We’ve had lots of fun in Wellington, and I’ll tell you about the city itself later. Today I want to talk about two experiences with the more natural side of the city.
Europeans have been here for quite awhile. As we wander about the city we see brass lines in the payment indicating the shoreline of the city in 1840. Needless to say those markers are a long way from the current water line. There have been many earthquakes over the years – a really big one in 1850 something hurled the seabed up several metres, ensuring that the reclamation of land would get seriously underway.
And the earthquakes keep coming. As we walked around the city we saw what appeared to be perfectly serviceable buildings closed off and boarded up due to the quake in December 2016. Biggest casualty there was the Wellington Municipal Hall – a grand historical building that is going to need a huge retrofit. The discussion in the news papers about the cost of those repairs sounded awfully familiar to those of us who have lived through the Blue Bridge story in Victoria.
Anyhoo, back in the day the city was growing and more water was needed. One of the valleys behind the city was dammed, creating a reservoir. A second dam expanded the water for the city. All was good and the site made a lovely visiting spot ‘away’ from the city. Modern geology eventually noted that the reservoir complex sits, literally, on top of the major fault that runs through the city. Oops! Fortunately no seismic event happened to cause the dams to fail and inundate the community below. But alternate arrangements were made for the municipal water. Twenty years ago a group decided that this water shed should be protected, and they got to it. First up, a very serious fence to keep the unwanted critters out and the wanted ones in.
Every one who has come to New Zealand seems to have brought, either by accident or on purpose, critters. Which has caused all kinds of havoc to the native flora and fauna. (And by the way – WTF? What possessed someone to bring raccoons? Don’t know if they are still an issue but we saw them on a list of imported pests.)
The organization that started this project had a long descriptive name – the such and such preservation organization….. They eventually re-branded themselves as Zealandia. It is a remarkable place. They say that they figure that they have a 500 year project to return the valley to pre-contact conditions. And they are twenty years in.
I mentioned the fence. They can keep possums and rats and domestic animals out. And they can keep some of the animals in. But birds can come and go, and they could drop a pest in over the fence, so eternal vigilance is required. And there is a lot of work to on the vegetation – we could se that they have a Scotch broom problem like we do on the coast.
Say hello to a Takahe and her chick. Or his chick. Being a large tasty flightless bird usually means the introduction of non native predators is pretty hard on the population. They are doing well at Zealandia.
Next up – a form of parrot called a Kaka.
These ones have no problem sorting out how the feeding station works.
And then the Tui.
Complete with little white tufts on their chests.
You’ll notice that they are being fed. The Zealandia people are trying to keep them in the sanctuary, where they are safe from predation. The bird populations in Zealandia is increasing. The Kakas and Tuis are making their way out into the city and establishing small populations.If they don’t have to deal with cats.
There is also a population of Tuataras, which are reptiles, but not lizards. They are a very old species that has been around since the days of the dinosaurs.
When they are born they have a vestigial third eye in their forehead, which eventually goes away. Wonder what that was for?
Of course, being Wellington, even up in the hills it was windy. Wilf had a bit of a fight getting across the dam
Our second nature adventure was the Botanic Garden, situated above the city. A short cable car ride from downtown.
So much to see – so many beautiful trees! But what really caught my attention was a stunning collection of hydrangeas. Sorry Auckland. Wellington won on this one!