Endangered species

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    Little hones the mind as to humanity’s precarious position on this Earth quite so much as a raging pandemic and science’s desperate quest for a solution.

    “Life must go on” has taken on far more urgency as society’s catch-cry as we battle Covid’s health, welfare and economic fallout and even a general election’s usual hotch-potch of tax break announcements, policy shifts and poll predictions have been forced to take a back seat.

    That said, by late Saturday night we will most likely know what party or combination of parties will be at the helm of the good ship Aotearoa for the next three years. We can also count on the fact that those scientists still toiling to nail down a thus-far elusive vaccine will keep calm and carry on regardless of any political fluctuations.

    And so, while the “big stuff” is all in train, it’s maybe a fair time to take stock of some endangered species a little closer to home. This week, certainly, gave cause for concern over a couple of long-term Waiheke institutions which – perhaps while we were all gazing at the catastrophe galloping over the horizon – have seen their statuses slip towards vulnerable.

    It speaks volumes that in the same issue of Gulf News in which we announce The Dirt Track’s annual fireworks display is to go ahead, we also carry a worrying notice that The Dirt Track itself is going through tough times.

    Certainly, after fighting back from having to fork out tens of thousands of dollars a couple of years back to fix the council-imposed upgrade to its sediment ponds (and having to scrap the fireworks that year to find the funds), the Covid shutdowns can’t have helped a Waiheke not-for-profit institution that relies on racing and club activities at The Woolshed to keep going.

    But secretary Bruce Beaumont says last Sunday’s AGM failed to find enough volunteers to fill the requisite committee places and now a Special General Meeting is needed next Monday at which “all members and intending racers  must attend … if the club is to continue operating”.

    The Pony Club, too, seemingly has a battle on its hands. According to a letter written to the local board (which we publish in full this week on pages 26 and 27), the organisation, which has nestled down in Blackpool’s Te Huruhi Reserve for the best part of half a century, fears they “have been disregarded and excluded from consideration of proposed changes to the use of Te Huruhi, a public reserve that we have shared for many decades as neighbouring stakeholders with Piritahi Marae”.

    In what are now challenging times for any organisation, the issue at hand for Pony Club is that an application submitted in March 2018 intended to cement the club’s future via a 5-year lease with four additional 5-year lease options has, thus far, “received either no clear response or messages to the effect that the lease was in process. Something we now understand was because the Local Board and/or council had other plans for the reserve which it did not wish to share with Pony Club”.  

    Waiheke’s Dirt Track and Pony Club are woven into the fabric of the island’s society. The fact that they are in any way at risk – for whatever reasons – is something we should feel strongly about regardless of whether we’ve ever hurtled around a track or cantered around a paddock.

    In these uncertain times when gathering people together itself is tough enough let alone raising the funds to keep on going, what each organisation requires is a specific level of certainty – that they have either the bodies or the location to ensure continuity.

    And that certainty will take a mix of effort and nurturing from the community.

    In a not-unrelated story of care and support, there has been improvement for another endangered member of the Waiheke community: Cuzzy the korora. Rather living up to his te reo Maori name of  Te Mōrehu – the survivor, the little blue penguin has had a rather eventful past week.

    The full story is on page nine, but (and this is where Cuzzy’s yarn segues nicely on from those of the Dirt Track and Pony Club) it’s not been easy and has taken a variety of volunteers going over and above the call of duty to help save something they might not normally have given much thought towards.

    Suffice to say, a new nesting box, a feather duster, an old iPod, a clever camera setup, friendly neighbours willing to become feeding volunteers and input from the scientific community around New Zealand have all combined to give Cuzzy the best chance of survival.

    Because that is, after all, what we’re all fighting for. • James Belfield

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