Dr Colin Little and his wife Margaret purchased Aroha Island from Bill Cook in 1971, moving there to live in 1974. Colin, back from Africa briefly, was in Kerikeri for 3 days in 1971, when he was told the island was up for sale. It was as good as sold to a developer when Colin stepped in, increased his own recent offer to equal the developer’s offer, and attained ownership of Aroha Island to preserve its natural beauty for posterity. Colin says, had his visit to Kerikeri been timed one day later, he would have missed out on buying Aroha Island. Not surprisingly, he regards this as “the remarkable coincidence factor”. In 1984 Colin, being the original instigator of the current concept of Aroha Island, protected it with a QEll covenant, and in 1991 sold the island to the QEll National Trust.
I would like to tell you a little about Dr Colin Little, as he is a remarkable man and a visionary. Thanks to his early efforts of enhancing the ecology and improving the Island he loved, and further hard work and effort by many more people since, we now have a remarkable place for all to enjoy.
The story of the Little family began in Kerikeri in 1928, with Colin’s grandfather moving here from China, buying 250 acres and setting up two companies, Uplands Farm Ltd and Kingston Orchards Ltd. Kingston House was the family home. In 1934 Colin, grandson of Edward Little, arrived from England, having graduated in horticulture at Reading University. Colin took over the management of the Little Estate, living and working in Kerikeri for the following 4 years, this being where he began his long involvement in the Kerikeri community. Colin returned to England and later during World War ll saw service in France, Scotland, India and Burma before being repatriated to New Zealand. Further study followed at Auckland University, and Colin was employed here in New Zealand for the next 8 years. Attaining a Doctorate in Philosophy in Britain, he set off in 1960 starting in Burma, and travelled the world for the next 13 years as an agricultural scientist on a variety of projects. This article cannot cover the many and valuable facets of his work. His research both in NZ and overseas was internationally recognised, and he has written, and is still writing today, scientific papers for publication. He tells me that while at Aroha Island alone, he continued writing and produced 1000 published articles.
Colin took up residence on Aroha Island from 1974, and began 17 years of hard work, most of which he did himself with whatever help he could find. He lived in the cottage until the house, now known as the Lodge, was moved onto the island. There are some very interesting and historically valuable, early slides showing the then topography and vegetation, plus a rather hair raising moving of the house down the causeway and into position. In the time Colin lived on the island, he improved and developed it out of all recognition, landscaping it, and planting a variety of both exotic and native trees. He allowed access to the public for their enjoyment, although it was not officially opened to public access until 1996.
In 1991, Colin sold Aroha Island to the QEll National Trust, seeking to protect this sanctuary forever for the public of NZ. Colin now lives in Auckland, enjoying his retirement at a young 97 years of age. He has a deep affection for Aroha and maintains a keen interest in the activities and well being of the island.