Last year the Hauturu ranger’s 14-year-old daughter, Mahina Walle, did a case study on living sustainably on the island for correspondence school. I was so impressed with this essay that I wanted to share some of it. Mahina’s family have been permanent rangers on Hauturu since 2011.
Sustainable methods on Hauturu
Power: A sustainability grant in 2009 allowed rangers on Hauturu to buy five solar panels. Four more solar panels were installed in 2011. The running of the diesel generator has been reduced to its three-monthly check or occasional use during winter. When we arrived in April 2011, almost everything requiring electrical power relied on using LPG gas – a non-renewable resource. Now, thanks to the solar panels and a large battery bank, our source of electricity is sustainable. Excess power is stored in the battery bank for later use. Because we have a high number of sunshine hours, we often produce more power than we can use.
Water: Our water comes from an underground spring and is stored in a tank on the hill above the houses. Because the water is clean, we do not add any synthetically produced chemicals. A solar panel was installed in 2009 to pump the water from the spring up to the tanks instead of using a diesel pump.
Sewage: A new worm sewage system was installed in 2014 to replace the old septic tanks. The sewage system on the island has tiger worms, which means the sewage is broken down and the liquid can be drained into the leaf litter where it is further decomposed. Using a worm sewage system reduces our dependence on synthetic chemicals. In fact, we only use biodegradable products in our sewage because synthetic chemicals kill the worms. When we are out in the bush we carry “poo pots”. Carrying poo pots in the bush reduces our destruction of nature by not leaving sewage in the bush and reducing the chances of spreading exotic weeds.
Heating: In winter, we burn wood on the fire to heat the ranger’s house and bunkhouse. Wood burners are more efficient than open fires and the wood we burn is from wind-falls that have fallen across tracks. Fires produces CO2, but because we are surrounded by native forest, the CO2 is absorbed by the trees, which then produce oxygen.
Food, clothing and consumer products: Although we buy food online from the supermarket and organic shop, we grow a lot of our food in our vegetable garden. We also preserve and freeze some of our garden vegetables to eat later. My Dad sometimes goes fishing, and my younger brother occasionally free-dives for crayfish and scallops. We try to avoid using plastic or buying products with a lot of packaging. We also try to wear clothes made from wool and cotton, instead of clothes made from synthetic materials. We get second-hand clothes from our cousins or the op shop.
Living in a place like Hauturu, you need to be self-sufficient.
Lyn Wade, Little Barrier Island Supporters Trust