Sue Neureuter, together with her siblings Rod and Zoe, are the custodians of The Noises, a chain of islands within the inner Hauraki Gulf Marine Park/Ko te Pataka kai o Tikapa Moana Te Moananui a Toi.
Why are the noises so special to you?
We grew up holidaying with our parents in The Noises and fell in love with the natural environment that makes them truly a taonga.
What do you do while you’re there?
I swim, snorkel, kayak, walk, weed, paint, read and collect kaimoana and shells from the beach to make beachy things. However, both the terrestrial and marine environment have been changing over the years, and although I still love doing those things, my focus has gradually shifted to how best to use the knowledge that comes from a lifetime of observation.
What are you seeing now?
It’s been hard to watch the slow ebbing of marine life, including the loss of crayfish and scallops, and now we’re losing our mussel beds. Large snapper and crayfish eat the kina and without them the kina take over, resulting in a “kina barren” where the seabed is stripped of kelp. Over-harvesting has played a large part, but we can’t discount the role of changing weather patterns and sedimentation. We make many trips to the islands with scientists for land and marine research. More recently, the chance to work with mana whenua and understand their perspective has been a privilege, and the more we learn of that world view, the more it feels like a great fit with our family’s views. Having empathy for others’ knowledge brings not only me but all those who support us the realisation that we must go forward together and use The Noises to find ways to right our actions from the past.
How does it differ from The Noises of your childhood?
When I was really little it was relatively easy to get crayfish and paua. Rather than eat whatever you could catch, it was more a matter of: “What do you want for dinner?” But we don’t have refrigeration and have only ever taken what we need for that meal.
What are your favourite moments?
I love sitting near the birdbath by our family’s very basic bach and watching its feathered visitors for as long as it takes to work through a thought. I guess it’s the chance to just “be” that’s so precious – a luxury that doesn’t seem so easy to find these days. We are predator-free, so the birdbath is on the ground and it attracts tūī, fantails and other birds. I also love snorkelling and the element of surprise that comes with it – you never know what you might see. This spring I saw a crested weedfish, which was a huge treat. It makes me optimistic that if we just stop hammering this marine environment, it can recover, because those species are still there.
What’s your vision for the future?
Our whānau has partnered with Auckland Museum and the University of Auckland and collectively lodged a proposal for marine protection around The Noises.
Where can people find out more?
An easy start is our website, thenoises.nz. It will lead you to research, blogs, and our Facebook, Instagram and newsletters.
Sue, Rod and Zoe have been appointed Companions of the Auckland War Memorial Museum, receiving a Museum Medal for their dedication to The Noises.
PHOTOGRAPHY: JOSEPH AND ROD NEUREUTER