With a place as unique and beautiful as the Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve, images often say more than words.
Gorgeous photos of the islands, the dramatic rocky shore and surrounding sea have graced many travel magazines, tourism brochures and collections. Each photo tells a thousand words.
Many thousands of words have also been written about the Poor Knights Islands, the pioneer divers for whom funnels, tunnels, caves, holes and undersea cliffs are named, the keen fishers who once reaped the bounty of a fishing-free zone, the vision and determination of conservationists to protect the place, and the making of New Zealand's first marine reserve.
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Whangārei man Keith Hawkins says he believes that, during the sometimes controversial establishment of the reserve, the Northern Advocate published more stories about it than any other single subject.
The claim might be contestable but certainly the archives prove the paper was there every step of the journey, publishing hundreds of articles. Editors and reporters from the time stuck to their journalistic integrity, but should feel chuffed their work stood alongside the efforts of champions in a great, successful endeavour.
The Poor Knights still feature large in the Advocate's news, conservation and tourism stories. Having written quite a few of them myself, I would have appreciated being able to dip into a single book that spanned from the Poor Knights' geological beginnings and early human history to the creation of a reserve in the early 1970s, enshrined as a totally protected marine reserve in 1998.
Keith Hawkins, a now retired Department of Conservation field manager, was deeply involved in the reserve's management from 1992 to 2013. From his work and extensive private research, he became more deeply familiar with the people and history of New Zealand's most renowned marine reserve.
In a labour of love and meticulous care, Hawkins has now written the reference book, Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve - The discovery and protection of a unique marine environment .
''In 2007, at the 25th anniversary, everyone was talking about the various aspects of the reserve, the history and the issues that had to be worked through at the time.
''Someone said someone should start writing down these stories before they're lost,'' he said.
So he set out to contain in one book the 'back story and details of making the reserve a reality, what went before, and the wide recognition of the importance of an area which perhaps holds New Zealand's most biodiverse collection of sea life.
By all accounts, the sea life is now more diverse than ever, with the fish numbers and species increasing.
Forty years ago it was not a matter of every interested party agreeing and just having to win over the Government.
Recreational, local commercial fishing interests and some from outside the area depended on the Poor Knights' fishing mecca for sport or to make a living. There was a long, mainly respectful, exchange of opinions.
Hawkins said compiling his book, ''was also a time to recognise those who may not have supported protection because they would have to cease an activity important to them, but who showed restraint or gave it support once it was implemented''.
The book includes a photo of a diver spearing a 33kg (73lb) hapuku. Whether due to line or spear fishing, the schools of hapuku in the area have become just a memory, and haven't been seen in such numbers since.
Another photo shows eight divers from the Reefcombers Underwater Club and their catch of the day from diving with only snorkel, mask and speargun at the High Peak Rocks - 357.5 kg of fish, comprising 22 kingfish and two hapuku. It was reputed to be a record weight of fish taken by free divers at the time.
There is also a photo of a fishing trawler at work in 1977, estimated to have netted a quarter of the trevally population within 800 metres of the islands.
The debate about establishing protection over the marine area became protracted.
The first voluntary restriction on spear fishing was initiated by the New Zealand Underwater Association following concern by divers about the impact their sport was having and the serious decline of marine life at the Poor Knights. The association passed a remit that members of around 100 affiliated dive clubs only take some pelagic fish and crayfish.
In June 1971, the Northern Advocate ran the first media report of public concern about the Government approving an oil prospecting licence within three miles of the Knights. In March 1972, a New Zealand Broadcasting film crew met with Whangārei divers to film a Gallery programme on the widely criticised proposal to prospect for oil.
In the accompanying Advocate photo are marine expert Wade Doak, underwater photographer Kelly Tarlton, marine biologist Tony Ayling, diver Doug Meredith and marine biologist Lew Ritchie.
Naturally, a large number of stories and anecdotes relating to the Poor Knights are laced with derring-do and discovery.
There are local legends whose names will always be synonymous with the offshore wonderland they bravely, joyously dived as young people, then helped to have it
protected. Thanks mainly to them, the Poor Knights' beauty and ecology will remain healthy; a water-visit showpiece where not even footprints will be left behind on the out-of-bounds islands.
Wade Doak (QSM), who wrote many books, e-books and articles about marine and coastal ecology, diving and exploration, died last month. He was among the first to advocate a marine reserve off the Tutukaka Coast, as far back as the 1960s.
It was special, Hawkins said, that a week before Doak died, he had a chance to see Hawkins' fresh-off-the-press book. Doak thanked and congratulated his old sea-dog mate for writing Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve - The discovery and protection of a unique marine environment.
The names of the pioneer divers and visionaries include, of course, Doak and his wife Jan Doak, Dr Roger Grace, Lew Ritchie, Kelly Tarlton, French scuba guru Jacques Cousteau and many more. Some of their names and discoveries — and glimpses of the times they inhabited — are etched on the Poor Knights' underwater map.
There are Māori place names, probably bestowed by people who lived there before inter-tribal warfare and a final massacre around 1823 rendered the place so tāpu that the hapu abandoned the islands forever.
But take a minute to enjoy some names the people who came after gave to the underwater features: Matt's Crack, Fraggle Rock, Jan's Tunnel, Wade's World, Good Shit Reef, Tunnel of Love, Calypso Bay, The Great Wall, Ammo Dump, Air Bubble Cave, The Labyrinth, Red Baron, Kamikaze Drop-off and Gorgonian Plain.
Maps in Hawkins' book — 11 in total — include early proposed and the finally accepted no-fishing limits, and chapters are dedicated to the 25 years of issues, people and debate before total protection status was granted. It also contains the recollections of 20 ''old timers'', 50 short interest stories, around 130 photos, newspaper excerpts and copies of documents.
Hawkins jokes that he thought 50 copies was enough, he could give a few away as Christmas presents but might still have been left with 40 stacked up, collecting dust at home. Fortunately, people convinced him otherwise and there are now enough copies for others to buy, either from the author (PoorKnightsBook@gmail.com) or specialist bookshops such as Kamo Book Inn.
It's a valuable local history resource. It's cleanly written, well produced and packed with interesting information and anecdotes, perfect for picking up, putting down, dipping into — and for reminding Northlanders how lucky they are to have the Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve on their doorstep, and local people made it happen.