A reminder of Queen Elizabeth II on Blenheim's back doorstep
By: Christopher Cookson
Last Modified: 16-9-2022 22:58
With the passing of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, it is perhaps a fitting time to reflect on a small area of land well known to many Marlburians, that will bear an association with her name forever.
While there is plenty of discussion around the merits and relevance of the monarchy, there are likely few who would dispute the merits of conservation.
Colonisation by humans, regardless of where they came from, had a devastating impact on New Zealand’s indigenous flora and fauna. By the time Europeans arrived Māori had learnt from past mistakes and had instituted various traditions that provided some protections for the environment. Europeans repeated, and exceeded past mistakes, this time on an industrial scale, that in hindsight seems like the very definition of insanity.
The establishment of a trust under the name of Her Majesty to protect some of what remained, is a sign that New Zealanders from all backgrounds are learning to respect and care for our natural environment.
There’s a certain continuity and convergence too, as the new King Charles III is an ardent environmentalist, so Māori concepts of kaitiakitanga, Pākehā conservation, and even His Majesty’s concern for the environment are finally moving towards some sort of alignment. Perhaps it's fitting that the Queen died during Conservation Week.
In 1977, the Queen Elizabeth II National Trust was formed to commemorate Her Majesty’s silver jubilee. It has its own act of parliament, and exists to promote conservation on private land via permanent protection of land in open space covenants.
In Marlborough, as of September 2022, 4,504.1 hectares of land is protected in covenants. This may seem small compared to Marlborough’s total land area of 1,045,765 hectares, however large areas of Marlborough are already public conservation land that are managed by DOC rather than the QE II Trust.
Perhaps the best known, and most accessible area of land protected by the QE II Trust in Marlborough is an area of the Wither Hills Farm Park in the Sutherland Stream catchment just south of Blenheim.
This covers an area of just over 41 hectares within the 301.7 hectare Sutherland Stream block of the Wither Hills Farm Park purchased by Marlborough District Council in 1993, with the covenanted area established in 1994.
The area contains a remnant of regenerating dryland forest, although it was badly damaged by the 2000 Boxing Day fire.
In spite of the fire damage, the area contains a wide diversity of native flora and fauna, and is the closest wild place to Blenheim.
Below is just a small selection of images, all taken within the Queen Elizabeth II Covenant area celebrating the diversity of this precious pocket of land on our back doorstep.
It's easy to walk past some amazing natural history simply because it's small. Take a magnifying glass or a camera with good macro capabilities, and there's an incredibly diverse range of small plants like mosses and liverworts, particularly in damper areas of the Wither Hills.
In addition to simple plants, a wide diversity of fungi, the great decomposers of organic matter, can be found throughout the covenant area.
Lichens are a symbiotic relationship between a fungus and an algae, each relationship forming a unique lichen species, with the algae providing food via photosynthesis, and the fungus providing protection, and the ability to extract nutrients from the ground or rocks.
Although the largest native land animals in New Zealand are birds, there are plenty of smaller invertebrates, including insects, arachnids, and other critters. The QE II covenant area of the Wither Hills supports a rich diversity of these small creatures.
The QE II Covenant area is home to a wide variety of native plants with attractive flowers, but you've got to know when and where to look. Some like the native sun orchids only flower for about two weeks of the year in spring, and until the flower appears, have just a single leaf, so can easily be missed unless you know what to look for.
The Wither Hills probably aren't where you'd expect to find ferns, but there are a surprisingly large variety of them, including even a lone tree fern, if you know where to look
With all the insects and fruiting plants, there is plenty of food to support a range of bird species within the QE II covenant area of the Wither Hills, however photographing birds can be quite difficult. Piwakawaka/fantails are common, however they never sit still long, but will come quite close, making them the easiest birds to photograph without very expensive gear, a lot of patience, or both.
Tui and korimako/bellbirds can be heard more often than seen, as are riroriro/grey warblers.
Cite this page
Cookson, C. (2022). A reminder of Queen Elizabeth II on Blenheim's back doorstep. Retrieved December, 5, 2023, from https://www.marlboroughonline.co.nz/marlborough/information/commentary/a-reminder-of-queen-elizabeth-ii-on-blenheims-back-doorstep/
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