The St Martin Island Community are a dedicated group of individuals who have been responsible for the management of the conservation and heritage values of Quarantine Island in Otago Harbour. Quarantine Island has a rich history from its early Maori beginnings as an important Kai Tahu fishing area named Kamau Taurua until becoming Dunedin’s main Quarantine station from the halcyon days of the Otago gold rush until the early twentieth century. As a quarantine station many Otago immigrants recovered here from typhoid, scarlet fever and other diseases after their long sea voyages from Europe. Some people never recovered, and died on the island and the graves of those unfortunate people lie in the island’s cemetery on the southern side of the island.
The Island Community group recently wrote to the Society seeking financial support for the development of better pedestrian access from the jetty on the northern side of the island. Society committee member and website editor Paul Pope who lives at Portobello and knows the island well suggested that a “field trip” was required to look at the proposal. Chairman Robin Hyndman and committee member Mick Field agreed, and like Jerome K Jerome’s “Three Men in a Boat” they took the short boat trip from the University Marine Laboratory over to the Island on Sunday 6th of May. They met with Island resident/caretaker Francine Vella and looked at the details of the access proposal. They also spent time looking at the forest revegetation project, restoration of the historical married quarters building, and exploring and enjoying the panoramic views that the island provides.
The St Martin Island Community provides important opportunities for schools, community groups and many other organisations to utilise the accommodation on the island for retreats, contemplation and active learning. As both a scenic destination and a community facility the Island is an important asset to the city that links social and community needs with the restoration and conservation of our city’s heritage and environment. The Society was pleased to be able to offer the St Martin Community the $3000 of funding to upgrade its pedestrian access so as to improve the opportunities and values that the Island provides to the city.