Otanerito Bay from Hinewai Lookout
One of the greatest pleasures in life is meeting truly exceptional people who have a vision and make a difference. I had read Hugh Wilson's Hinewai and heard him speak in Governors Bay on biodiversity. Yesterday I visited the Hinewai Nature Reserve for the first time, part of a group from the Summit Road Society (http://www.summitroadsociety.org.nz/). Despite rain, hail, wind and a little snow, we were able to walk through regenerating bush for a good two hours.
Hugh Wilson's insistence (in the face of much opposition) that gorse is better left to provide protection for natives which will, in time, eliminate the gorse through natural regeneration, is triumphantly vindicated at Hinewai. Yet my most powerful memory will be of the man himself. Full of welcoming enthusiasm, he gave us a good part of his day in talk and walk. And here is someone who 'walks the talk' in every sense. His achievements are huge (in the realisation of the reserve, in his writing and teaching) yet his lifestyle is the simplest possible - best illustrated by his preference for biking (to Christchurch - the 'car-infested swamp') over car ownership. He answered our many questions patiently and engaged with each of us warmly and whole-heartedly. He is a superb teacher, advocate and role model.
Despite its national and international reputation, I noticed how lightly the man-made structures sat on the ground at Hinewai. Absolutely minimal heralding or interference.