Fairy tern warden Mailee Stanbury recounts her summer in Mangawhai, and says a personal ‘thank you’ to the local community.
I have had the privilege of being the Mangawhai fairy tern warden for the Department of Conservation Whangarei this summer. I also happen to come from the South Island – a place of great beauty and ruggedness. I am describing both the landscape and people!
I was recently asked by a friend at home in Christchurch if the locals up my way are more or less friendly than at home. I never thought I would say this of the North Island, but I was forced to admit the hospitality I have been shown here has been legendary, even for our well-renowned friendly and welcoming southern culture.
There are so many stories – from the welcome I received at CauseWay Church the first Sunday in October when I arrived, and their help in finding me somewhere to stay while working here, to the friendly and supportive attitude of shopkeepers and the industrial workshops that helped me fix my tripod and electronic gear for free.
There was the time I went to HRD Engineering to see if they had any suitable bits of scrap metal I could use as a land anchor to bury in the sand as an attachment point, in case I got stuck while driving across the soft sand of my work site. They didn’t have any appropriate bits of scrap metal, so one of them went home and brought me back their personal boat anchor, which they lent me for the next four months.
Then there was the time I mistakenly borrowed a kayak from the wrong house – I realised this when the owner came out to help me put it away. I was so embarrassed, but the owner was completely unfazed and told me that now they knew who I was, they didn’t mind at all! I’m sure if this had happened in Auckland (or Christchurch for that matter) things would have gone rather differently.
Talking to people on the beaches and in the townships about the fairy tern and hearing their questions and seeing their interest in the environment around them was something I found incredibly encouraging. While there continues to be problems with people taking their dogs onto the beach at Pacific Rd, many of the people I’ve talked to there say they didn’t realise the fairy tern nests directly on
the beach, or that only about 40 fairy tern are left. The locals I saw subsequently left their dogs at home after I spoke to them.
Of course the community group About Tern provided me with extra support, encouragement and manpower on a weekly basis and some of them have become good friends of mine. I respect the passion and dedication of this group who are willing to put their time, their sweat and their money where their mouth is.
On top of this all, I have stayed in three different houses since I’ve been here, and in each case the inhabitants took me not only into their homes but into their lives. They have become family to me. Wherever my work takes me in the future, I am richer for the experience. Thank you Mangawhai – and keep up the good work looking after our terns!
TEAMWORK: Many hands making light work. About Tern members help the DOC warden pack up fences in the Mangawhai Wildlife Refuge.
“Then there was the time I mistakenly borrowed a kayak from the wrong house – I realised this when the owner came out to help me put it away. I was so embarrassed!”
- Mailee Stanbury