A pretty picnicking island kayaking distance from the coast of Auckland is in danger of being forgotten, says a conservationist.
Long-time conservation volunteer Ted Wilson, 82, once organised groups of prisoners to plant native trees on Browns Island or Motukorea, between Auckland and Rangitoto, but fears these days few people know it exists.
When Mr Wilson returned to the island last year to see the results of his handiwork he was upset to see a stone plaque gifting the island to the public overgrown by grass.
The Pakuranga grandfather would like people to make the most of his hard work, after he organised at least four full-day working trips by prisoners in 1997 and 1998.
The Department of Conservation has cleared the plaque since his visit and promises to keep it and the walking tracks free for visitors.
Mr Wilson, a founder of the Project Crimson pohutukawa tree trust, said a DoC boat would pick them up at dawn in Devonport before collecting them from the island at the end of the day.
"They [the prisoners] were always asking when the next trip was going to be," he recalls.
There is no public ferry service so nobody knows exactly how many people make the journey to the rat-free island, 20 minutes by boat or about an hour and a half by kayak from downtown Auckland. DoC said it remained popular with kayakers.
The island's hey-day was in the 1890s, when it was a popular picnic destination owned by the Devonport Steam Ferry Company.
In the 1940s it narrowly escaped being turned into a sewage plant before being bought by former Devonport Ferry chairman Ernest Davis, who gave it to the people of Auckland.