Local Folk - Lyn Wade

Lyn Wade

This month, Massey University Press publishes Hauturu, edited by Mahurangi Matters columnist Lyn Wade, and Dick Veitch. The book is an update on Lyn’s father’s seminal work on Little Barrier Island written in 1961. Lyn spoke to James Addis about her love affair with New Zealand’s first nature reserve ...


I first went to Hauturu – Little Barrier Island – in 1956 when I was just four years old. I remember it quite vividly and it made a big impression. I remember being teased by the ranger, walking in the bush with the whiteheads singing and the two or three hour walk to the island’s summit. My father, Max Hamilton, was the head of the DSIR and there was a team of scientists with us investigating the island’s geology, plant and animal life. My father compiled all this research into a book, which became DSIR Bulletin 137.

My father’s job was based in Wellington and we lived in Wadestown. But he grew up on a farm in Hamilton Road, which was presumably named after my grandfather, and Hauturu was always on his skyline. Both my parents came from Warkworth pioneering families. Dad’s mother was one of Nathaniel Wilson’s daughters – the man who founded the Wilson cement works – and my mother was a Morrison, of Morrison’s orchard fame. I now live in the house that belonged to my father. Ironically, when I was called Hamilton, I lived in Wadestown. When I married and took the name Wade, I ended up living in Hamilton Road. I went to Wadestown Primary School, but pretty much every summer we would visit Hauturu and stay for a couple of weeks. I loved the wildlife, the forests and the wild open spaces. There was lots of walking and lots of swimming. And I remember sleeping out on a track one night, just so we could hear the seabirds come in and take off. There were lots of adventures. 

I went on to Wellington Girls College and after that I wanted to be a nurse. But you had to be 17 to go nursing, and I was only 16 when sixth form finished. I did an extra year at school and was the only one in that year who was not sitting scholarship. I became the school projectionist and the school florist, and, I guess because I had time on my hands, I got myself into trouble – having a child out of wedlock. In those days you were sent away. You were shunned. My daughter was adopted out and life was pretty hard for a while. Though I think I coped fairly well. I eventually started my nursing training in Wellington, but switched to Greenlane Hospital when my parents decided to retire back to Warkworth. While at Greenlane, I had a motor vehicle accident, which resulted in a ruptured spleen and meant I had to take several weeks off. I actually dropped out of my training at that stage, and I worked for almost three years at Bethany hospital, which was a home for unmarried mums. I worked there as a maternity assistant and that was very cathartic. I was able to relate to other girls going through the same thing that I had gone through and help look after their babies.

After Bethany, I finished my nursing training. The first thing I did was go on an Outward Bound course. The physical challenges appealed to me – the rock climbing and abseiling and things like that. I had two older brothers, so naturally I had to keep up with the boys in tree climbing and so on. I was never a girly girl. Outward Bound helped me with life’s challenges. It made me realise I could cope with anything if I really had to. By my late twenties, I was involved in general theatre nursing at Greenlane. I did nights in theatre, which puts you under pressure because that’s always emergency surgery, but I enjoyed it because I was in charge of the other nursing staff and didn’t have anyone around me telling me what to do. For the last 16 years, I have nursed at the Warkworth Birthing Centre, retiring at the end of last year.

After my father retired, he  continued to make regular trips to Hauturu – I think mainly just for the pleasure of being there. I went along with him because Mum was not so keen on the boat ride over. I admired my father. He was a very down to earth person; he treated everyone as an equal, whether it was one of my friends from school or a visiting scientist from overseas. I remember him saying that his grandfather Nathaniel Wilson was like that, and it was something that impressed him. My mother was a big influence on my life, too. She was a very gracious, hospitable woman – always welcoming.

My father built another house to live in just across the paddock next door, and I moved into his house in 1979 and began to renovate it. I also got a job as relief district nurse in Warkworth, taking over on weekends and filling in when other nurses were on leave. Soon afterwards, I met my future husband Dave – a boat builder – who happened to be working in an old fruit packing shed that had once been my grandfather’s in Duck Creek Road. We married in 1984 and our lives have pretty much revolved around boats and boating ever since. I had my second child, Dylan, soon after marrying and around that time I began to wonder if I might ever be reunited with the baby girl I had adopted out. She would have been 15 then, and I felt sure she would be looking for her mother. I got in touch with an organisation called Jigsaw, which specialised in reconnecting parents with children and supplied them with all the relevant details about the birth. Just as I got back from a five-week summer boating trip with Dave, the phone was ringing inside the house. There was a Barnardo’s social worker on the line. She said, “I think we have found your daughter.” She gave me an address to write to. 

About a month later, Dylan, who was only 18 months old at the time, and I went to meet my daughter, Kara, in the botanical gardens in Wellington. We sat quietly on a bench seat and talked. It was good to have Dylan there because any time the conversation got awkward, we could engage with him as well. Later, Dylan and I went back to her place and we had dinner with the whole family. Kara and I have kept in touch ever since, and she is very much part of our family now. It’s one of the positive adoption stories. After Dylan, I had another daughter, Casey, and spent 12 years on school Boards of Trustees – first at Warkworth Primary School and then at Mahurangi College. As soon as I finished on the board, I was itching to do some study. By then I was involved in the Hauturu Supporters Trust and I wanted to know more about trees and plants and conservation. I studied part time for seven years at Northtec’s environmental sciences department and wrote two theses on Hauturu as part of my studies – one on the effect of translocations of species on resident populations on Hauturu and another on aquatic invertebrates and fish in the island’s streams. In 2014, I graduated with a Bachelor’s in Applied Science – something I’m very proud of.

I’m currently chair of the Supporters Trust and the work has grown. I’ve been involved in kiwi monitoring, a herbarium collection, a tuatara survey and collecting seed for a seed bank. On top of that, I organise volunteer weekends on the island to help out the rangers and act as a day supervisor for the Department of Conservation, responsible for escorting any visitors. Last year I was awarded a QSM for services to conservation, in particular at Hauturu. Hauturu is a unique environment. It’s had very few pests and about two-thirds of the island is virtually undisturbed forest – left pristine because of its rugged and inaccessible nature. The island is rich in biodiversity with hundreds of species of native plants, fungi and insects. It’s the only place in the world where there are five nesting seabirds and it has become a haven for endangered birds such as the kokako and kakapo. It’s the last natural home of the giant weta. Hauturu is also a spiritual place. Two years ago, I had surgery for cancer and had half my tongue removed. The week before I had the operation, I was able to spend a week on the island and go to places I had never been before. I sat alone in the bush and listened to the bird song. I did not pray or anything, but I did feel in harmony with the world as it should be and that I was part of something special.


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