The following is an interview with Lucy by Helen Bucksey while she was on Tiritiri Matangi Island for the Kiwi Ranger launch.
If you haven't had the chance to watch Lucy filming the Kiwi Ranger promo, click here for the AUSXIP video and images

Image635071002861929460Interview with Lucy Lawless at the launch of Kiwi Ranger on Tiritiri Matangi Island – 1 June 2013

Interviewer: Helen Bucksey

When you were growing up, what inspired your interest in conservation?

When I was growing up I don’t even know that I thought about it. Well you would do school trips wouldn’t you, but it would seem to be more about trees in those days. Conservation was planting trees, or the Waitaks or something, but birds were few and far between – you would hardly see them when you went out to the Waitaks, at least I don’t recall having anywhere near the impact of the kind of birdlife you see on Tiritiri.

Did you do any tree planting when you were younger?

My mother is a bit of a tree-planter, tree-hugger, no I guess my interest in conservation is linked to my care for the whole planet – the planet has to be whole and we have to care for it holistically so that it is a viable and stable environment for our children and their children. It’s really important that we get on with it now because it’s going to be too late if we leave it to our kids to clean up our filth from the last 250 years. It’s only been since the mid-1700s when we started burning coal that they have been calculating this anthropogenic [caused by humans] effect on the environment which is pretty shocking that in less than 300 years we could make this planet uninhabitable. So making the planet a safe habitat for all forms of life is really important and in regards to NZ flora and fauna these lovely little gem-like pockets are our best hope at sustaining those bird and plant populations for later – we’ve got to do it now in order to have those for later, they are so threatened.

You would have been a teenager in Auckland in the 1980’s, when the Tiritiri replanting work was just getting underway. Did you have any awareness that this was going on?


Not even through your tree-hugger mother?

My mother would have known [about Tiritiri], because she took my son some years ago and he’s always wanted to overnight there, so it was through him that I’ve heard a bit about Tiritiri and my husband’s a fisherman so it’s a name that I hear a lot. My son has always wanted to come back so this is a perfect opportunity to see it for myself and it’s charming – what a gem of an eco-sanctuary.

That was my next question, have you ever been to Tiritiri before, but obviously not.

Never been to Tiritiri before, but I have been to Orokonui in Dunedin and I’m aware that there are so many in between. So there’s the furthest north and the farthest south and there’s lots of fabulous ones in between. So much more difficult I think to create an eco-sanctuary on the mainland because of the fences and there’s no natural barrier against the predators which abound. So it’s really hard there to keep the waterways clean for the frogs – there are all those very vulnerable species and the work that they are doing in those places is really vital.


Quite a different project to one like Tiritiri.

Yes. Very stream-based and that’s my words, I don’t know what they would say, but predators of course are just a major issue and also water quality because there are farms all around possibly or the source of a river very far away and so you are affected by a great many other factors.

What has been the best part of your day?

Seeing my boy really enthralled, because this is his natural kind of environment – anywhere out in nature is where he wants to be.

Apart from your Kiwi Ranger badge, what else will you take away from your visit today?

I got to see little blue penguins – that was really extraordinary and lovely, what a treat to see the little penguin and I think also my very favourite bird was that little robin. And that was a surprise to me that I would find that little bird magical and also the peace of sitting down and looking at birds. When we were sitting all together and it occurred to me – when do city people ever do this? I’ve always been so very busy, busy all the time, mentally my brain is always active – my brain is doing tracks like a fantail on the inside and to sit down and be in amongst that wealth of birdlife was a very rare privilege. It’s quite overwhelming isn’t it when you think of how much work is done by volunteers there and people who just love the earth and want to give back to mother nature, and it’s tiny compared to what we take from her. So congratulations to DoC and the SOTM for making it possible.


How do you think participating in Kiwi Ranger with your family helped you learn about the Island and its purpose?

Not sure if this quite answers that question, but the lovely thing that occurred to me when I was going about with my son is that he and I were given an idea of what it might have been like in NZ before man came. Of course the forest is newly planted, it’s only 35 years old, so you can’t imagine what it would be like in an old growth forest.

Come back in a couple of hundred years!

Yes, come back with my grandchildren and it’s going to be amazing, so we’ve got to keep supporting that and they’re really learning a lot about how to manage that environment better – they are thinning things out so that the new growth comes back and they’re really developing conservation – it’s a real research project, a great research project.


Were there aspects of Kiwi Ranger in particular that you thought brought that out?

It was that they planted all those trees and the guide said it’s almost as if they were too successful – conservation can be too successful – that they thought that only 30% of the trees planted would survive but in fact 70% survived. And now they have to thin it out a little bit to allow for a bit more light to reach the ground so it can have another canopy, another layer of growth. So they are learning how to do things like that so that if they can plant more sparsely the money will go further – and learning the rules for engagement in this particular environment.


What is your favourite spot on the island?

I think my favourite spot would be where we stopped and sat and watched the birds by the bird bath. Because you never do that anywhere. You probably haven’t done it since you were a child,

where you just sit down and watch birds and listen. And not busy thinking about your urban life. Kind of like yoga for your brain.


What did you see today that you’ve never seen before? Why was that so special?

Never seen the little penguins before, never seen a stitchbird, I never knew there was a bird called "the gift of song", Te Koha Waiata. I don’t think I knew any of that stuff actually – I never knew how charming the little robin could be.


What surprised you most on the island today?

As a matter of fact the takahe really surprised me, because they are such a primitive looking bird up close and the way that they graze it’s like some old dinosaur beak, it’s really not like any other bird you saw.

They’re doing the sheep thing out there …

Yes and they are turning their head sideways and it’s a little bit awkward the way they eat. You know birds are usually quick and specialised but these birds were tearing at it like tortoises and so they seemed really ancient, so that was nice. Didn’t see a tuatara so I’ve got that to look forward to next time. We’ll come back some time and overnight because that will make my boy so happy and it’s very nice to spend some time alone with your kid out in nature and at their speed – not always be rushing.


You do a lot of work for other non-profit organisations, what made you decide to get involved with the launch of Kiwi Ranger on Tiritiri Matangi Island?

It’s one of my child’s interests and it’s really close to my home, my friend Ilai volunteers there so it’s a perfect time for him.


And finally, if everyone was some kind of native bird, what bird would you choose to be? Why?

I’d like to say a fantail, but I just don’t think I’m that fancy. So maybe I’d be a morepork because they seem to be a little less vulnerable than others. It would be scary being a little robin, because not everybody has Tiritiri Matangi to live on you know!

So you fancy being the predator, the one that preys on the other birds.

No, I don’t want to be a predator. Actually you’d want to be a nectar-feeder I think.


So I’ll cross out the morepork. For the nectar-feeder you’ve got three to choose from …

No, I want to be the little robin, skinny legs and all. Because they’re adorable. But I’m a little bit scared to be him because of all the moreporks.

Original Interview pdf

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