Alegend in tramping and conservation



Stuff NZ Newspapers


Jan Heine environmentalist and scientist b January 29, 1940 d December 28, 2021 After co-leading a trip with Jan Heine into the heart of the Southern Alps, Dennis Page would find himself shouting in frustrationwhen he heard then prime minister Helen Clark being described as one of New Zealand’s leading female trampers. ‘‘I would find myself yelling corrections at the radio: ‘No, she is not, it’s Jan Heine.’ ’’ A legend in tramping, mountaineering and conservation circles, Heine died in December after a short battle with motor neuron disease (MND), aged 81. Page, the president of the Hutt Valley Tramping Club, told a memorial service that he and Heine, who at that timewas in her 60s, had led a 10-day trip to the Garden of Eden ice plateau in 2004. Jan was the only woman on the trip and, although the other climbers were much younger, she proved a highly competent companion. Jan Harwicke, as she then was, cut her teeth as a tramper in 1965 by being the first woman to complete the Main Range Schormann-toKaitoke. The 80-kilometre traverse of the Tararua range, north of Wellington, is considered a gutbusting challenge, and it was not successfully achieved until 1963. But Jan Heine was more than just a tramper who liked a tough challenge. A pioneering environmentalist, she was an influential wilderness advocate, soil scientist, and botanist. Born in Lyttelton, she moved with her family around the top of the South Island, and spent some time atNelson College for Girls. A boarder at the college, she would return to Ta¯kaka in the holidays to see her parents. That provided the opportunity to venture out with the matron of the local maternity home, Sister Raymond, and Violet Scott, the widow of the local pharmacist. Searching for native orchids, she loved the walking and would laterwrite that is where she got the ‘‘bug’’ for tramping. She studied science at Canterbury University and was a keen member of the tramping club. After finishing her degree, she returned to Nelson Girls to teach. At a time when tramping was largely seen as a pastime for boys, she encouraged the girls to give it a go. After two years, she decided teaching was not for her, and she moved to Wellington, joining the Soil Bureau as a scientist. At the Hutt Valley Tramping Club, she encountered Arnold Heine, whom she later described as ‘‘a big Antarctic explorer’’. When she completed the Schormann-toKaitoke, she sent Arnold, who was in Antarctica, a Christmas card proudly telling him what she had achieved. He must have been impressed, and they soon became engaged. They had a strong bond that would last 53 years. The pair enjoyed botany and had a particular interest in the Kahurangi National Park. Together with botanist Tony Druce, they spent 250 days on a botanical survey of the park. Theywere involved in trapping and bird recovery projects throughout New Zealand, spending time on numerous islands including Ka¯piti, Breaksea, Codfish and the Chatham islands. With Arnold, Stan Hunt and Dr George Gibbs, she set up the Mainland Island Restoration Operation (MIRO), a highly successful trapping project in the hills behind her property in Eastbourne, Lower Hutt. Well into her 70s, she still looked after some of the original trapping lines. Other interests included advocating, on a national level, for the protection of wilderness areas, and supporting disabled skiers on Mt Ruapehu. Looking out from her home above Days Bay, she developed a keen interest in Matiu/Somes Island and was a tireless volunteer on the island, helping to restore its natural flora and fauna, and acting as a guide. Arnoldwas heavily involved in Federated Mountain Clubs (FMC) and was president before becoming the long-term editor of the It was Jan who did much of the donkey work, doing the layout and design, proofing and editing. In 1988, she was made redundant from the Soil Bureau. She had spent much of her career creating maps based on her soil surveys and, after losing her job, she published her work despite not being paid for it. In the early 1980s, she spent two seasons in Antarctica analysing penguin guano at Cape Bird. It was during the 25th anniversary of Scott Base, and Prime Minister Robert Muldoon and Sir Edmund Hillary visited. Jan was the only female scientist, and she was asked to show Muldoon around. She would later recall that he got ‘‘sozzled’’ and, after retiring to bed, he reacted with fury when he found it had not been made to his liking. With her love of mountains, she also took the time to do some climbing in Antarctica. ‘‘If we had told Scott Base we wanted to go up Mt Bird they would have said, ‘No, you’re not allowed,’ but if we didn’t tell them they wouldn’t know,’’ she told Stuff in 2012. She returned to the ice again in 2008. Although she was involved in a huge range of activities, what made her stand out was her caring attitude towards the environment and those who enjoyed it. She mentored and encouraged tramping authors, and historians Geoff Spearpoint and Shaun Barnett. As a tramper and mountaineer, she was a role model for generations of women. Financially, she gave money to many outdoor and environmental groups. Nephew MartinHeine says Jan chose not to have children, and had strong spiritual beliefs and a sense of community. MNDended her life abruptly, but even when she was very ill and disabled, she was still clearing trap lines and doing breakfasts at a local school. Fellow scientist and tramper Murray Presland noted she had an intense interest in Tibet and Buddhism, and with it came a spiritual sense that influenced everything she did in life. ‘‘She had a deep concern for the community she lived in,both its human inhabitants and its flora and fauna. With it came a huge willingness to pass on her experience and knowledge.’’ Spearpoint says Jan and Arnold were like parents to him and encouraged him in everything he did. Their dedication to the outdoors was never-ending. Jan never slowed down, and in later years he would serve as a ‘‘packhorse’’ when theywent to isolated areas in the Southern Alps to act as hut wardens. What always impressed him was her ‘‘caring concern’’ for humanity and her love of New Zealand flora, and fauna. A woman who preferred to work in the background, Jan got surprisingly little national recognition. In 2018, she was a Kiwibank LocalHero, and the Hutt City Council gave her a civic award. Eastbourne environmentalist and trapper Sally Bain says Jan was an inspiration, and she admired her work ethic. ‘‘She was not a fluffy romantic. She was a hard worker who was a dedicated slave to the planet.’’ Spearpoint says Jan never sought recognition, and she was often in the shadow of her highprofile husband. ‘‘Janwas only too quick to pass accolades on to others, when they sat firmly on her shoulders.’’ Sources: Dennis Page, Hutt Valley Tramping Club, Te Omanga Hospice, Geoff Spearpoint, Sally Bain, Martin Heine, DianeGiliamWeeks, Murray Presland.