Raoul Island Reunion - for those who have spent time on Raoul Island (and a number who have spent time on Campbell Island).
Held in Wellington over Queens Birthday weekend 3-5 June 2011.
The idea for the 2011 Raoul Island Reunion came out of a small get together of ex-Raoulis in October 2010 when a group of around 30 gathered in Tauranga to share Raoul Island stories, films and photos. Karen Baird - ex Programme Manager for the Kermadecs and currently working for Forest & Bird – was the invited speaker. Karen provided the group with an update on the current goings on at Raoul, including the restoration programme and initiatives to increase marine protection across the Kermadec region.
Following the Tauranga gathering a core group got down to the business of organising a larger reunion. That event took place in Wellington at Queens Birthday with over 100 people registering to participate.
The three day event began with a formal dinner and much excited chatting. It was an extremely diverse group that gathered - some had been on Raoul Island in the early 1950’s with the Met Service while younger ones were there as recently as last year, working and volunteering for the Department of Conservation.
The dinner speaker was Rear Admiral Peter McHaffie (Rtd) who spoke about his years of plying New Zealand’s remote seas and Navy support for those on Raoul Island. The Navy’s contribution to looking after these remote regions has been immense. His talk was followed by Bronwen Golder (Director of the Pew Environment Group’s Kermadec Initiative) who spoke about the marine geo and bio diversity of the Kermadec region and its international importance.
The dinner was an excellent event with lots of table swapping as old Raoul mates shared stories.
Official photographs were taken on Saturday morning. A comprehensive programme of speakers followed, starting with Steve Gentry who is a writer and researcher currently writing about the Kermadecs (focusing on the Human history). His talk entitled “Vignettes from History 1788-1937” was a fascinating exploration of the Kermadecs from European discovery through to the settlement years. No doubt Bessie Bells’ granddaughter June Hieatt who was in the audience was taking a special interest in the story of the years her grandmother was on the island.
John Hickman provided a history of the Met Service and its role on the islands, followed by Gareth Rapley who shared some of his magnificent photos taken when he was on Raoul as a volunteer and then DOC ranger (as part of the restoration programme). Kathy Walls, a marine biologist who was involved in establishing the marine reserve around the Kermadec Islands, spoke about marine protection around the sub-Antarctic islands which would have been of particular interest for the ex Met staff in the audience who had spent time on Campbell Island.
Chrissy Wickes another DOC restoration ranger shared a collection of photos and interviews she has produced. ‘Raoul today’ a DVD put together by current Raoul Islanders was shown and greatly enjoyed by those at the Reunion.
During the evening several films were shown, including the National Film Units film ‘Once Upon an Island’, a great little documentary about the lives of Raoul Islanders.
A small group of enthusiasts met to discuss the possibility of setting up a “Friends of the Kermadec Islands” group - similar to other island support groups assisting with the conservation efforts of the Department of Conservation and community groups. The Raoul group will continue to discuss what form a group should take. They will also produce a newsletter.