READER REPORT:

Your precious environment: Punakaiki

ISCHTAR HOWARD
Last updated 14:30 17/12/2012
Ischtar Howard
ENDANGERED: Westland Black Petrel

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Punakaiki is my home. Although I haven't lived there for more than half of my life, the South Island's West Coast is as integral to who I am as a person as my DNA.

My appreciation for nature and the need to preserve the West Coast stems from growing up surrounded by native forest so wild and untouched it feels prehistoric. Smooth pebbles of greenstone litter the beaches and there are caves to explore, rivers to kayak, incredible bush walks and bird life (walk the Truman track at dusk and check out the little blue penguins).

The really special thing about the land I grew up on is the Westland Black petrel, one of the largest burrowing seabirds in the world. With a wingspan of about 1.5m it soars the open ocean for months at a time. The only place it touches land is within a 20km stretch of ranges - largely on my family farm and the Paparoa National Park surrounding it.

The petrel has a population of around 2000 breeding adults. They are incredibly friendly birds and are not shy of human visitors, which may have helped lead to their endangered status as they were easy game for early mutton-birders.

For my whole life my parents have fought to preserve the land for these birds and protect them from wild cats, dogs, stoats and ferrets, who can devastate a burrowing population during breeding season. They have placed the land under a QEII covenant which protects it from human-driven environmental decline, such as mining and subdivision.

One day I will be proud to take over guardianship of this amazing piece of land and pass my love of the environment on to my children. 


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