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Minister Launches Matiu/Somes Community Trust

Conservation Minister Sandra Lee officially launched a new Community Trust for Matiu/Somes Island at a function on the island today.

“The Matiu/Somes Charitable Trust offers a wonderful opportunity for community involvement in this special island," Sandra Lee said.

The Trust will not be involved in direct management on the island but will act as non-statutory advisers helping channel the very supportive efforts of the community to a diverse range of activities from on the ground volunteers to sponsorship of major projects. It is similar to other island restoration initiatives around the country including Friends of Tiritiri Matangi Island, Auckland, and the recently formed Friends of Mana Island.

The non-political Matiu/Somes Charitable Trust comprises eight community representatives from the local community including four to represent iwi interests in island.

Sandra Lee said the 50 percent representation of iwi, filled by Wellington Tenths Trust, acknowledged their interest in the island’s future and the iwi’s cultural and historical associations with island.

“However, this does not include any land claim issues. We have a separate relationship with the Wellington Tenths as a Treaty partner and all Treaty obligations are handled properly through a separate process.”

She said the formation of the Matiu/Somes Trust continued a strong community vision for the island which started in the 1970s when MAF quarantine station manager Rod Sutherland joined forces with the Lower Hutt Branch of the Forest and Bird Society and began forest restoration.

“When DOC took over administration in 1995 it continued to advocate and express this community vision through the Matiu Scientific Reserve working plan. Since late 1996 the Department, with the assistance of the Wellington Conservation Board members, has been drawing the community and iwi together to develop a group for the island.”

Sandra Lee said Matiu/Somes received between 15,000 - 20,000 visitors every year providing huge opportunities for guiding and enhancing facilities for visitors.

“Restoration of the island is already well under way. Achievements since DOC assumed responsibility for the island include gazetting the island as a scientific and historic reserve; developing a conservation plan for the historic buildings; maintaining the predator free status; trebling the planting rate – putting in 12,000 seedlings each year with help from Forest and Bird; creating new tracks; upgrading the fire fighting capabilities; re-establishing giant weta and tuatara, and restoring the headstones of the graves of early settlers.”

Matiu/Somes Trust chairperson Maureen Burgess said the members were representative of the community but not politically aligned.

“We will work in close partnership with DOC and will be involved where DOC will allow us to be involved but we are an independent autonomous body making our own decisions. Our formation is in keeping with the community aspirations for the island but we want to go beyond what DOC is currently able to fund on the island to make it a better experience for visitors.

“One of our first tasks is to set up a friends group. The trust is just the beginning. We want to involve people who are not already involved on the island to take part in restoration and planting, education, social events and to keep in touch through a friends newsletter.”

Ms Burgess said the lead for future projects would come from DOC’s restoration plan. “Not many people can get to islands such as Kapiti and Mana and see endangered species but it would be amazing to be able to do that sort of thing here so close to the city. Matiu also hosts a huge number of school groups and it offers the chance to showcase conservation and get support for it.”

DOC has appointed the first trustees but future members will be appointed by the Matiu/Somes Trust following public notification. The Wellington Tenths Trust will appoint iwi members. Current non-iwi representatives are Hutt Valley people who have had a long period of association with the island.

The Trust currently has the following (establishment) members:
Maureen Burgess (Chair) representing local community interest and Forest and Bird
Mark Te One (Deputy Chair) representative from Wellington Tenths
Liz Mellish (Secretary/Treasurer) representative from Wellington Tenths
Mike Gilbert representative from Wellington Tenths
Neville Baker representative from Wellington Tenths
Jane Heine representative for eastern bays, Forest and Bird
Stan Hunt, representative of the Eastbourne Rangers
One position is currently vacant.

Further information:
Anaru Vercoe [Sandra Lee's office] (04) 4719132
Nikki Wright [DOC] 4725 821

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