Pepin Island open day – access is about community
While sometimes public access to iconic places can be contentious, there are also many examples where Kiwis quietly get on and work it out. There is no set way, but in many places negotiated public access brings happiness and enjoyment for people all around rural New Zealand.
Pepin Island (Maheipuku) lies northeast of Nelson, a short drive from the city to the end of Cable Bay Road. The island is connected to the mainland by the Cable Bay Boulder Bank. Technically, Pepin Island is a Tombolo, an island joined to the mainland by debris.
In 1996, Pepin Island was sold to German industrialist Dr Viola Hallman. Dr Hallman had a great affection for New Zealand and she encouraged farm managers Andrew & Nicky Newton to plant native trees, remove pinus radiata and introduce a pest trapping programme. For this work, Pepin Island was awarded a Nelson-Tasman Environmental Award. Dr Hallman took great pride in the island and when she passed away several years ago, her daughter inherited the property.
Due to the sole access point’s proximity to stock yards and private homes, it has been impractical to have permanent public access to the island. Despite this, permission for limited access in the winter months has been available for organised groups.
Two years ago, the local fire brigade, anxious to purchase much needed equipment, approached the manager with an idea for a fundraising open day. From this, a local community-based concept evolved that is now a huge success.
Pepin Island has now hosted two open days over Queens Birthday weekend, organised by the Hira volunteer fire brigade. The fire brigade charges $10 per adult for access with children free, and the local Hira School sells hamburgers, sausages and cakes to raise funds for the school. This year a local artist displayed paintings for sale in the Pepin Island woolshed.
On the open days, the public have access to walk or cycle around the island from 9.30am – 2pm. At 5pm, the stragglers are helped off before dark. Members of the fire brigade handle safety, directing and parking for around 500 vehicles on Cable Bay Farm, on the other side of the boulder bank.
People are thrilled to have completed the circuit, enjoyed the views and the real farm experience. This year, 2000 adults paid to do the walk, raising $20,000 for our fire brigade, and the school raised approximately $2000. A great time was had by all, with universally positive feedback.
Locals, ourselves included, take pride in sharing our special part of Nelson with people who genuinely appreciate the opportunity. It’s about unlocking the best in ourselves, and showing new New Zealanders and other overseas owners the Kiwi way.
By Barbara Stuart, member of the Board of the Walking Access Commission. Barbara, along with her husband Ian, son Sam, and daughter-law Anni, farm at Cable Bay. The Cable Bay Walkway runs through their farm from Cable Bay to Glenduan, at the end of the Nelson Boulderbank.