Making connections

A chance to lead a visit to the Chatham Islands saw Robert Carter discover his kind of people.

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A chance to lead a visit to the Chatham Islands saw Robert Carter discover his kind of people.

THIS PAST AUTUMN IN THE KING Country was challenging from a climatic perspective, however there were some bright parts as a result of making some good connections with city folk while skippering a tourist jet boat on the Whanganui River.

I took a group of Auckland-based senior members of society on a three-day jaunt down the river, staying at Posh Pioneers (Google it) and forensically exploring the history and sights we have here on the upper reaches just below Taumarunui.

Three days later we landed the party back at their coach safe and sound and full of stories and good humour.

At one juncture I was talking to their tour leader, Nikki, from Seemore Tours, about my bucket list and I mentioned the Chatham Islands and Stewart Island.

Morphing forward Nikki asked me to lead a tour to the Chathams and Pitt Island and so, a few weeks later we were off!

I had only a cursory knowledge of the islands but before we travelled, I got busy and read as much as I could get my hands on.

We left Auckland one afternoon on Air Chathams ATR 72 500 aircraft, about 15 people on board and the rest filled with freight.

About 900km and 2.5 hours later we landed at Tuuta Airport on the Chathams.

Welcome to Chatham Island, Wharekauri in Maori and Rekohu in Moriori.

We were hosted by Greg and Rosemarie Horler at Awarakau Lodge on the west coast a few km south of Waitangi.

Between Greg and Rosemarie and their good mate Denny Prendiville we were treated to an unforgettable tour.

Being shown about by locals meant we were able to see almost every inch of the island, this was topped up with a day trip to Pitt as well, hosted by Brent and Bernie Mallinson.

Going there with farming lenses on certainly educated me, the land mass was a lot bigger and extensive than I had imagined.

We saw some very well-run operations as well as some very extensive low-input enterprises.

The most lasting impression I took away was the sheer resourcefulness of the people and the stoic manner they displayed against the tyranny of distance, and therefore huge costs as well as the horizontal weather.

One interesting social insight I gained was how their being and interrelationships manifest now, are shaped by their history. More to the point is how their society appears to handle the present-day outcomes of their origins compared to how we are going about the same in New Zealand.

I liked what I saw there.

Here is a very short, abbreviated history.

Moriori chanced upon the place by sea many years ago and set up a peaceable society under what was eventually known as Nunuku’s law.

Their first visitors in the early 1800s were Europeans, sealers, whalers etc from the Americas and further afield.

Things gelled between them, and the gene pool was made use of.

A while later Taranaki Maori: Ngati Tama and Ngati Mutunga were feeling squeezed by Maori from the Waikato and the southern North Island and they made a move to the Chathams.

A rough time for Moriori ensued and Maori became well established by the means of the days, back then.

Since then, as they say in the Bible, there has been a lot more begatting, and now we have the Chatham Islanders, proud, capable, friendly, resourceful and on the face of it, not appearing to count much on their origins or who did what to whom back in the day.

It’s a great place to visit, we were looked after extremely well despite the Island being in a Covid epidemic.

I would go back there in a flash, my kind of people, thoroughly enjoyable.