Friday, June 29, 2007
Leper Island ... #39
Leper Island.. the small island to the left of Matiu (Soames) Island ... and just to the right of the top of the "Hurry-Crane". This photo was taken from my office building looking towards the hills behaind Petone and Eastbourne ... again the limited palette of colours and the moody sky gives a different perspective on the Harbour
In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese came to New Zealand. Each had to pay a tax of 100 on arrival (1896) which was a lot of money in those days. In 1903, Chinese immigrant Kim Lee, who ran a fruit shop in Newtown, was diagnosed with leprosy. Since NZ did not have a leper colony, Lee was sent to Soames Island, a quarantine station in the middle of Wellington Harbour. However the other residents there objected to his presence and lee was transferred to the tiny island of Mokopuna at the northern tip of Soames Island where he lived in a cave. The lighthouse keeper brought him food by rowboat and when the sea was too rough it was sent across by flying fox.
Lee died in 1904 from kidney failure, not leprosy. The island is colloquially known as leper Island and a century later a memorial service for Kim Lee was held on Matui.