I am honoured and delighted to accept the role as patron of the Moths and Butterflies of New Zealand Trust and I embrace with enthusiasm the organisation and all it stands for.
History to me is always alive and present and the concept of saving the monarch and other butterflies and moths seems to me to be a noble and hugely worthy role in a difficult and complex environment.
The monarch has been in my life as a young boy in the very heart of Auckland. In those days it seems every garden in the old villas that ran up and down Newton Gully where I grew up had a large swan plant and in summer the lawns and gardens were swept by the gentle wings of these glorious creatures. At school the windows were festooned with chrysalises which we had carefully tied with cotton thread and hung on the windows waiting in anticipation for the arrival of the butterfly. We carried them to school carefully in cotton wool and in Room 4 of old Newton Central we would have had 100 or more monarchs waiting to hatch. Releasing them was a great pleasure.
I haven’t forgotten that moment and with my own children I would teach them the pleasure of rearing monarch butterflies, and I still do. This year we have had a bumper crop and the plants covered in netting have given us great pleasure. Now with grandchildren I am teaching them the awe and wonder of the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly.
In the 1960’s I came to live in Titirangi and most days I would run past the house of Tom Skeates which still stood at 90 Scenic Drive. His house stood in a grove of kauri and I would think it had not changed since when he lived there in the early part of the century and where his gift to Auckland and indeed New Zealand was the awareness of the monarch and how we could be its guardian and future. I of course have come late to the legend of Tom, but I knew the story of his hatching and teaching and his legendary belief in monarch releases. For locals the house was a bit of a shrine and when it was pulled down I thought we had lost something of our past.
As Mayor of Waitakere, with my good friend and collaborator in my books on the West Coast, Ted Scott, we attended the opening of the West Lynn butterfly house and on that occasion to see this public and very beautiful concept unveiled was an absolute pleasure and I made special reference to Tom Skeates and his Titirangi house and the many schools which benefited from his visits and knowledge.
The devastation of the monarch by the wasp population is of great concern but what a pleasure to see swan plants in all the garden centres this summer and to see children with expectations of the joy of the monarch and its return to our gardens and our skies. All over the Auckland area the Council is planting swan plants in public reserves and in parks. What an inspired choice to add to the native foliage that is.
The Moths and Butterflies of NZ Trust is worthy and is continuing the knowledge and guardianship of a wide range of butterflies and moths in this country. It is a sustainable organisation, one built on strong emotion and a love of the natural world. I am deeply privileged to assist with its continuation and success and I would like to acknowledge all of those who have served and continued to do so, a cause that brings joy and great pleasure.
Sir Bob Harvey KNZM QSO