Aug 24: Kawau Island

Many Aucklanders know Kawau Island, but how many know it’s truly weird history?

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Below are some talking points and activities to pass the time, all relating to today’s story.

Talking points

Discuss the ideas presented in the story with your family—at home or over video conferencing. Find ways to involve as many people as possible, especially those who you know are isolated by the lock-down.

  • Do you know much about the British Empire? Which countries were in the British Empire? What was the idea behind the Empire? Why did it stop being powerful after a while?
  • From looking at the photos of the house and gardens, what do you think you can tell about Sir George Grey? Do you like his taste in furnishings? Do you like the look of the gardens? How about the architecture of the house? Do you think you would enjoy living in Mansion House?
  • Sir George Grey brought zebra, monkeys, peacocks, wallabies, kookaburra and many other species to Kawau. Do you think this is a fun idea or a crazy idea? What could be some of the dangers or downsides of having your own menagerie?
  • Grey’s first job was as a soldier in Ireland. He had to go around collecting English tithes (payments) from poor Irish people. If they didn’t pay up, he was supposed to threaten them with a sword. He didn’t like the job and the article says it awakened “a lifelong desire to serve common humanity.” What do you think this means? Do you think by the end of his life he had served common humanity?
  • Grey thought it was a noble mission to explore Australia in search of land to which poor British people could emigrate and thereby escape poverty. This view didn’t consider the impact on the Aboriginal people who were already living in Australia. Why didn’t Grey think this through?


Have fun playing around with architecture and build a simple dwelling.

  1. Use prunings from the garden to build a miniature home. At this time of year your household may have been pruning fruit trees or shrubs.
  2. Get help to snip a number of even-sized twigs and slim branches. You really do need an adult to help you with this as secateurs are very sharp.
  3. Use hot glue to arrange them into a structure. You might like to make a cube shape first and then fill the walls in with twigs like a log house.
  4. What shape will your roof be—flat or sloping? Try making support beams, or rafters to strengthen the roof.
  5. If you can, add in a doorway and windows.
  6. You can add mud, lichen, bark or any other material to fill in gaps and make the house more weatherproof and attractive.
  7. Send us a picture of your simple dwelling!