The Department of Conservation (DOC) is undertaking a major upgrade of the tracks, signage and interpretation on Urupukapuka Island. Project Manager Katrina Upperton said, “This upgrade work is the culmination of several years scoping and planning and we are very excited about the opportunities it will bring, including greater protection and appreciation of the archaeological features on the island.”
The photo was taken at the site blessing on 14 October 2011. Left to right: Andrew Blanshard (DOC Archaeologist), David Mules (DOC Community Relations Programme Manager), Angela Newport (DOC Biodiversity Ranger), with Cody the rodent dog, Paul Carr (Backcountry Construction Limited), John Martin (Kaumatua Te Rawhiti), Charlie Rewha (Te Rawhiti), Robert Willoughby (Te Rawhiti Enterprises Limited).
Preliminary survey work by DOC archaeologists Andrew Blanshard and Melina Goddard found a large number of previously unrecorded sites. New site-mapping technology will enable the upgrade to avoid further damage to sites and re-route the track where possible or lessen the impacts, if options are limited.
Andrew will be involved in monitoring the track works and thinks the likelihood of further archaeological finds is high. “The shaping of the landscape reveals just how intensively the island was inhabited over centuries. Du Fresne, for example, recorded a number of fortified headlands on Urupukapuka during his voyage through the Bay of Islands in 1772.”
Following the removal of pests from Urupukapuka and neighbouring islands as part of Project Island Song, native plant and wildlife numbers are increasing. Fleur Corbett, Chair Guardians of the Bay (the community group behind the project) said, “We expect that Urupukapuka will become a major focus for both eco-tourism and cultural tourism over the coming years. DOC’s work on Urupukapuka Island visitor facilities will enhance these tourism opportunities.”
Local company, Backcountry Construction Limited, was awarded the contract and will work in tandem with Te Rawhiti Enterprises Limited (TREL). TREL Director Robert Willoughby said he believed it was a good blend of skills and experience and that it was satisfying for Maori to find employment on land to which they have such strong links. His own tupuna lived at Otiao/Entico Bay on the western side of Urupukapuka Island.
Paul Carr of Backcountry Construction said, “The island job presents a number of challenges, including working with the biosecurity requirements on this rodent free island and the logistics of transporting equipment and materials, but will be a great place to be going to work each day.”
All equipment, materials, workers’ food, and personal gear will be scrutinised for stowaways such as rodents and stoats, before leaving the mainland. It will also be checked for weed plants/seeds and Argentine ants.
Track upgrade work will start early November 2011 and is expected to continue through until winter 2012.
Katrina said, “Due to the large numbers of visitors coming to the island over the summer months, including over 50 cruise ships scheduled to visit the Bay, the upgrade work will be programmed to minimise impacts on the busy areas. We ask visitors to observe all track closures and use alternative routes for their own safety and so that the contractor can get on with the job.
Regular updates will be posted on this website, in local newspapers and on notices around Urupukapuka Island itself.