The Honourable Anand Satyanand, the Governor-General of New Zealand, visited Okarito on March 14, 2009. On a West Coast Tour, he and representatives from Department of Conservation, arrived in Okarito for a luncheon at the historic Donovan’s store. All locals were invited and a great spread of food was laid out. His Excellency was informal and conversational, meeting and chatting with all the locals including Okarito’s eldest resident Gar Graham (in his 90th year).
Following lunch the Governor-General and entourage, including local historian Anne Hall and local scientist Ian James, took a one hour boat tour of the lagoon. As they set off, the tide was pushing in and the water was extremely high – this doesn’t always bode well to see many of the wading birds! Swade headed straight up the lagoon for the rainforest, and sure enough, a brilliant white heron was perfectly perched on every corner! This is where they are often found at rest, waiting for the tide to change or fishing the swallows along the riverways. The boat quietly drifts past these birds, enabling very close encounters without disturbing them. So it turned out and an absolutely brilliant day and all were treated to great bird sightings and views of Mount Cook and Tasman.
We hope the Governor-General enjoyed his West Coast visit and the annual Wild Foods Festival he was visiting next in Hokitika – that will be a change from the quiet trip on the lagoon – plenty of wildlife (and foods of course) to be found there!