Saturday, May 14, 2011

Guest post: A visit to Rotoroa Island

The following is an email sent to me by fellow historian, friend of mine for many years, curator of Alberton and leading light for both Mt Albert Historical Society and Parnell Heritage ... Rendell McIntosh. He has very kindly given permission for me to republish it here.

Hello all

Jillian and I were recently invited to the opening of a new sculpture by Chris Booth at Rotoroa Island

If NZHPT/anyone ever wants to see how a historical venue/restoration/replanting programme can be instigated with private benefactors for a suitable cause (Salvation Army) then make time for a visit to this place. It is simply outstanding. It was only opened to the public in March. The Plowright family have generously provided millions to ensure the island will stay protected/fund raiser for the Salvation Army for the next 99 years. The Information Centre has been designed to look like an old woolshed. The display/use of modern technology inside, showing what it was like for recovering alcoholics, is wonderful. 

The pathway leading up to the Info centre has iron sheets alongside and the numbers 1-12 on them. Most people would just think it is decorative but in fact it reflects the 12 steps to recover from alcoholism. Some buildings have been retained/restored eg old goal while the main accommodation block was demolished. All pine trees have been cut down/used as mulch for the 400,000 native plants that have been planted by a gang from the SI. The little graveyard with 19 memorials has been carefully looked after. The directional signs are exceptional. The facilities are great for anyone paying a landing fee eg changing shed/free limited time shower at Ladies Bay. 

The new sculpture by Chris is simply amazing – three “fingers” of rocks placed one on top of another and reaching out towards the adjoining sea channel/each finger weighs four tonnes. Some companies have been taking staff over there and they volunteer to assist with the restoration prog. Some houses will be built on a lease basis later on where people can stay but at the moment there is no where to stay. You just have to pay the $66pp on the 360 Discovery ferry for a 45 min trip and have a memorable excursion from downtown Auckland. Its very easy to look around and walk right around the island with enough time before the afternoon ferry returns to downtown.

Uncertain what NZHPT/HD familiarisation/staff meetings/staff volunteering/showing heritage folk from overseas around excursions are planned in the future but keep this destination in mind. It really is a showcase in showing that with suitable funds/imagination/artistic flair/enthusiasm/cause they can all be combined for a remarkable outcome. Many people in NZHPT/DOC will love what has been achieved by private individuals in helping a heritage site promote its past and plan for the future. And of course there is a McIntosh connection – Charles Hunter McIntosh owned the island in 1841. (No relation)   He sold it to William Ruthe who sold it to the Salvation Army in 1911. There was a pic of the Parnell Rescue Home Officers there in 1912.    

Try and visit – it is very inspiring and a wonderful outcome for the Salvation Army.


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