Aroha Island based in the Kerikeri inlet is switching up management. Photo / Peter de Graaf
The future of public access to eco-tourism spot Aroha Island is uncertain after Aroha Island Charitable Trust (AICT) decided not to renew its lease.
It is a devastating blow to members of the trust , local schools, and holiday-goers who are frequent visitors to the spot.
Based in the Kerikeri Inlet, just 12km away from Kerikeri, Aroha Island is a popular eco-tourism spot, managed by AICT for the last 16 years. Holiday accommodation and camping will not be offered in 2023.
Access is over a vehicle causeway from the mainland and visitors can enjoy bush walks, listening to the call of North Island brown kiwi, and camping.
AICT co-chair and treasurer Howard Smith said there’s a variety of reasons that have contributed to the decision to not renew the lease, including difficult trading conditions due to Covid-19 restrictions, adverse weather events, and road closures in Northland.
“It is sad that our time as kaitiaki of the island has come to an end, but we know that now is the right time to relinquish the role,” Smith said.
“We would like to express our grateful thanks to the many people who have supported us over the years, including Far North District Council, Department of Conservation, and with the constant support of Kaumātua Hugh Rihari and Ngāti Mau.”
The Queen Elizabeth II National Trust (QEII) which own the island has said a short-term lease for three months will occur with the Tangaroa Research Institute (TriOceans) until a longer-term alternative has been found.
The public will then be notified about what is happening at the expiry of that term, meaning either an entirely new owner or long-term carer.
QUII National Trust chairman Bruce Wills said they will be co-ordinating changes with community members as well as Ngāti Rangi ki Ngāwhā and their kaitiaki to the takutai moana, Ngāti Mau.
“QEII National Trust hopes that in future the island will remain as a community asset, reflecting its important biodiversity and cultural values and its connection with the community and education,” Wills said.
Aroha Island Charitable Trust co-chair Kathryn Pankhurst said the crew at Aroha Island were proud of what they had achieved during their tenure.
“Over the past 16 years, the Aroha Island Charitable Trust has been managing Aroha Island with the ongoing support of many local community volunteers, our members, and trustees, to ensure the ongoing preservation and enhancement of the area for current and future generations to enjoy.”
“We know the island will continue to provide a habitat for our precious species and hope that any future managers will treat the island with the care and respect that we did, including provision of appropriate public access,” she said.
Brodie Stone is the education and general news reporter at the Advocate. Brodie recently graduated Massey University and has a special interest in the environment and investigative reporting.