by Kate Hill

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WAITING - Kate Hill

Rakitu Island is 2.5 km off the eastern coast of  Great Barrier Island. Great Barrier lies in the outer Hauraki Gulf, 100 kilometres (62 mi) north-east of central Auckland. With an area of 285 square kilometres (110 sq mi) it is the sixth-largest island of New Zealand and fourth-largest in the main chain. Its highest point, Mount Hobson, is 627 metres (2,057 ft) above sea level.

It was in this area that the wreck of the Wairarapa occurred in 1894 with the loss of 140 lives.

SS Wairarapa - Wikipedia

At this time the islanders had no way of communicating with the rest of the world and as a result of this tragedy Pigeongram Service was started.  Each pigeon carried up to 5 flimsy letters and proved vital and even life saving in many emergency situations.  Those days are long gone now but Barrier still carries a sense of loneliness and isolation – aspects its inhabitants clearly enjoy.

There are 2 burial sites at Whangapoua where some of the passengers and crew were laid to rest.

A Barrier Island local told me the story of Fred Ladd who was the NZ pilot who illegally flew his amphibian aircraft under the Auckland Harbour Bridge.  The year was 1967 and it was his last day of flying for Tourist Air Travel. But he is also remembered on Great Barrier for another “stunt” which involved the delivery of some spare tractor parts to Rakitu Island .  Because the island has no landing strip the plan was to drop the parts from the open door of the plane down into an empty paddock where they would land harmlessly.  Instead they landed on a prize bull killing it instantly.  This famous incident is still depicted in the flag of the local yacht club which shows a clearly dead bull with its four legs in the air.

Further tales from the island can be found here:-

Few visit lonely island - New Zealand News - NZ Herald




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