Arno Gasteiger

Together at Home

Here we are—a nation of parents, grandparents and children all in the same boat, together at home. He waka eke noa. Every day of the lock-down we will post a story or video and set of activities that can be shared among your family to fill our days at home together. Mauri ora.

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Society

Oct 19: When worlds collide

Ihumātao, a west-facing peninsula on the shore of Auckland’s Manukau Harbour, is the city’s oldest settlement. In 1863, the land was illegally confiscated from Māori. Sacred hills were quarried, 800-year-old burial sites were demolished, archaeological remains were destroyed, a sewage-treatment plant was built over traditional fishing grounds, and a dye spill killed the local creek. Now Ihumātao has been designated a Special Housing Area, without public consultation, and a development of nearly 500 houses is in progress. But for some tangata whenua, enough is enough.

Living World

Oct 15: Last chance to see

Twice the kākāriki karaka has returned from the dead. Orange-fronted parakeets were declared extinct in 1919 and again in 1965, but each time, the birds were concealed deep in the beech-forested valleys of Nelson and Canterbury. Now, the bird is approaching its third extinction, and this time, rangers have already scoured the valleys for hidden strongholds. This time, there isn’t a secret population waiting in the wings.

Science & Environment

Oct 14: No swimming

Five millimetres of rain in a day is not uncommon in Auckland, but it is enough to cause parts of the city’s wastewater network to overflow, spilling raw sewage into the sea and making beaches unsafe for swimming. This summer, permanent warning signs were posted at 10 locations where water quality is so bad that Auckland Council no longer monitors it. Why are Auckland’s beaches so frequently unswimmable? Is the solution better plumbing—or more enlightened thinking?

Living World

Oct 12: A feeling for clay

That Earth's humblest materials can be transformed into sublime and beautiful objects is part of the romance of the potter's art. But it takes patience and strong hands to work such miracles. Barry Brickell, the doyen of Coromandel potters, has shaped clay dug on his property at Driving Creek for close to 40 ears. His trademark work are tall, sensuously curved sculptures, in which the clay has been laboriously kneaded and pressed into shape without the use of a potter's wheel. A single piece may take up three weeks to complete.

Science & Environment

Oct 8: Eyes in the land

New Zealand is a global hotspot for dune lakes, and nowhere has more of these freshwater gems than Northland. It’s here, in our country’s northernmost reaches, that iwi are reconnecting with these taonga and the stories that surround them.

Society

Oct 6: Gold rush

Mānuka honey has exploded in value in recent years, and now it’s a high-stakes business, attracting hive thieves, counterfeit products, unscrupulous players—and triggering a race for the blossom every spring, wherever the trees are in flower.

History

Oct 5: Tupaia

No portraits exist of one of the most important people in Pacific history. Tupaia was a man of many talents: high priest, artist, diplomat, politician, orator and celestial navigator. After fleeing conflict on his home island of Ra’iātea for Tahiti, he befriended botanist Joseph Banks, and joined the onward voyage of James Cook’s Endeavour. Arriving in New Zealand in 1769, Tupaia discovered he could converse with Māori. He became an interpreter, cultural advisor and bringer of news from islands that Māori had left long ago. 250 years on, we are barely beginning to know who he was.

Living World

­­­­­­­­Oct 4: Track and trace

Most introduced mammals have had a devastating effect on native wildlife, but one species is bucking the trend. About 80 conservation dogs are deployed around the country, helping to protect vulnerable native species by leaping into action at a single command: Seek!

Geography

Oct 1: Wetlands

Dismissed as worthless, pestilent places, wetlands—where the water table is at or near the Earth’s surface—are anything but. They purify water, prevent floods and erosion, store carbon, provide resources like peat and flax, process nutrients, act as nurseries and offer recreation and aesthetic value.

Geography

Sep 30: The people’s fruit

Feijoas have become a New Zealand emblem. So how did they end up in Aotearoa, and how did we end up adoring them—to the point of obsession, for some—when feijoas have not really caught on anywhere else?

Geography

Sep 29: Treasure Island

Great Mercury was one of the first sites of human habitation in New Zealand. Last year, a radical new public-private partnership sought to rid the island of pests. It was a unique operation, and the results have been astonishing.

Geography

Sep 28: Making birds

What would happen if city suburbs as well as offshore islands enjoyed freedom from introduced predators? Is it possible for New Zealand to eliminate them all—stoats, ferrets, weasels, possums, and three species of rat?

Science & Environment

Sep 24: The war on koi

Invasive koi carp now writhe through wetlands from Auckland to Marlborough, displacing native species and destroying freshwater habitats. For 25 years, bowhunters in Waikato have ministered their own brand of pest control, the World Koi Carp Classic, resulting in prizes, and 70 tonnes of puréed fish.

Geography

Sep 22: The weed eaters

Edible plants grow throughout our towns and cities: in verges, margins, berms, parks and empty sections, along driveways, pavements and hedgerows. The trick is knowing what to look for.

Travel & Adventure

Sep 21: First ascent: finding unclimbed walls in the Darrans

The Darran Mountains lie deep in the marrow of northern Fiordland—a chunky, perplexing range of diorites and sandstones, gneisses and granites. This is a land of extremes, with the country’s most remote summits, the greatest rainfall and the longest, hardest-to-climb alpine rock walls. Adventurers have been coming here since William Grave and Arthur Talbot in the late 1800s, to test themselves and forge new routes through this vertical landscape.

Science & Environment

Sep 20: Hauturu - Resting Place of the Wind

Mountainous, densely forested and bounded by cliffs and boulders,Little Barrier Island (Hauturu) crouches in the outer reaches of the Hauraki Gulf, a relic of a wild New Zealand now largely vanished. Set aside as a nature reserve over a century ago, the island houses a matchless cargo of wildlife inhabiting an unusual diversity of forest types.

History

Sep 16: Up the Creek (without a paddle)

Sometime in the mid-1950s a young boy asked “Would you like to come for a ride in my boat?”, and the world has been saying yes ever since. The jet boat’s unrivalled performance in the shallowest of rivers revolutionised water transport and remains a quintessential New Zealand invention, perhaps our greatest contribution to the world of engineering. And the man who perfected it, in a farm workshop of a remote high-country station, was our original “bloke in a shed”, an inspiration and a role model for generations of Kiwi tinkerers, inventors and innovators.

Living World

Sep 14: In search of the Grey Ghost

The South Island kōkako is widely believed to have died out a half century ago, but some committed bird experts are convinced there are signs a few remain: disturbed moss, glimpses of grey wings and orange wattles, an occasional haunting call. Yet despite decades scouring southern forests, the kōkako has remained elusive—a single feather is the closest the searchers may have come to proving the bird still exists.

Geography

Sep 10: The power of Taupo

Lake Taupo lies in the caldera of an active supervolcano, the site of the world’s most violent eruption of the last 70,000 years. Just 10 km beneath it sits another lake of molten rock 50 km wide and 160 km long. With a growing need for alternative energy sources, plans for tapping this latent reservoir are hotting up.

Society

Sep 9: The Roaring Game

Curling requires perfect weather conditions for its national tournament, the bonspiel, to take place. For the first time in 84 years, the frosts aligned and New Zealand’s gathering of curlers returned to the Central Otago town where it all began in 1879—Naseby.

Society

Sep 8: Tiny houses

The idea of minimal living, an international fad, has fallen on fertile soil in New Zealand, thanks to our national housing crisis and shifting ideas about the way we want to live. For some people, a tiny house is the only home they will ever afford to own. Others are stepping off the treadmill of modern life to ask: How much space does a person really need?

Science & Environment

Sep 7: Under the Ice

Antarctica’s fragile ecosystem is a barometer for the warming and acidification of Earth’s oceans. Over the last decade, NIWA scientists have been diving under the ice as part of Project IceCUBE to gauge just how the ecosystem might cope with these threats.

Living World

Sep 6: The great retreat

Some species just like it cooler. Others have withdrawn little by little to higher altitudes, making new homes where it’s too cold for their enemies to follow. But warmer seasons allow predators and diseases to gain ground and advance above the bushline—meaning that the alpine zone is no longer the refuge it once was.

Society

Sep 3: Volunteer firefighters

Gaza, Beetle, Lily and Jaq, Inky, Tootle, Shrek and Skippy—every town and community has them. They style themselves as ordinary people but their lives and service are anything but ordinary. Unpaid and unheralded, they are our first line of rescue in 65,000 emergency calls a year, routinely saving the lives and assets of people they don’t know.

Science & Environment

Sep 2: Three feet high and rising

With predicted increases in sea level of a metre or more by the end of this century, present-day problems of coastal erosion, flooding and salt-water intrusion into groundwater are going to get much worse. As world leaders gather in Paris to seek a political solution to climate change, it’s timely to ask how we in New Zealand are responding to the challenge of rising seas.

Travel & Adventure

Sep 1: Rock stars

In the heart of the Waikato there’s a multimillion-dollar industry based on a gnat. Glowworms are big business, attracting well over half a million people a year to Waitomo and prompting some to shift from working the land above ground to commercialising the creatures below it. But keeping the caves and their thousands of tiny performance artists in good health requires round-the-clock care.

Living World

Aug 31: When birds get sick

Diseases can take a huge toll on wild animals and hasten rare species towards extinction. In New Zealand, scientists, vets and conservation volunteers are teaming up to try to beat the viruses, parasites and fungi threatening some of our rarest bird species.

Geography

Aug 30: Possum. An ecological nightmare.

Brushtail possums are a protected species in their native Australia. Across the Tasman, they have established themselves as New Zealand's most voracious and intractable pest, attacking simultaneously the beauty of our forests and the good name of our farming products.

Living World

Aug 26: Blood suckers

Lampreys have done without bones—even jaws—for 360 million years, making do instead with a mouthful of rasps designed for shredding. But those teeth are no match for a new and invisible enemy. Are pesticides killing the lampreys? Scientists are scrambling to find out.

Science & Environment

Aug 25: The underground forest

Buried in the soil are the lattices and networks of another kingdom of life, one that’s inextricably connected with what grows above the ground. Fungi determine the types of trees that thrive, and change the quality and health of soil. So, what exactly are they up to down there—and what powers do fungi have that humans could harness?

Living World

Aug 24: Where the seabirds go

During winter, dozens of seabird species take flight from New Zealand on epic migrations across the planet—and recent advances in tracking technology mean we can now follow them. What we’re learning has upended scientists’ ideas about the lengths animals will go to in order to raise a family.

Living World

Aug 20: The whales are back

Last century, southern right whales were hunted until there were none left—none that we could find. A small group of these whales, also called tohorā, hid from the harpoon. Deep in the subantarctic, the survivors birthed and nursed their young. Now, tohorā are returning to the coasts of New Zealand. Are we ready for them?

Living World

Aug 19: Blue Water Islands

A thousand kilometres north-east of the mainland, the Kermadec group basks in a subtropical environment and two decades of marine protection. In May this year, scientists scoured this untouched world to catalogue, collect and expand the list of species found there, and discovered an ecosystem unlike anything else in the country.

Living World

Aug 28: What happened on Stack H?

The Mokohinau stag beetle is one of the world’s most endangered species, occupying less than an acre of scrub on a rocky tower in the middle of the ocean. Its habitat is so precarious that Auckland Zoo and DOC are hoping to safeguard a population of beetles on the mainland as a form of insurance—that is, if there are any left.

Society

Aug 27: Auckland's green heart

In 1845 Governor George Grey set aside 80 hectares of central Auckland for a park. On the crest of an ancient volcano, it is a memorial, a recreation space, a green heart for the city and its citizens.

Living World

Aug 26: Silence of the Fantails

The fantail is one of our commonest native birds, loved for its flamboyant tail, acrobatic flight and inquisitive friendliness. Yet life is no bed of roses for these charming little birds. Between August and February each year they pour their energy into reproduction, only to have almost all of their infant offspring devoured by rats and other predators.

Living World

Aug 25: Where are all the spotted shags?

Seabird scientists are creating a fake home for shags on the Noises, an island group off the coast of Auckland, in the hope that the Hauraki Gulf’s rapidly diminishing spotted shag population will be fooled into thinking it’s a great place to start a family.

History

Aug 24: The governor's island

In a succession of difficult postings—South Australia, New Zealand, South Africa—the energetic George Grey proved himself one of the British Empire's most able governors. Yet when he returned to New Zealand in 1861 for a second term, the magic was fading. The colony was on the brink of civil war, and local politicians were unwilling to allow Grey his former power. As an escape from the increasing pressure and frustration of public life, Grey purchased Kawau Island, building a grand house there amid exotic gardens and filling it with treasures. On the centenary of the death of Sir George Grey—soldier, statesman, explorer, philanthropist—we pay a lingering visit to Mansion House.