Sunday, 20 February 2011

Kawau - A step back in time

A new rather overcast day dawned for our much anticipated trip to Kawau Island in the Hauraki Gulf. Kawau has a what you pack in, you pack out policy, there is no rubbish collection on the island, therefore we removed all the packaging from our food, packed a change of clothing, light jumpers and trousers, and raincoats should the weather turn, it is the middle of summer with temperatures reaching 33 degrees, but you never know.
We left our home at Pakaraka in the Bay of Islands, around 9.00 a.m. on Tuesday 15th February 2011, navigated our way through the many road works (Rod made the comment that he couldn’t remember a time when there weren’t road works and thinking about it neither could I), and arrived at the rather charming, character packed, township of Warkworth at 11.30 a.m. There we located a pleasant little Café to dine at, before heading out to Sandspit where we caught Ruebens 2.30 p.m. Water Taxi to Kawau.

Reubens Water Taxi to Kawau

Sandpit at low tide
After an uneventful 20 minute trip across the harbour, we were met by Martin who transported us to our accommodation at, Top – O - Cove, Woods Ridge, South Cove, which we had booked through Bookabach, via the internet.
Kitchen, Lounge, dining room at South Cove
Bach at South Cove
We unpacked on arrival and went exploring, taking in the tranquillity and spectacular scenery of South Cove. By now the initial dull over cast day had turned into a scorcher and we were grateful for the shade of the dense bush to dull the rays of the scorching sun.

Looking up to our bach on the ridge line.
 A light sprinkling of rain overnight had nicely dampened the clay based Telecom track, that leads down to South Cove, so we carefully (me more carefully than Rod, I had visions of my feet slipping out from under me and ending up sitting in a very undignified manner of my posterior), negotiated our way down the somewhat steep incline to the Bay, around the rocky foreshore on an outgoing tide, to where Rod is standing. It was much the same terrain on the other side and after a lot of jesting from Rod about my speed, we finally made it to the top where we quenched our thirst and carried on a downward trail to the old copper mines, meeting some of the quieter local inhabitants such as the not so shy Weka, briefly glimpsing the Wallabies, which on seeing us, quickly sprang off into the bush, and Wood pigeons as they swooped past.
Governor Grey introduced many exotic plants and animals to Kawau, the Wallaby among them. Unfortunately having no natural predators their numbers swelled to plague proportions. Over the years they have been eating native plants and the Kawau Island Pohutukawa Trust raised 45,000 to eradicate them from Kawau by 2005. While the numbers have been greatly diminished, they are still to be seen. It would be a shame to lose them completely as they are so much part of the character of Kawau Island. There is very good article regarding the plight of the wallabies at:
We spotted at last three varieties (photos compliments of Wikipedia, they were too fast to photograph), which I think were the following:

1     . Brush-tailed rock-Wallaby (Petrogale penicillata). The one we saw had a white fluffy tail tip (Hmmm, said to be now extinct on Kawau?)

2 .  Parma wallaby (Macropus parma,)(this was a small dark brown Wallaby).

3     . Tammar (aka Darmer Wallaby) (Macropus eugenii ), Wallaby (small silver Grey Wallaby)

The Weka on the island are extremely quiet and all for any hand out that might come their way.

Emerging from the copper mines at Miners Point, Kawau, where my Great, Great, Grand Uncle William Rowe once stood!
William Rowe was engaged by Capt. Ninnis (Cornish mine managers were known as Captains, it was not a Naval term) as superintendent of the Kawau Mining Company’s copper mine at Kawau, they were granted a license to mine to the high water mark. The mines are barricaded a short distance down, for safety reasons.

Copper still clearly visible in the cliffs of the old mine. The dark area at the base of the entrance is now filled with sea water from the adjoining mine of Whittaker and Heale.
The Kawau Company’s mine was well under way when a competitor arrived on the scene. Frederick Whittaker [a slick lawyer]had by devious means acquired mining rights to the area off shore i.e. below the high water mark, but adjacent to the Kawau Company’s operation. Because of reclamation work done by the Kawau Company, the natural boundary of the high water mark was never clear. Whittaker in partnership with Theophilus Heale took over some reclaimed land sank a shaft, and proceeded to work inland.
The Kawau Company protested but Whittaker continued encroaching inland. A protracted legal battle over right began. The result (1850) left the Kawau Company crippled from legal costs, and the cost of buying out the rival company. In the meantime sea water flooded the workings.
Whittaker & Heale’s now crumbling Pump house, the Kawau Mining Company mine was in the cliff side directly behind the Pump House.
The remains of the once majestic, old Pump House, built from sandstone taken from nearby Sandspit, about 1853. It housed the pump which pumped water from the depths of Whittaker and Heale’s copper mine. It now has a circular cement collar, replacing the old original wooden one that failed many years ago, seen to right of the base of the Pump House. Looking down the sea filled shaft the old beams lining the walls that took the miners into the bowels of the earth, can be seen still in place.
 I was fortunate to be visiting this site at the time as two Department of Conservation representatives, Anne & Tracey, who were busy photographing and recording all the details for a conservation project of the old Pump House, Mansion House and Boyd’s Hill Cemetery. They were very interested to hear some of the history of William Rowe’s family and keen to incorporate it in the history of Kawau.
The Pump House and Jetty in bygone days (1900).
Old copper mine Pump House and South Cove wharf in the distance.
Onwards and upwards we went and stopped on the cliff tops overlooking Dispute Cove, the old Pump House and South Cove Wharf. There we enjoyed our morning tea break and took the opportunity for a few more photos of the picturesque scene.

Mansion House
The older part of the house on the right was the residence of mine manager James Ninnis, with whom William Rowe as mine superintendent was closely associated with. Their families travelled together from Cornwall in 1845 on the “Agostina” to Sydney and the final leg of the journey to New Zealand on the “Isabella Anna”. Governor Grey made considerable extensions to create his mansion after he purchased it in 1862. It is not permitted to take photos of the interior of the house, but I did come across a few on the internet to add to my memory book.
Boyd’s Hill Cemetery
Following lunch at the café in the mansion house grounds, amid the Weka, Ducks and Peacocks, we pressed on to the Boyd’s Hill cemetery, where we were greeted with the sad sight of merely six rather neglected headstone’s, entangled by the snaking roots of some very aged pines, bordering the cemetery.
Nothing to indicate the resting place of those mentioned in various issues of “Kookaburra”.
A list of burials at the Boyd hill cemetery includes (Ref: Auckland Public Library GNZMS 183):
·       1844 A young child belonging to a man called Gribble.
·       1847 Mr. Rowe lost two little children who were buried here in 1847.There is no mention of names, but these two children would have been the two daughters that travelled with William Rowe and his wife Susanna Cocking on the “Isabella Anna” and arrived at Kawau 14 Jan 1846. They were:                                                                                                                                     
1. Susan Rowe, born 8 Sep 1843, Wheal Butson, St Agnes, Cornwall, England. We know Susan died in 1846 as there was a second Susan born 19 Dec 1846 on Kawau.                           
2. Priscilla Rowe, born 20 April 1845, Goonown, St Agnes, Cornwall, England. It is most likely they died in the same year, as it may be that it was noted in 1847 that they were buried there, not that they were buried in 1847. The second Priscilla was not born until 1853.
·       Capt. and Mrs Ninnis also lost an infant shortly after birth. She was baptised Ellen on 16th May 1850.
On our return we were serenaded by the Kookaburra’s joyful laughter across the valley, amid the incessant chirping of the Cicadas. We were fortunate to have chosen a slightly overcast day, which was most pleasant for walking and were only touched on the odd occasion by a most pleasurable, feather like mist.
Rod the ever ready bunny, was keen to try his luck at fishing, so off he went to a spot recommended  by Martin a few hundred yards down the road and down a somewhat steep track (they are all steep around here), while I took in the serenity of the island and nursed my aching limbs.
He returned some hours later empty handed, with claims of many bites and hooking several small snapper, nothing to write home about, but not to worry, Martin arrived on the doorstep with Kahawai he had just freshly smoked, which we gratefully devoured for dinner, certainly 100% better than the frozen dinner we weren’t especially looking forward too.
After watching an extraordinarily bad, Kevin Costner DVD, we retired for the evening, the night time calls of the Kiwi, Owls, Weka and the odd mosquito (hooray, we have now found the mozzie killer) lulling us to sleep.
On arising the next morning we ate the last of our rations, packed our bags and were heading down to the jetty to await the arrival of the water taxi, when we caught Martin about to head over the mainland in his boat, what timing. We cadged a ride, appreciating his masterful launching of the vessel; not a drop of water touched our feet. After an exhilarating ride across the gulf, we unloaded our gear at the jetty and off home we drove. What a great memory of a fabulous place.
Full credit to DOC for the fabulous conservation work they have under taken on the island, well done.