By Lyn Wade, Little Barrier Island Supporters Trust
I will leave the Maori history of Hauturu to be told by those who know it best and start when negotiations were started by the Government of the day to acquire the island for the purpose of a wildlife sanctuary.
As early as 1881, negotiations had begun to purchase the island from the Maori for a wildlife sanctuary to preserve a sample of the flora and fauna that was being lost on the mainland due to human settlement. It was 1894 before the island was acquired for that purpose. Since then there has been some form of Government representative living on the island, the first official caretaker being Mr R. H. Shakespear, appointed in 1897. He and his family resided on the island until 1910. During that time a house was constructed, several boats were built by the family, and the oldest daughter, Frances (18 years old when they moved to the island) collected samples of over 245 species of native flora, many of which are now lodged in the Auckland Museum collection.
The Shakespear family were replaced by Mr Robert Hunter-Blair, who took ill several months after his arrival on the island and died the next day. His wife, the only other occupant of the island, tried to make contact with the mainland by lighting a fire on the beach. It was five days before the Government steamer Hinemoa arrived. He is buried on the island. Mr Robert Nelson spent two terms on the island between 1911 and 1932 with only a break of several months in 1922. He was followed by Mr William Hardgrave and his married son Len who were there during the 1930s and 40s. During which time fences were built on Te Maraeroa Flat to contain the small number of stock the caretakers retained for purposes of milk and meat, a track was cleared to the summit, and 360 feral cats were killed, plus approximately 6000 kiore (Polynesian rat). Two-way radio communication with Musick Point was established in 1945.
In 1958, Rodger Blanshard, his wife Ani and their four children came from Stephens Island to be caretakers of Hauturu. A new ranger’s house was built in the 1970s, next to the old homestead which was dismantled. Alex Dobbins and his wife, Mike, came to the island in 1977 and spent 13 years there. When kakapo were brought to the island in the 1990s, two of the birds were named after them; Mike and Dobbie. There have been around 10 rangers on the island since the 1990s, most of them now doing terms of three to five years, several with families.
There are two rangers on the island at present, Richard Walle with his wife Leigh and children Mahina and Liam, and Peter Mitchell and his wife Cathy.