Nicola McCloy has done it again! The author of 29 previous books may have just released her best work yet with this delicious coffee table book which follows the story of a back country station turned eco-tourist mecca.
The name of the station alone signifies a special relationship with the land. Whio – the native blue duck - is a rare and shy creature of which less than 2000 individuals remain. I’ve never seen one in the wild, and even locating the elusive pair at a bird sanctuary in Te Anau was an exercise in patience. Encounters in the wild also require endurance because populations of these gorgeous ducks are mostly confined to the upper reaches of high-altitude rivers and streams.
Fortunately for us all places like Blue Duck Station exist to help protect endangered species and to educate and enroll visitors in the care of the natural environment. Hunters at the property increase the conservation effort because they learn about the impact of removing predators from the ecosystem. Visitors are shown how traps work and they’re involved with discussions about the impacts of domestic pets and introduced predators on wildlife.
Blue ducks are one of four waterfowl species to live exclusively on rivers. They are very territorial and their specific habitat needs mean that unlike many other endangered native birds they cannot be moved to predator-free offshore islands to help save the species. This means that in order to ensure the survival of the whio, their natural habitats need to be protected. The Station was named after these rare creatures because co-owner Dan Steele says they exemplify the need for broad habitat protection “from the gorge to the hilltops, the blue duck needs every part of the environment right in order for them to thrive”. The mantra of Blue Duck Station is based on the belief of the four owners that anyone who owns land has a responsibility to do something to keep New Zealand special. Their commitment to the cause has seen Blue Duck Station become one of the country’s most environmentally significant stations.
This is a fantastic story, brilliantly told from the tangata whenua; to the back-country land grants to returning soldiers, to the extended Steele family, which currently lives there. It has all of the great elements of a good yarn: from history to humour to pathos to romance, set against a visually stunning backdrop, with all pages beautifully illustrated to underscore the thoughtful and well-written text.
This is a delightful visual reminder of the exquisite country in which we live, and it’s exemplary as a record of how one man’s wild dream materialised in a tangible way to inspire current and future generations.
Reviewer: Peta Stavelli