Rakino Easter Treats 2024

Rakino Easter Round-up

Firstly, thank you to the hardy Rakino-ites that humoured me by turning up at the unreasonable hour of 10am for the first of the #ecofest2024 events organised for Easter. The icy south-west wind was howling into West Bay as our group hugged the cliff and hacked and poisoned rhamnus, but the views were spectacular.
Elsewhere, the moth plant removalists were hard at work ripping out the devil’s weed and plucking pods. Bert has an enviable and cunningly wrought device which is just the ticket for this tedious job. It’s a sort of hooky prongy thing on a long pole, and he should probably patent it.

Julianne killing rhamnus

The second event was a 4pm low-tide beach clean-up at the northern end of West Bay, and it was really cool to see how many kids were there. My expectations for buy-in of my fanciful ideas are usually quite low, so massive thanks to everyone who turned up. Unfortunately the beach rubbish at West Bay is mainly small pieces of plastic which are entwined in the leaf and feather middens of the high-tide mark. Common items were foil lolly wrappers, small indeterminate pieces of plastic bags, and jandals. It wouldn’t be a beach clean without finding clothing pegs and soft silicone baits, but my favourite find was a foil wrapper claiming to contain a ‘fart bomb’, and Steve Livesay dragged a sodden duvet inner and cover up the saddle track which impressed me mightily. The beach was also smothered in Lion’s Mane jellies, some of whom were clutching onto bits of plastic. I asked them nicely before removing it…

Lion’s Mane Jellies en masse

Buckets of beach rubbish

I didn’t attend the Sunday RRA meeting as planned because I was setting up for Market Day, but I hear that much gratitude was given to Lez in the form of many rounds of applause, there is progress on the Hall, and the progress on the Fire Shed is self-evident, so many thanks to Chris, the Stephen’s (Thomas and Wong), Henry, and John Beasley, plus everyone else who has worked on the shed. It’s looking great. Let’s hope it doesn’t need to be utilised in a hurry.

Harriet played a blinder in generously offering up her garden for a Market Day fundraiser for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Trust. The kids’ activities for humans of all ages went down a treat, and I reckon we should expand on those for future events. A huge thank you to everyone that helped out, provided materials, time, and participated in this event.

Pinch pots and painting

A colourful garden party!

Thanks to:
* Lez for jigsaw cut outs, and John for the test pots and treats,
*Lucy for teaching pinchpots,
*Reilly, Natalie, Carolyn, Dylan, Jo, Jim Wheeler, Lisa, and Harriet for their creations.
*Eleanor for her paintings and life drawings.
*Bert on sausage sizzle with William weeping over onions in the kitchen.
*Simon for the poster, Gary for helping set up, and me for the interminable spruiking..
*Lyndsey & Caroline for their vintage goodies.
*All the Rakino-ites who supported.

We raised $1350 for Westpac… which will be paid this week.

Bert on sausage sizzle duties.

It was also the last weekend ever of the Woody Bay Pizzeria as Alf hangs up his pizza paddle. We dropped in at Monday lunchtime and trade was roaring in the calm of the bay after a few days of a brutal westerly. Woody Bay was full of boats, and pizza eaters.

I hope everyone else had a relaxing Easter, but I had to go home for a rest. . .

Woody Bay on Easter Monday

West Bay Track weed & Beach Clean-up this Easter

Save the date! Saturday March 30th at 10am for a weeding bee on the West Bay Track followed by a high tide swim for the intrepid. Bring along your weeding gear, sunblock and togs. Track access is at the end of Woody Bay Rd.


Come back at 4pm with a bucket and a buddy, and let’s clear West Bay Beach of the rubbish middens. We’ll do our visiting sea critters a favour.

Winner winner kina dinner

If there is one seafood Rakino is particularly abundant in, it’s spiky kina.

The un-charismatic sea urchin has managed to stealthily encroach on sub tidal rocky reef crevices all around our island. This would be bearable if there were vast schools of old granddaddy snapper with blubbery lips thick enough to crack their carapaces open, but the snapper inhabiting the reefs are in the main part juveniles. Likewise, crayfish are functionally extinct in the Hauraki Gulf, which means they exist in insufficient numbers to fulfil their role in the ecosystem as a predator of kina.

A young snapper from above

As a consequence kina are steadily munching their way through swathes of kelp beds creating kina ‘barrens’, which is pretty much what it says on the tin; areas barren of everything except kina. Healthy kelp beds are our most important and most diverse coastal ecosystems. They are nursery areas for many commercially fished species as well as a food larder of smaller rocky reef fishes for those species. They should teem with life, and in areas of high protection, they do.

Common triple-fin
A smiley yellow-lipped parore

They are also a larder for the seabird species we see around Rakino, the shags, little blue penguins, reef herons, gannets, shearwater, and petrels. The seabirds eat fish and their guano feeds nutrients back into the kelp beds so the cycle can continue.

Kelp, yet to be munched by kina

This is the time of year to eat kina because they are supposedly sweeter and plumper. In some regions the collective wisdom is to harvest them when kowhai is in flower, in other areas when pohutukawa is in flower. Generally I would hazard the correct time to collect them is in Spring, at low-tide. If you were to adhere to Mātauranga Māori you would harvest them in the days immediately following a full moon.

The bag limit for kina is 50 per collector per day.

I’ve always been averse to kina; the descriptions of its flavour sounded frankly nasty, but I braved a mouthful after a recent snorkel and was pleasantly surprised. The orange roe is the part to eat, and its texture is quite firm. They were briny, lightly iodine flavoured, and mildly sweet. The immediate sensation was that I had eaten something tremendously healthy. Kina are tremendously healthy! Kina is a good source of Iodine, Selenium, Vitamin B6 and VitaminA; and a source of Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Riboflavin (vitamin B2) and Vitamin E.

I’ve noticed kina gradually creeping onto the menus of good restaurants around Auckland, in the same way they creep into every rock crevice available. I found this recent recipe from Al Brown on RNZ, so I’m sharing it in the hope you’ll all put some kina entrees on your Rakino summer menu this year. I advise a glove to protect your hand as you lever them off the rocks, and a bag to put your catch in. Don’t worry, they don’t move quickly…


Rakino fish-counting project to date..

A citizen science project funded by the Waiheke Local Board.

On Labour Weekend of 2022 Experiencing Marine Reserves held a workshop on Rakino Island, the purpose being to train the snorkeling participants on timed swim methodology in order to collect rocky reef species abundance and diversity data, to better understand the state of Rakino’s rocky reefs. Ten Rakino-ites attended, and EMR also brought ten of their volunteers over for training.

Rakino snorkelers

The funding for this was provided by the Waiheke Local Board, and Waiheke Resources Trust generously umbrella-ed our grant application for free, in the interests of encouraging an ongoing relationship with the Rakino community. https://wrt.org.nz/
We’re very grateful for this. We were also able to purchase an underwater camera and some dive slates with the funding.

We spent the morning in the Hall learning to identify the rocky reef dwelling species we were likely to see around the Rakino coastline, and schooling up on health and safety. Both of these things are harder than they sound!

Seaweeds in Maori Garden Bay

After a shared lunch the intrepid snorkelers donned their wet-suits and headed for the Sandy bay transects EMR trainer Sophie had plotted out earlier. One group headed around the rocks in the direction of Maori Garden Bay, and the other headed out towards the variously named island in Sandy Bay. I stayed on the beach with the weighty responsibility of counting snorkelers in and out of the water, and generally keeping an watchful eye.

Parore in kelp

It was a chilly October day and a couple of snorkelers sensibly heeded the health and safety instructions and headed back to relative comfort of shore when they felt out of their depth. The team that headed in the direction of MGB had a more successful snorkel so we have abandoned the transect around the back of the Sandy Bay island in favour of a couple of less challenging yet more fruitful transects.

Happy snapper

Simon has since constructed a species identifying chart, and a form for participating snorkelers to record their fish counts on. https://www.rakino.org.nz/fish-count/
The hope is that over time we’ll accrue enough data that it can be mapped to show trends. Unfortunately this year didn’t start brilliantly weather-wise, so it’s not been easy to coordinate snorkelers, but we have a chat group established on FB messenger, and we may get one more fish count in before winter, at which point we’ll resume again in November. We’ve tried to get one fish count in per month. It requires ongoing practice to get the methodology right, and hopefully next season the weather will be calmer and the water less turbid.

Three young snapper in the kelp
Rocky reef fish habitat

I’ve also since learned to snorkel and identify the commonplace fish species so I can participate too, though I’m still learning how to wrangle the underwater camera!

The project is intended to be ongoing, and driven by volunteers. If anyone who couldn’t attend the workshop is keen to participate in future please let us know.


Riparian planting, storm water mitigation, slope stabilisation.

Exposed tree roots above cars parked down by the wharf.

The January 27th Auckland flood has me thinking about flood mitigation because storm water run-off has caused a bank to slip into a stream on our Auckland property, but also the culvert running onto our Rakino property has barely stopped running this year, and has consequently dug itself a stream channel which was once ephemeral, but now seems a permanent fixture.

We want to slow the water flow down so as to avoid scouring and flushing out of sediment, and we want to ensure the water is cleaned of any contaminants before it eventually ends up in the Hauraki Gulf. It’s always been the way to pass run off and storm water to the properties downhill, but I think we need to increasingly look at mitigating at the source, water collection, riparian planting, and establishing ‘cleaning’ plants like carex in wetland areas.

Here are a couple of interesting studies from Landcare Research for perusal..



Celebrity interview : Spotless Crake, Pūweto

The following is a transcript of a very difficult to secure interview with a Spotless Crake. No photographs were taken in accordance with his wishes.

Me – So, Pūweto, you’re an unlikely candidate for a celebrity interview because you’re famously reclusive. I’d consider you the Howard Hughes of the bird world, except of course, you’re not much of a flier…

Pūweto – pit-pit-pit-pit (scuttles into undergrowth)

Me – Okay, this doesn’t have to be face to face. If you’d feel more comfortable hiding in the muehlenbeckia while you tell me a bit about yourself that’s fine.

Pūweto – Pock!

Me – Oka-a-a-ay. You’re renowned for being cryptic, sort of mud-coloured and blue-ish, and you have glowing red eyes. Great stuff! Anything else you’d like the punters to know?

Pūweto – Well, okay, I agree to the interview, but NO pictures. Agreed?

Me – Chance would be a fine thing.

Pūweto – Exact numbers of Spotless Crakes in NZ aren’t known because we’re so secretive, and crepuscular which is an excellent word meaning active at dawn and dusk. There are a few of us on Rakino, and I’ve got cuzzies on Tiritiri Matangi, and Great Barrier as well as around various bits of wetland in the upper North Island and other offshore islands. Basically we like lurking in reeds and raupo in swamps where humans aren’t. You guys know hardly anything about us, and given we’ve gone into serious decline since European arrival you probably won’t find out either. (makes a sound like a pelican gargling frogs)

Me – Wow, touchy. How can I help?

Pūweto – Since you ask, for starters you can stop draining our wetland habitats for human activity. When you’ve stopped doing that you can replant the wetland plants you destroyed so we’ve got some plant-based food to eat, and then you can get rid of all your introduced predators so they won’t kill us, eat our eggs, and eat our protein source of invertebrates. M’kay?

Me – You’re quite sarcastic for a small uncharismatic bird. How did you do in Bird of the Year? I heard that in 2021 you came last….

Pūweto – RU-U-U-U-UDE! Some radio hosts made up a cool song about us in 2022, so we didn’t come last. FYI the Shining Cuckoo came last, quite rightly, the obnoxious little usurper.

Me – (trying to steer interview back to less troublesome territory) Umm, I think we may have got a little off-track. Which particular predators are the biggest threat to you?

Pūweto – As you so pointedly alluded to earlier, we’re not known for our soaring flight, so pretty much all of them, but most especially cats, dogs, mustelids, and rats. You humans have got a lot to rectify. Pock!

Me – Okay, thanks for your time. I’m going to plant a lot of carex in the stream for you next planting season, so hopefully our next encounter won’t be so fraught, though I understand your irritation. Please enjoy the rest of your day unmolested. 🙂

Spotless Crakes are found in a number of damp locations around Rakino.

According to DoC “They are a potential indicator of wetland health because they are dependent on the presence of high quality and ecologically diverse habitats and rich food supplies.”

This makes me feel happy in the knowledge that if you plant it they will come. Definitely time to get those native aquatic plants into the ground though…

EMR Labour Weekend Workshop

I have good news for the aspiring Rakino fish-counting snorkelers.
Many thanks to the Waiheke Local Board who have approved the grant we applied for to fund the Experiencing Marine Reserves workshop to be held on Rakino this coming Labour Weekend. Part of the grant includes funding for an underwater camera for documentation purposes, so with a bit of practise we’ll be able to show the non-snorkelers what lives in the rocky reefs around Rakino.

Also a big thanks to the excellent people at the Waiheke Resources Trust who supported our application. I’m confident we can build on that relationship in future.

Here is the link for anyone who is interested in Rakino-based citizen science;


It’s free to participants, and we’ll supply your lunch. All the details you need to know are in the link, but don’t hesitate to email me at lisa@lisawest.co.nz if you require anything further.

Some depressing news in Conservation Week :(

Read the latest blog from our neighbours on the Noises here…

I’d like to encourage anyone who is worried about the continuing degradation of the Hauraki Gulf to write to the relevant ministers, David Parker, & James Shaw, d.parker@ministers.govt.nz, j.shaw@ministers.govt.nz

Make a noise for the Noises, and the Hauraki Gulf.

Attention Snorkelers!

This summer Experiencing Marine Reserves is keen to run a workshop on Rakino for aspiring citizen science snorkelers. The plan is to teach participants how to do fish counts and collect useful data so we can track what is happening in the water around Rakino. There are places for up to 20 participants and enthusiasm is high. There are about ten places left, so if you haven’t already registered your interest on the Friends of Rakino FB page, email me, lisa@lisawest.co.nz
The intention is to apply for a grant to fund the workshop.

I’ll keep everyone who is interested in the loop, but we’d also like to have a bit of a get-together this Matariki Weekend on Rakino (weather permitting!) in order to have a chat about the workshop, but also to eat snacks and enjoy a few drinks in good company. Details on get-together yet to be confirmed, but here is the workshop outline for your perusal.

Tiny Museum reviewed

My documentation of the event could have been better, but I was a tad flustered as I was still running around at 5pm trying to assign numbers to the art work for sale. Thankfully Holly was keeping calm like a professional.

Dylan and Simon were happy to pose for paparazzi shots, but sadly I missed the opportunity to take any photos of the throng. I was too busy debating about how to play sea shanties successfully through the speaker to pay proper attention.
I can confirm the ladies of the Backhouse-Smith household were the height of glamour, and I’m dismayed at my failure to document their fabulosity. 🙁

Posing for blurry paparazzi shots whilst obscuring Katie Blundell’s fabulous artwork.
A Michelangelo moment

There was a brief flurry of consternation as Billie the Dog opportunistically made off with McCann family heirloom ‘shark-stick’, but the treasure was quickly retrieved, and the saliva removed. As Josh remarked drily “well technically, it is a stick”. I’ve made similar faux pas in galleries myself, so don’t wish to cast aspersions at Billie. Scuba Steve was also a very popular exhibit, as were Dylan’s beach fossicked skulls. A certain wall-mounted viciously fanged skull kept the punters guessing, and many were surprised to discover it was a feral cat.

‘Shark stick’ in lower center left of image.

The Tiny Museum in situ
Skulls, sponges, and viewing devices.

Many thanks to everyone who came to the opening event, visited the Tiny Museum, brought along delicious snacks, and generously lent their treasures, display units, trees, and artwork over the Easter period. The weather was a little unkind, but the turn out was pretty good regardless. I was particularly happy to see how many Rakino kids turned up with their beautiful artwork to stick to the undersea background!

Art from Rakino Kids!

The purpose of the Tiny Museum portion of the Easter art show was to draw attention to marine and terrestrial environment of Rakino, to celebrate our 20 years predator-free status, but also to make us think about where we might go from here. The displays of gecko & skink posters will remain for now, as will the posters of the photographs taken of the Woody Bay & Otata snorkel trips. There are QR codes next to some items, and if you scan them with a code reader you can find out more about them. There is also plenty of artwork still available. Money was raised for the Westpac Helicopter thanks to Harriet’s generosity, and there is still potentially more money to be raised thanks to a further donation of an art work by Anne McCabe, courtesy of Mark & Julianne.

Work from Julianne Taylor, Christine Rose, Albie McCabe, and Carolyn MacKenzie.

A series of unframed prints from Julianne Taylor.
Harriet and Adrian

Carolyn MacKenzie’s lovely paintings.

Thanks All, and see you next time.