Connecting the Dots.

Lyndsey Williamson

How did I come to BE on Rakino? A very good question indeed. I still wonder at this, & sometimes, I can hardly believe I am so fortunate to BE here now. The interesting thing is, I’d only visited Rakino 3 times before I moved here, permanently. Resident number 20. It was the 2nd visit that got me thinking & connecting the dots. Besides the amazing location, the raw & natural beauty all around, it was the people & their quality of life that really hit home to me. They are a tight knit community of caring souls, who deeply love where they live & have enormous respect & pride in keeping this island pure & natural.

My 3rd visit, with 18 friends & family, we celebrated my 60th birthday on Rakino, late November 2018. On our 2nd day here while out wandering, we came upon an open home & I said “let’s take a look”. So we did, & I think many of my friends could actually imagine themselves standing in this house, admiring the views to everywhere. I was smitten & spent a few hours with the owner while she showed me around & explained how the solar worked plus a few other essential bits one needs to know when living in an off-grid environment. One year later, almost to the day, I moved into my new home, 51 Ocean View Cres. Ta-daa! Just like that.

So, after living for nearly 30 years in Northland, here I am, large as life & loving it. No regrets at all. Yes, there are daily challenges to face, but they are of the sort that makes a person appreciate the finer points of living a wholesome, worthwhile life where everything you do is about making life more comfy & sustainable & encourages you to be extremely resourceful. Go easy on the power, the sun might not shine for long, have I got enough gas in the tank to cook with, is there enough food in the pantry for a month, get the vege garden pumping, when’s the next boat. You see, there are no shops here, not one. I have to think ahead & be prepared. So, when I look around & see folk, some older than me, having incredibly rich, satisfying lives, I knew this was the chord struck in my heart. OK, I already had a foot in the door, I knew a couple of residents I thought, hey, they wouldn’t be living here if it wasn’t paradise.

Then…covid 19. Life didn’t change much, we had our own island bubble so to speak, we all checked in on each other, shared excess food around the island, we even got weekly food deliveries by boat. I knew Rakino was the place for me. I love it here, and there’s no place I’d rather be. Nothing is impossible on Rakino. I love wandering down to Maori Garden Bay, chip a few oysters off the rocks to eat, crunch into some delicious seaweed. Then again, the birds, how tame & unafraid they are, a unique experience right here for me. Walk around the beaches, roads, you never see a scrap of rubbish, none. But really, it’s the folk. Love you’s.

I wouldn’t want Rakino to add anything else to the mix other than what we already have. But, we must preserve what we already have here & care for it deeply with utmost respect.

Gulf Adventures

Kevin Hester

I was born in Auckland /Tamaki Makaurau, so I have been playing in the adjacent Hauraki Gulf all my life.

I commenced my sailing career in the Gulf in the 1980’s before going on to compete in a few hundred yacht races, for a period on the coastal classic record holder Split Enz ( photo above) and I have completed 16 ocean passages, over half as skipper, on yachts between 37 ft and 70 ft.

I sailed around the island, played on the beaches and scuba dived the coast for 2 decades, waited until the prices took off, duh, then was roped into buying a share in a 10 acre block. That’s when the real Rakino Island experience for me commenced.
Simon Mark-Brown called me one day and said “We’ve just bought the most amazing 10 acres on Rakino Island”. I replied whose we? Simon replied “You and Ulli, me and Louise and Helen Taylor.” I replied with something like WTF and Simon said “Come around and we can discuss it, bring your cheque book!”  The adventure commenced!

In 2002 we built a house in Swanson and transported it complete, with beds made, pantry full and cold beers in the fridge. Rakino has never been the same since!
Henry Backhouse Smith and all my mates built the house for me and relocated it to Maori Garden Bay. Henry got the ‘Rakino bug’, relocated another home here and is now a respected member of the community providing building services between fishing and diving adventures.

In 2015, I moved permanently to Rakino where I now conduct research on the unfolding climate and extinction crisis.
I have a monthly radio show on the Progressive Radio Network which is broadcast out of New York. The show is called Nature Bats Last. The 130 + episodes can be found at the Nature Bats Last archive at PRN.FM

Early this year I was interviewed on Radio Waiheke about life on Rakino Island.

I have visited 50 countries in my life and I have the incredible good fortune to be able to live wherever I want on the planet. I am living in exactly that place.
Rakino attracts a unique type of person. Irrespective of how much money anyone has the only people who last the course on our beloved rock are folks who are prepared to carry their food, alcohol and luggage and embrace the reality of limited resources. I believe no parent could do more for their children than give them the Rakino Island experience.
I’m currently volunteering at the Rakino Island Nursery on an island wide rewilding project;

Photo credit of the aerial shot of Rakino Island goes to Scott Peters.

Before the Wallis Reserve

My Rakino

Hard to imagine the time frames between the images is less than twenty years.

The land is DOC and comprises seven odd acres.

I’m not sure why Linley and I started planting. The Mackenzie clans’ efforts and enthusiasm would have been a factor as they had begun to plant another DOC Reserve abutting Woody Bay Road. Their building platform is visible in one of the photographs.

For what ever reason we decided it would be wise to get formal approval to plant and which I was able to refer to at a later date when challenged as to our intentions.

We began by mowing and planting the area that had been cleared. Tracks were created so that in time a bush walk would be possible.

Kevin on the business end of a lawn mower

Thousands of plants were brought over on Warren Sinclair’s boat; either purchased or grown from seedlings at our home in the city. Our friend Brian brought over two thousand in his fully ladened Mercedes long wheel base van one year.

Later on, with the advent of the Council Environmental Initiative Fund we successfully applied for funding and reached an agreement that DOC would transport the plants to Rakino. It was quite a logistical task to load and then get those plants from the wharf to site. We enlisted the assistance of Council and DOC staff to assist with transportation and planting. It was an out of sight out of mind effort as far as the Rakino community was concerned. Council and DOC realized that we were serious and got to know Rakino and its critical location in the Gulf Island chain. That support was invaluable.

One year we returned a few weeks after a mammoth planting session to find that some kind soul had pulled out every single plant. We have our suspicions as to whom the perpetrator/s were.

With planting of this land, which we named as the Wallis Reserve (Wallis is our daughter and first came to Rakino when she was less than two weeks old) approaching an end we turned our attention to the walk way to West Bay.

That is another story for another day.

Councils support was then sought to establish the Rakino Native Plant Nursery which meant we could mitigate biosecurity, biodiversity and transportation considerations. Income generated from sales could then be reinvested back into the regeneration of Rakino’s badly neglected flora and fauna.

The subsequent buy in and transformation of Rakino as depicted by planting and birdlife is a legacy that not everyone has the privilege of being involved with.

Mention must be made of the MacKenzie and Thomas family’s involvement.

Kevin Wragge

Current day, looking to the west. Twenty year old plantings on the left.
MacKenzie plantings, looking to the west.

Birds of Rakino

A few beaut photos of Rakino’s birdlife taken by Jennie Cruse.

Mr. Tui guzzling flax nectar.
Plumptious kereru in a pohutukawa tree.
Watchful Kotare perching on coprosma.
Kakariki snaffling flax seeds.
Waxies on the wing, feasting on figs.
Oystercatcher wearing a plague-doctor beak.
Pukeko! Always the crowd-pleaser..
One of the multitudes of fledgling Tui.
Piwakawaka on the flit.
Alert Mr. Tui, guarding his flax patch.


My Rakino, wow. Where to start? At the beginning seems as good a place as any. Prior to moving to Rakino I had spent a couple of years reinventing my life as I was very unhappy. With support of family I stopped doing things in my life that were excruciatingly tedious and started to become quite selfish for myself. I’d been through an amicable relationship breakup and was looking for a shelter in the Auckland region. Being quite a cheapskate and not a man who has been successful financially I looked up “Cheapest options” on trademe and a beachfront property was available for $80/week in an Auckland suburb called Rakino. I’ve always been a water baby so my curiosity was piqued. A conversation with a landlord had me heading out to sea. The place was elegant in its simplicity and I refer to it as a plywood box on stilts. It sat beneath an ancient pohutukawa and looked out West to the enchanting Woody bay. The long drop toilet was an ex red phone booth which I affectionately named the “Turdis”. Rakino felt to me as a place to heal and have time to delight in the little things.

Community donations for a fine repast.

One could be sold on the exquisite natural beauty but there was more. The community embraced me and rolled out the red carpet. I grew up in a farming community with much neighborly love and this was something I’d missed along the way making tribes of similar and like minded people in large urban centers. Their pace of living was on my frequency and like myself Rakinoites cherished liberty and an absence of rules. The only real rule in the community I could discern was don’t be an asshole. In a small community if one is a prick the voodoo comes back real quick. I knew I was in love with this place and people immediately. People say the locals are crazy, eccentric or like characters from “Twin Peaks”. To me this is ignorance borne of an insecurity in others expressing their natural joy, delight, playfulness and freedom. People sometimes think we are hermetic folk and it’s true we value our own space. One of the phrases used when one doesn’t want humans about is, “I’m caving”. This is a particularly polite way of saying, I love ya but f**k off. We are also very social and create very festive events, share bathwater, have morning cuppas before our various toils, and “sundowners” which is taking a few magic potions and having a laugh, dance and song as the sun treats us to a mystical beauty over and over again.

A couple of Rakino sundowners.

Rakino has made me strong which has empowered me to pursue and realise dreams and for a change, be there for others as they go through their own struggles. We work hard on Rakino to keep the peace and yes it’s not always harmony in the community. These tiffs between each other are known as the “Gulf Wars”. Mostly they are resolved and usually with friends making sure we can see the others perspective. We don’t all necessarily enjoy each others company but when one needs help from trivial to desperate, it’s always there. I’ve lived in communities where fear and mistrust dominates. It’s awful and our community is vigilant in combating crime and less serious frictions. This creates a secure environment for our community to not have to waste energy on defences. I am hopeful that in our little puddle perhaps this will seep into mainstream New Zealand because, it works.

Dylan Hinchey

Building a shed.

It must have been about 17 years ago now, that we decided to build a shed on Rakino, the section bought by Lisa’s parents, some time in the distant past.
I’d jacked up Alistair with his trusty front-loading barge and a local tractor owner, probably called Colin. I’d planned out the timber I needed for a platform; enough to put the shed on, as well as some deck to enjoy the sunset and create a pleasing indoor-outdoor flow.

Waist high kikuyu grass, awaiting a tin shed.

The dwelling itself was to be a 9 square metre kitset garden shed with no windows, so a bit of indoor-outdoor flow was going to be needed.
I pre-cut most of the timber to get it on the barge, and to avoid hand cutting joists and decking. We packed the kitset and timber onto a trailer and met Alistair down at Z-pier to back the trailer on. Colin met us at the ramp to tractor the trailer up to the section to offload before taking the trailer back to Auckland.
The fun began the next weekend; Easter, I think it was, a long weekend anyway. When you have an intrepid expedition on your hands, in a remote destination, you need a band of experienced and resourceful double-plus hard-bastards. Instead, I assembled a group of software developers who’d never seen a hammer in their lives.
Actually, that’s unfair, Phil was a keen DIY chap and dangerous know-it-all.

Michael: a genius coder and handsome man-about-town turned out to be very handy with a hammer, and

Andrew: We’ll never know if he would have shown any great facility with the tools, for he availed himself too fully of the gin, rendering him wasted ballast on the trip.

Lisa: a generally useful member of any expedition, and extraordinarily generous with her advice.

We arrived on a water taxi and made our way up the hill to what was Jim’s place, which we’d rented for the long weekend.
The rest of us had walked up but Phil, being the smooth-talker he is, had bummed a ride with Lyndon and Cathy, leaping on the back of their ute with around 50 feral Chihuahuas, and a labrador.
Phil may (or may not) have been drunk… history does not relate, but the dogs, being excellent judges of character, administered a right seeing to.

We dug footings, carried buckets of water from Jim’s, set pilings, set up joists and pushed off back to Jim’s for well-deserved gin-tonics and roast chicken.

The next day we got up, gave ourselves a stern talking-to in the bathroom mirror, and tucked into a cooked breakie before nailing down decking and erecting the shed.

Andrew was given the inside job, fixing things in the tin shed, with everyone nailing on all sides and a near-fatal hangover, this must have been akin to being inside Keith Moon’s drum kit on a mushroom trip.

Over the weekend we had visits from our two sets of neighbours. On one side they were called John & Caroline, on the other side, John and Carolyn. Clearly there were some odd Island conventions we might need to be aware of…

John, or possibly John; I can’t recall which, advised us on bracing the shed. Due to the typical 450 knot easterlies, he explained, the normal suburban matchstick framing may prove insufficient. We obliged by bracing it with everything we could find, including the timber the shed came packed in.

Simon Fraser.

A Place in the Heart

The islands of the Hauraki Gulf have a unique place in the heart of Elisabeth Easther.

Sunrise over Rangitoto at Narrow Neck Beach, Devonport, North Shore, Auckland. Photo / Brett Phibbs

I grew up in Hamilton so, to my mind, Auckland was the Big Smoke. In the 1970s, to a little kid from the sticks, Auckland was enormous and visiting was always exciting, if a little daunting. It was also where my mother lived before she married my dad and, whenever we visited, we’d stay with my grandmother and Aunt Betty in Glendowie. Their house had wicked views of the Hauraki Gulf and it was there I became aware what a major role those waters played in my mother’s life.

Boats on the beach near Tryphena, Great Barrier Island. Photo / Natalie Slade

In 1964, my mum, Shirley Maddock, lived with her parents while making the pioneering documentary series Islands of the Gulf. Sitting at her typewriter in their sunroom, she wrote the best-selling book of the same name, presumably looking out to sea for inspiration. Not surprisingly, our visits to Auckland would sometimes involve journeys to mum’s beloved islands. One of my favourite outings was to Mission Bay at dusk. I’d be wearing my pyjamas — there’s no shame in that when you’re 4 — and we’d go there and run around, waiting for the fountain’s coloured lights to ignite, the outline of Rangitoto brooding on the horizon. A visit to Kawau was etched in my 10-year-old memory. The ranger took us there from Sandspit in his no-nonsense ranger’s boat. He even let me steer. I had a photo of that proud moment, which I glued into my autobiography: All You Ever Wanted To Know About Elisabeth But Were Afraid To Ask. Somewhere along the line, the picture was lost but I remember that day so vividly and you can still see the Sellotape shadows where the picture used to be. Aunt Betty had baked a bacon and egg pie, Mansion House was like something from a fairy tale, there were even wallabies and peacocks. It was a perfect blue day and it was clear mum’s fondness for the gulf was more than a passing fancy. Another time, three generations took a trip to Rangitoto, and although I’m sure I whined as we hiked in the heat to the crater’s rim, I loved it. There were visits to Waiheke well before the wedding scene exploded and years later, when I was in my 20s, mum and I spent a few days exploring there and I wish I’d known to ask more pertinent questions.

Shirley Maddock. Photo / Supplied

Over the years the Hauraki Gulf has stolen my heart too and, by same strange quirk of fate, not only have I become a travel writer among other things, but my assignments regularly lead me to the same islands that shaped my mother’s destiny. Camping on Aotea Great Barrier, appreciating ornithology on Tiritiri Matangi and taking numerous trips to reliable Rangitoto. And last summer, my appreciation of the gulf peaked when I remade mum’s documentary series.

In the episode where I visited Rakino Island, some lovely locals showed me around and, while it was never scripted, we ended up looking at some properties while I pretended I was in the market to buy one. But it was only ever a pipe dream — make-believe for the camera. Yet it was as if a seed was sown and, when my father died last year, that seed germinated in response to my sorrow. I felt so completely orphaned, a rug had been pulled out from under me. Islands of the Gulf started screening on TVNZ 1 just weeks after dad’s death and neither my mother nor my father would ever see it and mum would never know how her work was being admired and enjoyed all over again. So I did something completely bold — some might say rash — I threw all caution to the prevailing wind and bought a wee plot on Rakino, as if the lightening bolt of my grief might find earth there.

Mum and dad, Michael, are both reduced to ashes now and, despite their being cremated 17 years apart, the company that does the incinerating still uses the exact same containers all these years later.

For 17 years mum sat on dad’s chest of drawers, a box of dust gathering dust and now dad lies in an identical box. Our parents never told us where they wanted to be scattered but my brothers and I are confident mum would be content to rest on Rakino. And dad, well he’d just want to be with mum.

So this year, we’ll purchase some trees from the Rakino Island Nursery, where seeds are specifically sourced on the island and propagated to regenerate native bush.

The Noises are a collection of privately owned islands lying northeast of Rakino Island. Photo / Supplied

The Noises are a collection of privately owned islands lying northeast of Rakino Island. Photo / Supplied

I do have moments when I think I was mad to buy a place on an island with no shops, no electricity and a sporadic ferry service but, just as quickly as the knots of anxiety tighten, they unravel again because Rakino is a little slice of heaven on earth and out there in the Hauraki Gulf, beneath a grove of native trees, my parents can rest together in peace.

A Work in Progress

My association with Rakino island goes back to the early 1980’s.

My Dad had a sabre 22 trailer sailer which he insisted we spend every school holidays on. In 1982 that meant sailing around the Hauraki Gulf, and my only abiding memory from that trip is anchoring in West Bay, rowing into shore, clambering up the saddle that divides West and Woody Bay, and being completely captivated by the vision of the little islets at the ends of the bay, the unpopulated sandy beaches, the cerulean blue of the sky, and the sizzling heat from crisp, crackling yellow grass underfoot. It was like discovering a castaway’s island.

Crispy crackly yellow grass on Rakino Island.

I imagine I psychologically blocked every other memory of spending days on end with my parents and 12 year old sister on a 22 ft. boat.

Post school holidays and back at home in the small mid-North Island town we lived in I was browsing the property pages when I spied a section for sale on Rakino. For some unfathomable reason it didn’t take much wheedling to encourage my parents to buy it, sight unseen. Probably the pocket change price helped. Regardless, that is how my family came to own a pie-shaped slice of kikuyu infested wetland with no views, in 1983. Luckily we had no inkling of the rat infestation.

My father ‘gave’ it to me in a moment of inebriated weakness back in 1995, but it wasn’t till the early 2000s that we got sufficiently organised to plan an Easter trip with friends, and erect the still-standing garden shed. I recall one of the Johns coming down and saying “Needs more bracing”, approximately three times till it was sufficiently braced to withstand the howling gales of Rakino. I am profoundly grateful for this intervention. I have heard tell of other lesser braced garden sheds that did not have the wisdom of a John to prevent them from buckling and crumpling under the pressure of a fair to middling Rakino storm. At this stage I was still unaware that Rakino had been rid of the rat horror that had plagued the bach owners.

Fast forward to 2017, when in an act of madness we decided to fit out an over-sized green shipping container called ‘Hulk’, and move him over to Rakino, in order to establish a more comfortable campsite. This went horribly wrong, naturally enough, and we were eventually saved from ourselves by donations of timber from Dylan and Les, builder extraordinaire Shaun, two bottle jacks, a couple of winches, some metal pipe rollers, and a quiet Wednesday afternoon.

Bottlejack in use on Rakino Island

We now have a reasonably comfortable place to bunk down, with burgeoning decking for impromptu gatherings, and the promise of a roof to protect Hulk’s head whilst collecting much-needed water. We just need to construct a series of boardwalks so as to avoid the aggravation of the biddy-bids that destroy my socks and make my under-garments scratchy. The coming winter will be our third season of tree planting, because we hope some of the tui that blast overhead like a squadron of messerschmitts on a flight path between Mackenzies and Wim and Jo’s will condescend to visit us at some stage. I shall entice them with my soon to be planted kowhai trees. I’m already willing the flax to flower profusely so the kakariki will come calling…

Lisa West.