US ambassador listens to different kind of chatter - Kapiti Island's birdlife
Out of the office, the United States' new ambassador to New Zealand has been listening to a different kind of chatter – that of Kapiti Island's native birds.
Scott Brown and wife Gail Huff visited the island in brilliant sunshine on Tuesday morning, alongside representatives from DOC, the US embassy and local iwi.
The group were welcomed to the island by members of Ngati Toa and Te Ati Awa, before enjoying a walk around the island and some sightseeing.
Brown, who is 23 days into a 3½-year posting, said he wanted the island to be one of his first official visits.
"Coming here was something we made a high priority, to understand what is happening out here and improve the relationship.
"It's about balancing life with nature, creating jobs and living our lives and also respecting nature and our natural assets.
"I certainly approve of what's happening on the island."
A keen triathlete and hiker, Brown said coming to New Zealand had been his first choice as an ambassadorial appointment, and that the Kapiti Coast reminded him of California.
His island visit marked the construction of a fence, built to stop North Island weka preying on the eggs and chicks of a sooty shearwater colony, on the island's western cliffs.
The fence was built earlier this year, and was a joint venture between the US Embassy, DOC, iwi and volunteers.
The visit also celebrated conservation activities the embassy has supported as part of the 100-year anniversary of the US National Park Service.
DOC director-general Lou Sanson said the US stance on its national parks was the trigger for New Zealand's conservation programme.
He compared the push to make New Zealand predator-free with John F Kennedy's dream of putting man on the moon.
"This [Kapiti Island] was the wake-up call that New Zealand had to do something. This is the country we want back.
"It's such a unique place, and the bird life is so unique."
Brown has led a varied life. A former senator for Massachusetts, he was a promising basketball star as a youngster before embarking on a military career, rising to the rank of colonel.
He also spent years as a male model in the 1980s.