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Quarantine Island/Kamau Taurua Community co-ordinate many environmental, educational and heritage projects on the island.   
Photo by Kerry Buchan

In Lockdown on Quarantine Island

Suzanne Middleton, Wild Dunedin —

"Who would ever have thought the island would be used for quarantining people again?" When Keeper Dries Van den Broeck, Nadjejda Espinel and their children went to live on Quarantine Island/Kamau Taurua in Otago Harbour in 2017, no-one could foresee that they would end their tour of duty on the island in actual quarantine.

"The island is special in so many ways. It’s often called the jewel in Otago Harbour and what that means I leave each visitor to find out." Dries Van den Broeck   — Image by: Kerry Buchan

The family were planning to leave Aotearoa at the end of March 2020 but the COVID-19 wave overtook them. And what better place to hang out as a family, with Nadjejda’s PhD in Marine Science in the bag, Portobello Store a quick boat ride away, no groups of visitors on the island to look after, and lots of projects for Jack of all trades Dries to work on.

Lucia loves her chickens and they love the worms she feeds them. — Image by: Dries Van den Broeck

As Dries tells it...

"So today we’ve been in lockdown for seven days. I only went off the island once (to Portobello) to get some fuel and baking soda. At times like this you need to keep up with your baking."
"The weather has allowed us to do many outside chores. Weatherboards have been added/removed/painted. Also in the reserve we moved the fence so a bigger planting area has been created for future revegetation projects."
"Part of this paddock (marked in red) is being made ready to replant in natives.  The fence has been shifted so that the sheep will no longer have access to this area." Dries Van den Broeck. — Image by: Dries Van den Broeck
"The kids enjoy their home schooling projects with Nadjejda in the morning and love playing outside or helping me outside in the afternoon. We’re pretty lucky to have all the space here, on windy or rainy days we use the old Quarantine Station for playing games. It’s like a big hall to play in. Nadjejda has now officially successfully finished her PhD thesis and is making use of her time to finish writing some papers.
"We haven’t seen anybody for the last week and I’m amazed how locals are respecting the lockdown rules. I’m pretty lucky to still be able to do my work. At this time of year we usually get a lot of groups on day or overnight visits to the island, and we had about 15 cancellations, so the Corona crisis has also had a financial impact on our small charity."

Debbie Guthrie, a regular volunteer to Quarantine Island/Kamau Taurua, lives just across in Port Chalmers and can’t come over at the moment, so instead she makes photos of the island she misses during lockdown. — Image by: Debbie Guthrie

"At the moment we’re very much enjoying family time and being outdoors. Who would ever have thought the island would be used for quarantining people again?"  Dries Van den Broeck
"In March about 5 bottle nose dolphins were cruising in the harbour for a week. We turned the engine off and they swam next to our boat. It was amazing - very peaceful" Dries Van den Broeck   — Image by: Dries Van den Broeck

Two members of the Quarantine Island Community have been in isolation in the Lodge, which is separate from the Keeper’s Cottage, working during the week, and enjoying the island and helping out with chores in the evenings and weekends.