Our project website has gone live today after completing the writing of the story to date and illustrating this with some photos. We intend to add more photos as time goes by and will update and expand the site as a record of the overall project.
The About pages introduce you to us, to Tāne's Rest, and our philosophy for the project. There is also a short history of the property and the beginnings of the project and an introduction to Aldo Leopold's famous book, "A Sand County Almanac", which has been the inspiration for this blog. We thoroughly recommend this classic to everyone who is interested in sustainable land management
If you would like to stay up to date with An Uawa County Almanac you can subscribe to our RSS feed just below the Uawa County map on the right of this page.
The Milestones section is just that, a record of the key milestones along our journey. We have prepared these pages both as a record of the progress we have made but also as a resource for others who may be on the same trip. So far we have focused on the first steps of Fencing, Water, Shelter and Energy to establish ourselves on the property. These will be updated, enlarged and expanded as we make progress into the future.
We hope that readers will stay in touch either by visiting the site from time to time, or by using our Contact page. We also welcome comments on any of our blog posts.
For Tane's Rest to become financially sustainable we need to consider our options about how we might generate an income from the property. We have space on the flat valley floor and we have pine trees on the steep slopes.
Logging the pine trees will eventually generate income but not for two more decades. We have unfenced boundaries and no reliable water supply so income from livestock is just not practical. It's easy to see what we can't do. It's harder to see what we can do.
Providing visitor accommodation might be possible but would require significant investment to get going. Kanuka honey from the native forest might be possible but we have no easy access to the main area of the forest to service the number of hives needed to give us volume production. It's easy to see what we could do. It's harder to see what we should do.
What we need is an activity that can generate a financial surplus after costs, can utilise the resources that are easiest to access, can be established with low capital expenditure and can be got going without significant lead time. It also needs to fit with our periodic visits to the property so shouldn't need constant daily work.
Two things seem to satisfy these criteria. The first is to establish a poplar nursery to grow poplar poles for hill country farmers who use them to stabilise steep country and recent slips. Being on the East Cape there is no shortage of that terrain, however, Regional Council's already supply subsidised poplar poles to farmers.
With around five hectares of pine trees that will soon need pruning and thinning, the second is to use the waste pine foliage to extract essential oil using steam distillation. Certainly we have no shortage of wood to heat water to produce steam then once we prove our skills we could diversify to other essential oils. Kanuka immediately springs to mind but increasingly the essential oils of other native plants are also being used. Kawakawa is an example that people are using to craft skincare products.
So maybe poplars and pine needles are the first stepping stones on the journey towards making Tane's Rest financially sustainable. It's easy to see what we should do, now we just have to do it.
It is a short 540 km from Auckland to Tāne's Rest but a long way from the congestion of Auckland to the wide open spaces of Tolaga Bay where on a fine day the sky is blue and the sea is bluer. Along the way the trip is a kaleidoscopic tour of the eastern North Island.
Beginning in the urban landscape of Auckland, perched on an isthmus between two beautiful harbours and built on a field of over 50 different volcanoes our journey starts in a unique location. Traveling south the motorways quickly have us over the Bombay Hills and into the broad expanses of the northern Waikato basin.
To avoid the traffic congestion of holidaymakers rushing to the Coromandel Peninsula we head south to Ohinewai before turning east to Tahuna, a detour that takes us along the Waikato River flowing to the sea from Lake Taupo, then we skirt around the southern shore of Lake Waikare, one in a necklace of lakes spread across this landscape.
From Matamata we head further east to climb the Kaimai Range with spectacular views back across the Waikato before crossing into the Bay of Plenty and descending into Tauranga, another city built on the shores of a large harbour. The journey south from Tauranga is quickened by the new expressway and we quickly pass through the gentle landscape and the kiwifruit capital of the world around Te Puke.
At Pukehina, the road drops suddenly to the coast and the drive to Matata is alongside beautiful sandy beaches under arching pohutukawa trees clinging to the coastal cliffs, a tantalising taste of what much of the coast may once have looked like. On a clear day we can see White Island and its steaming volcanic crater on the horizon.
Matata is halfway.
It is also the beginning of the eastern Bay of Plenty, an area of bounty that was one of the first settled after humans arrived in Aotearoa. Here we turn inland to bypass Whakatane by heading through Edgecumbe to Taneatua, the gateway to the Urewera and its national park.
The Waimana George is stunning with its native forest and rushing waters of the Waimana River on its way to join the Whakatane River. Rounding the Ohiwa Harbour we see the southernmost extent of mangroves growing as a stunted dwarf forest on the mudflats, a far cry from their five metre tall brothers in Auckland.
From Opotiki the road climbs the long and winding path of the Waioeka Gorge, which isn't a gorge at all but nevertheless has spectacular rugged scenery with impossibly steep country clothed in native forest. At the top of the gorge is Matawai and the beginning of the Gisborne District. We are looking forward to seeing this area blanketed in snow on one of our winter trips to the East Cape.
From here the road begins the long descent towards Poverty Bay through some beautiful and big rolling hill county. The Poverty Bay alluvial flats are a sign that Gisborne is close from where it is only 65km to Tane's Rest.
The drive from Gisborne northwards along SH35 passes Wainui Beach, one of New Zealand's best surf beaches. Leaving the city behind for the last time the road visits a string of glorious beaches one after another where you can swim, surf, collect shellfish and even feed stingrays all from the roadside.
Turning inland the road follows coastal valleys through big hill country stations and climbs over the hills between them before arriving in Tolaga Bay with its huge river flats and the village as an outpost of civilisation.
Mangatuna is a quick 12km drive north towards Tokomaru Bay where Tane's Rest is cradled in the first folds of the East Coast hill country on the inland edge of the flats and where it is seven hours since we left Auckland.
Over half of our property is clothed in recovering native forest after being farmed in the early part of the 20th century. However the long term viability of this native habitat is being compromised by massive exotic pines and their wilding seedlings left over from when they were planted along long overgrown fence lines.
The native wildlife that is present is also being compromised by invasive mammals who prey on eggs, chicks and adult birds, lizards and even insects that live in the forest.
Tāne is widely known as the Maori god of the forests and birds.
We have named our property Tāne's Rest as here is one place that he can have a break from the demands of being the guardian and protector of Aotearoa's remaining native forest as we have made the commitment to do his job for him and work to restore our small piece of forest. In doing so we aim to leave it better than we found it and we hope to encourage others to do the same.
We are planning to develop tools and knowledge that will make the task easier for those who come after us and we will record and share the story of our journey in this blog and on the pages of our website.
Welcome to Tāne's Rest. Please visit us again and feel free to leave us a comment.
As of December 12, a small piece of Tolaga Bay is ours and with the summer ahead we need to make plans so we hit the road again for the drive to the East Cape and a weekend to get to know our new neck of the woods.
To establish our home away from home we first needed to select a site so after much wandering and looking and comparing we settled on a raised area that looks south across the cultivated Uawa River flats to the dry hills near the coast. This is close to the stream channel but showed no sign of being flooded, it keeps the sun until late in the afternoon and is close to the last remaining stand of Pukatea and Kahikatea trees that once would have densely forested the moist river flats.
We need to build a roof to provide shelter for our caravan and to collect our water so obviously our tanks also need to be here but with no electricity our water system needs to be powered by gravity alone. We will add solar power and solar water heating at a later date. However, along with shelter and water the other pressing necessity is a suitable facility for the inevitable daily ablutions so we need to research and build a working composting toilet, a task for which failure is not an option.
Our overpowering sense is that we now own a piece of land that is distressed. With piles of logging debris, a choked stream channel, slumping logging tracks and the native forest fighting against wilding pines we have decided to name our new property Tane's Rest to signal a change of direction, a new dawn and the beginning of a journey away from exploitation towards sustainability.
After a year of searching for a rural property with native forest, countless daily searches on Trade Me and numerous phone calls to vendors we were considering a trip to the Wairarapa to visit a property that had native beech and planted pines when a new listing appeared that looked more promising than all the others.
Located near Tolaga Bay the owner was very happy that we visited at our leisure so on a Friday night we headed for the East Cape with an overnight stop in Matata. Tolaga Bay is an area we are familiar with having camped for family summer holidays at several of the beautiful beaches around the Cape and Marie has spent time in the Bay working on one of her research projects.
The Bay was named Tolaga by Captain Cook in 1769 when he stopped at the nearby Cooks Cove soon after arriving in New Zealand. Today it is probably best known for its historic wharf that is the longest in New Zealand.
The drive to Gisborne through the Waioeka Gorge and across the Poverty Bay plains and then northwards to Tolaga Bay is spectacular and quickly reminds you that you have left the city far behind.
The property was easy to locate. It was the one with piles of log debris cast into giant heaps and broken puriri trees where the felled pine trees had smashed their graceful arching limbs. We climbed a long steep spurline through the replanted pine plantation and entered the native forest to find a quiet calmness and an inviting path that spanned the distance between two pylons from one side of the property to the other carrying the power lines north to Tokomaru Bay.
The views over the Tolaga Bay flats to the hills beyond were mesmerising and after finding our very own waterfall we knew we had found our place that comes both with its challenges and everything we have been searching for.
This blog is the ongoing story of our piece of paradise on the East Cape we have named Tāne's Rest. Visit our About pages to read more about our project, and feel free to leave a comment on any of our posts.
Uawa County existed for 45 years from 1 December 1918 to 1 April 1964 before merging with Cook County. Click on the map to download a copy.