A Northland conservation group has created a video highlighting the positive effects of the Covid-19 lockdown and calling for a return to ''a better normal''.
The Great Return was created during level 4 by Project Island Song manager Richard Robbins using pre-lockdown film footage with a voice-over by renowned Northland actor Rachel House of Moana, Whale Rider and Hunt for the Wilderpeople fame.
It combines footage of the Bay of Islands and its wildlife with House relating how nature responded to the sudden absence of people, and expressing hope that the lockdown will lead to a greater appreciation of the natural world.
''When the time comes let us not return to normal, but to better,'' House says.
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The two-minute clip echoes a video made by Visit Auckland called Papatūānuku is Breathing, showcasing the Auckland region during the quiet of lockdown. That video has been viewed more than 320,000 times, making it the most popular clip to date on Visit Auckland's YouTube channel.
Robbins said he was inspired to make The Great Return after an interview with the Advocate got him thinking about how Bay of Islands wildlife had benefited from the lockdown.
Like Opua bird expert Leslie Feasey and Whangaroa conservation advocate Dean Baigent-Mercer, Robbins had noticed a rebound in birdlife during the Covid-19 crisis.
The number of birds hadn't changed but people had more time to notice them, and they were moving back into places usually occupied by humans such as the beaches around Paihia.
A drop in traffic also meant wildlife was more able to move around freely. Robbins had, for example, seen a kiwi on his driveway every time he ventured out at night during the lockdown.
''That conversation about people saying they had seen more wildlife in lockdown got me thinking and inspired me to repurpose some footage we had recorded prior to lockdown,'' he said.
Through a mutual friend Robbins asked veteran Kiwi actor Sam Neill to do the voice-over; Neill couldn't do it but put him on to House instead.
''I think we got a really good outcome. She is fabulous.''
Robbins said the lockdown had created huge challenges for some individuals and businesses, but it had also brought unprecedented environmental opportunities.
''Wildlife is flourishing and New Zealanders have noticed ... Project Island Song believes there is a window of opportunity to build on this awakening and continue to connect our communities with the treasures of the Bay of Islands.
''While the country settles into the 'new normal' in coming weeks, our message is that this could be a better version of what normal ever used to be — one where we slow down, really listen to our surroundings, and give nature the chance to keep healing.''
Project Island Song is a combined effort by community group Guardians of the Bay of Islands, Rawhiti hapū Patukeha and Ngāti Kuta, and the Department of Conservation to restore the flora and fauna of the eastern Bay of Islands.
The footage in The Great Return was captured by Chris Street for another film project, Te Tango o Te Ata.
■ You can watch the video above or by clicking on this link.