Chapter 13. Stewart Island This island is the third largest of New Zealand, after the North and South Islands. It is home to about 400 hardy people year around but is a vacation destination for many mainlanders. After all, 80% of the island’s 674 square miles is set aside as Rakiura National Park. The highest point on the island is Mount Anglem at 3210 ft. So the hiking opportunities here are wonderfully varied and can be as rugged as bushwhacking up mountainsides and as gentle as following the beaches on the coast. Fishing is the main industry on the island and the populace is as independent as fisherfolk usually are. The island generates its own electricity via a diesel generator and it is serviced by regular flights from Invercargill and Bluff on the South Island and there is regular ferry service between Bluff and Oban, the capital city of Stewart Island. Remember from the Maori story about the creation of New Zealand that Stewart Island is the anchor stone for Maui’s canoe (South Island) from which he and his brothers fetched up their “great fish” (North Island)? There is an interesting phenomenon present on Stewart that results from an anomaly in the magnetic latitude contours that allows frequent observation from this northern position (relative to the Antarctica) of the Aurora Australis! Of course, we were not on Stewart at the right time of year for that treat. But we still did not find our Stewart Island visit to be a “drag.” We learned on our bus tour of the capital city and its environs quite a bit about this remote island. Maori have lived on the island for many more years than the Europeans who only arrived in the 1850s. There was considerable intermarriage among the Europeans who were mostly whalers, fishermen, fur seal hunters and assorted other explorer-bachelors. Many of the people presently on Stewart are products of these intermarriages and proud of their dual heritage. Not only do these independent folks generate their own electricity, they take care of their own sewage through a local treatment plant. Recycling plastics, glass, and paper is another enterprise the Stewart Islanders handle on their own.
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