Recently I attended a great Hawke’s Bay Farm Forestry field day at Te Awanga.
It’s not somewhere most of you will have heard of but it’s a small area well worth visiting next time you are in this part of the world.
You will have seen it across the bay if you’ve stood on the Napier foreshore and gazed across towards Cape Kidnappers.
Cape Kidnappers is also known as Te Kauwae-a-Māui or the fishhook of Māui given its shape.
Māori legend has it that Maui’s brothers wouldn’t give him a fishhook or bait, so he made one out of the jawbone of his grandmother, punched himself on the nose and smeared it on the hook for bait and then caught a great fish that turned out to be the North Island or Te Ika-a-Māui.
The hook turned into the coastline of Hawke’s Bay and no fishing story since has ever bettered this one.
The eastern route from Napier towards Hastings runs alongside the sea as you pass the long line of Norfolk Pines then you turn towards the Cape at Clive or Mangateretere.
As I cross the bridge over the TukiTuki, I like to look down to where this river that runs through my own part of the world meets the sea.
I once walked to the source of the TukiTuki high in the Ruahine Ranges and further up delighted standing on the main divide and being able to send half a piddle towards the Pacific Ocean down this river system and the other half towards the Manawatū catchment which then cuts through the main divide and ends up in the Tasman.
Just over the bridge is the small coastal settlement of Haumoana.
Many of the shore-based houses here and further along at Te Awanga and Clifton are succumbing to the effects of coastal erosion as the sea takes back for itself up to half a metre a year.
When I was a kid, all the land on the other side of the road was farmland but now it is houses, lifestyle blocks, vineyards, and wineries.
Not far past Te Awanga the road finishes at Clifton.
Several times, I’ve taken guests on my farmbike from there along the beach right around to the cape itself and we’ve climbed up to spend an entrancing time watching the gannets that nest there.
This is the largest gannet mainland nesting site in the world and hosts up to 20,000 of them at peak times.
The other great attraction from Clifton is the Cape Kidnappers Golf Course.
I’ve played there three times, never had a decent score as its so tough, but some of my favourite days ever given the views and the course itself finished off with a hot shower and a cold beer in the wonderful club house.
But this day I was here as I’d never had the opportunity to explore Clifton Station.
The Gordon family were our hosts and the fifth and sixth generation to be now farming this historic farm.
Angus has become a historian and written three popular books which have preserved some of the history of this part of the world.
We drove up through the farm past their latest initiative, a couple of glamping sites onto the hills that gave stunning views across the sea of Hawke Bay to Mahia, Napier, inland Hawke’s Bay and the back of Te Mata Peak.
We viewed and discussed their various plantings which as well as the ubiquitous radiata included several species of Eucalyptus as well as a variety of other species.
They are steadily fencing off and planting their streams and wetland areas.
They have regular help from one of the local high school’s agricultural classes to help with this and other farm chores.
I was surprised to see a Kaka fly overhead and the Gordons told us of the spill over of species that originated from Cape Sanctuary next door.
We could see the predator fence that protects 2500ha of the end of the cape and has been a huge but beneficial undertaking by the Lowe and Robertson families.
Within they are establishing populations of Kiwi, Saddleback, Kaka, Takahe, Tuatara and a host of other species assisted by a massive native planting program.
A remarkable commitment to conservation.
After our visit to Clifton Station, we travelled the short distance to the Nilsson’s property of Te Awanga Downs to have lunch at the iconic Clifton Cricket ground.
Nestled in a natural amphitheatre, this quirky cricket ground with its gentle slope has seen many fine cricketing battles.
The cricket club and community are also combining to plant the waterways to enhance biodiversity and are also seeing spill over of species from the cape as the habitat improves.
This contained area of Hawke’s Bay is a terrific example of what can be achieved in terms of conservation when private landowners, the regional council, Government agencies and the community come together with a common goal of making the world a better place.