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  • Writer's pictureSuzy Costello, workbooks

MFA 1-21 Nov 2021

Researching the history of East Harbour Regional Park; Drawing the East Harbour Regional Park forest; Eco Artist Tosca Teran; and Fantastic Fungi documentary


This is the boundary of the northern area of East Harbour Regional Park. You can see it is framed along its western edge by private property and along the eastern edge it is bound by the Wainuiomata Coast Road.

Further south of this forest, disconnected by private proporety but still within the East Harbour Regional Park, are two ecologically remarkable brackish freshwater lakes; Kohangapiripiri (“a nest, clinging very strongly”) and Kohangatera (“a nest, basking in the sun”) occupy the seaward end of adjacent valleys immediately to the east of Pencarrow Head.

This is the forest in context to the Greater Wellington Regional Forests and waterways, and it illustrates the uniqueness of East Harbour Regional Park as a coastal forest that connects to the sea and provides a corridor to the Regional Forest Parks of Orongorongo, Pakuratahi, and Kaitoke, and the water catchment areas of Hutt Valley and Wainuiomata.

History of the East Harbour Regional Park Resource Statement (2007)

(i) Management of the Park-

"In 1992, the Wellington Regional Council advertised its intention to prepare a management plan for the East Harbour Regional Park. Although this was completed with support from DoC and the Hutt City Council (which had taken over former responsibilities of the Hutt County and Eastbourne Borough Councils), the plan was not formally ratified by all three agencies due to a legal technicality. Therefore, for the next decade the management of the East Harbour Regional Park presented something of a challenge. With three agencies as landowners and each pursuing distinct management and utilisation policies in respect of their landholdings, development of the park has been difficult to advance. The Management Plan had, as its basis, encouragement of the three agencies to work together on matters of mutual interest and responsibility. Discrete management areas were also recognised with the Hutt City Council primarily responsible for managing the forest lands behind Eastbourne, and the Department of Conservation the southern lakes. Furthermore, the location of private land at certain points on the margin of the Park, especially along the southern coast, has made access to the Lakes Block and Baring Head Reserve less certain. Consequently provision of visitor services and amenities has been restricted".

(ii) Heritage Value of the Park -

"The heritage values of East Harbour Regional Park are exceptional. Evidence of pre-European and ongoing Maori use and occupation has been documented and physical remains include stone walls, middens, dendroglyphs and cultivation sites. The presence of three lighthouses, including New Zealand’s first lighthouse is also significant. The numerous shipwrecks and the original route to the Wairarapa adds to the importance of the coastal areas of the Park. Finally, the ongoing importance of the northern area of the Park as an early and continuing place of recreation is a key feature."

(iii) Archaeological Sites in East Harbour-

"Archaeological sites in East Harbour Regional Park There are a large number of recorded archaeological sites located within the East Harbour Regional Park, skirting the eastern side of Wellington Harbour. Sites include a wide variety of site types and are of both Maori and European origin. Nearly all recorded sites within the park are located on the coastal platform, or around the two lakes: Lake Kohangapiripiri and Lake Kohangatera. The types of sites present from the pre-European period indicate the life style of the Maori occupants of the coast. Sites include pa, pits, terraces, middens, stone rows and other sites. People were living around the coast and were utilising the rich resources the environment would have offered – fish and shellfish from the sea, and birds and plants from the forest. Plant crops would have been grown on the rich alluvial soils by streams and stored in underground storage pits dug for that purpose. Stone rows were also probably used for horticulture. A particular feature of the coastal region is the number of groves of karaka trees. Maori often deliberately planted karaka; the kernels of the fruit were eaten and groves of karaka often indicate the location of archaeological remains. Of particular signifi cance are the dendroglyphs, or carvings, carved into the bark of some of the trees. These carvings are of enormous interest as they are an extremely rare art form on the New Zealand mainland (they are also found in reasonable numbers on the Chatham Islands)."

(iv) Recorded archaeological sites -

"Archaeological sites in New Zealand are recorded by the NZ Archaeological Association. Sites are referred to by the mapsheet on which they are located and then by their site number. So R27/62 is the 62nd site recorded on the R27 mapsheet.

"Potential for unrecorded sites The Wellington Archaeological Society carried out a number of strategic, comprehensive surveys of the East Harbour area in 1987. This followed surveys of particular areas by Fell in the 1930s and by Palmer in the 1950s. Thus the wider area has received a high degree and coverage by archaeologists, and the majority of sites are likely to have been located. However there always remains the potential for further sites, especially from the pre-European period: the range and density of sites already recorded indicate there was a large and active human population all along the coast. Vegetation or talus cover can always obscure sites at the time when recorders are working, so management of the park should include the potential for further unrecorded sites. The sea and weather along the coast can be very dramatic and violent, and can occasionally reveal buried or submerged shipwrecks or material associated with shipwrecks. Such revealed sites should be treated with care and recorded and dealt with appropriately"

(v) Historic Wharfs along border of East Harbour Regional Park - Rona Bay Wharf (1906), Days Bay Wharf (1895), and Point Howard Wharf (1929, 1935) discussed in the Coastal Historic Heritage of the Wellington Region report (2014)

(vi) Ageing the East Harbour Regional Park forest -

I reached out to my neighbour, George Gibb (ecologist and scientist at Victoria University) as I was trying to understand the age of the beech forest in East Harbour Regional Park. When researching I found references to NZ beech forest being remnants from when NZ separated from Gondwanaland 135m years ago. Wow, this is old! So I wanted to discuss what this really meant as its quite hard to find information of the age of this forest across the road.

George explained, "The beech trees definitely share a common ancestry with those of South America. We call that connection Gondwanan because it most likely is due to a common land link between the continents (from before New Zealand was isolated).

However, given large tracts of the East Harbour beech forest were levelled and burnt by European settlers during the late 1880's for farmland, it is a beech forest recently regenerated. And this is not the first time the forest has regenerated following human habitation - the beech forest surrounding the southern lakes was also burnt by Māori living there prior to European settlement. As George stated, "Easy to burn off a forest cover and be left with grassland but it takes time to re-establish the trees."

Prior to Māori occupation, George advised that "it is a matter of forest expansion after the last glaciation - a matter of little concern to the question of when the present forest occupied the landscape."

In 2002, George prepared a Report for DOC on the Conservation Values and Management of the Pencarrow Lakes. (now Parangarahu). He explained, "Students from Vic University had developed projects focused on ageing the lake deposits. Some cores were drilled in the lake bed for that purpose and pollen analysed. One student is cited in my Report's Reference List. [Cochran, A. 1995: A palaeoenvironmental history of Lake Kohangapiripiri, Fitzroy Bay, Wellington. Unpublished BSc Hons Project, School of Earth Sciences, Victoria University.] They should give dates obtained from the cores going back 7000 years from which you can estimate when certain changes took place in the catchment vegetation. It will show beech (as Nothofagus). Can you make sense of this? Not a simple answer to your question Suzy! I think you would find the librarian at the Geology Department's Library very helpful. am hoping you will get some data on the timing from the cores that I suggest you investigate."

These are the two research papers George recommended -

Additional Links -


1-13 Nov 2021 Working my way around the East Harbour Regional Park forest to capture its qualities of light, form, and colour. Trying to get a system of process in place so thinking walking along Muritai Road and drawing every 100 paces.

14- Nov 2021 Process is not satisfactory as drawing while sitting on the pavement along Muritai Road means viewing the forest at street level through the residential properties and I can't see/feel the forest for the trees. This horizon line and perspective is not working and I feel drawing the forest from the beach at a further distance would be a more successful way to feel the forest in its entirety.

Also there is the problematic issue of human residential property boundaries butting up against the forest boundary in a state of gradual slowly unfolding tension - this is important to acknowledge and consider how I will respond to this element of the East Harbour Regional Park. Interesting questions can be raised ... I know Hemi has expressed the notion of humans living and existing within the forest ecosystem, i.e. eating birds, and how this will mean people have to attend to the ecology of the system more closely to ensure its/our survival as one.

Questions/issues to ponder -

  1. what does a horizon line do?

  2. read more about considerations of perspective - should I have a varied horizon line and multiple perpectives or one consistent eye view as I move along drawing the forest?

  3. seeing the whole vs seeing individual elements... how can one really see the whole? idea of nested nows/nested perspectives

  4. what am I trying to capture/show? is it an attempt to capture the fragmented 'seeing' as I try to draw the whole and reassemble it together as one?

  5. what is the implication of residential properties existing on the edge of the forest boundary...what does this mean about our relationship with the forest and the forest with us? Does the forest want to grow into 'our' space? Is this an uneasy tension or can both dwell beside/within each other?

Also, materials -

  1. Pencils: I am using the normal coloured pencils instead of the watercoloured ones as I practice and the results are less appealing - diluted pigments so subtle colours of bush harder to grasp, texture of pencils is less smooth and lines are thinner so drawings don't hold the lusciousness of the forest

  2. Paper: thinking about paper for final works... I'd like to use paper that has the transparency of tissue paper but more absorbency to describe the quality of a moist ancient forest (as I use watercolour pencils and spray water onto drawing). NZ paper? Maybe harakekeke but I'd need to investigate if it can be very thin? Otherwise Japanese washi paper from Awagami is just beautiful and they have a variety of thicknesses which would add texture and mystery to the final installation of the forest artwork -

I have applied for funding to purchase some rolls of these papers.



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