden Point with a wide range of density. It is most compact in the center where the mussels will run out of space if they grow.
- I was told by a local that there were adults at the mouth of the estuary, they maybe crucial seed stock for the bed.
- Although I saw eagle rays in the estuary I did not see them in the bed. There was no evidence of rays or snapper feeding in the bed but it looked like rays had been digging elsewhere.
Update January 2019
The bed is doing well, there has been some harvesting at the eastern end but it may have been for pipi. I located the parent stock 1km away at the mouth of the estuary. The adults were only 6-7cm long so they are growing much slower than farmed mussels. Still no eleven-armed starfish. I hope the bed continues to grow. It would be interesting to survey the bed to see of recruitment was happening more at the edges (or not). The bed, size density and associated fauna and flora will help inform restoration efforts elsewhere in the gulf. Video here. Observations below:
After the fire on Browns Island, lots of noxious weeds took hold. Although it looked like the crater was going to be dominated by bracken the weeds are winning. Black nightshade is dominant and there are thousands of woolly nightshades coming up, some as large as 1 meter wide already. Inkweed, apple of sodom and boneseed are also sitting up above the kikuyu.
Click for high res 360° image of the crater
I casually pulled up about 100 mullien but did not make a noticeable impact. Most disturbing was this animal dropping I found on a large mullien leaf.
New Zealand has two praying mantises, the invasive South African praying mantis and the native New Zealand praying mantis. The easiest way to tell the two species apart is the shape of the head. The thorax (bit that connects their heads to their abdomens) is much wider on a New Zealand mantis so by comparison the South Africans look like hammerheads.
I have started work helping New Zealanders keep their Parks and Reserves. Building and Construction Minister Dr Nick Smith says that we have to “choose between using land for houses or cows”. This is ridiculous – saying our reserves are for cows is like saying Eden park is for lawn mowers!
When I first heard about erosion in the Hunua Ranges causing havoc for Auckland’s water supply I wondered if it was because of recent deforestation. Drone footage shot by Watercare confirmed that theory for me (see stills below from this video). It seems strange media are not talking about it. To me it looks like just another case of our water being compromised for private profit.
A little bird told me Watercare own the land and were in the midst of replanting it with natives – it would be good to know the full details. I will email them.
(2,089-72 = 2017) So sometime in 2017 they decided to start harvesting. But the wood in the pictures looks at least months old. My guess is the harvesting that caused the contamination was done in 2016 for private profit. Hard to tell from the information received. Awaiting a report with interest.