Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Paul Callister

September 2020

We are proud of the work Ngā Uruora has carried out on the Paekākāriki-Pukerua Bay escarpment and surrounding areas. In our time, we have had many inspired volunteers. But less known is the contribution to conservation made by Paekākāriki locals long before our organisation was set up.

One is Arthur Clarke. He is honoured within Paekākāriki with a street named after him, as well as through a small fund for community grants for “educational and charitable purposes” administered by the local community board. But not so well recognised is his donation of the land that has subsequently become Kāpiti Coast District Council’s A.T. Clarke Reserve. This land is located on the Paekākāriki Hill road, accessible via the Kohekohe loop track which leads off the escarpment track.

Papers Past provides some information about A.T.Clarke.

On A.T. Clarke’s death in 1929 this short obituary was published in the Evening Post.

Beside the Hill Road is a monument acknowledging the gift of land.

A decade after Mr Clarke’s death, Hutt County Council, which then administered the reserve, appointed E.V. Sanderson as an honorary supervisor. This was reported in the Evening Post of May 1938.

Captain Ernest Valentine ‘Val’ Sanderson was a Paekākāriki resident in the latter part of his life.


Sanderson lived in Pingau Street.

His obituary at the Auckland Museum’s on-line cenotaph states:

His command and organisational abilities were to become invaluable after the war as he went on to found the New Zealand Native Bird Protection Society, later known as the Royal Forest & Bird Society. He almost single-handedly built the organisation into the New Zealand’s leading environmental protection group after finding his beloved Kāpiti Island bird sanctuary stripped and overrun with introduced species when he returned from war in 1921.

As conservation issues become ever more critical, we should remember the leadership of servicemen like Captain Sanderson who emerged from war to work tirelessly for the benefit of future generations.

The Paekākāriki Station Museum, led by resident Dave Johnson, has been researching the local contribution of Val Sanderson. Now Ngā Uruora is partnering with the Kāpiti-Mana branch of Forest & Bird to help honour the work of Sanderson.  Michael Pringle from Forest & Bird is leading the research. In 2023 Forest & Bird will be celebrating 100 years of the organisation.

If anyone has information such as letters or photos that relate to Sanderson’s life in Paekākāriki, please e-mail Michael at [email protected]

Ngā Uruora is developing a plan to highlight the work of Sanderson by developing signage to be installed beside the track passing through our Waikākāriki Wetland restoration area. We are also proposing to rename this section of the track “Sanderson’s Way”.

Expect to hear more about this project, and the history of AT Clarke reserve, over the next couple of months.