Walking New Zealand

Need2Know: Motu: Magnificen­t isolation

- By Department of Conservati­on

On the outer edge of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park/ Ko te Pātaka kai o Tīkapa, there is an island that is quietly, gently, regaining its mauri/life

Eighty metres off the west coast of Aotea/Great Barrier Island is playfully described by Rod Miller, Chair of the Motu Kaikoura Trust, as “twice as big as Tiritiri Matangi, and twice as rugged.”

The island initially made headlines in 2003 when it came up for sale as public debate blew up over plans for a $10m glass building in memory of Sir Peter Blake.

At the time, Herald reporter Brian Rudman made the suggestion that Motu Kaikoura would be a more fitting memorial, writing, “Blake’s dream was to save endangered parts of the planet for future generation­s and to educate the youth of the world about the fragility of the eco-system. Where better to start than at home on Kaikoura Island?”

The public overwhelmi­ngly supported the idea to purchase the island for restoratio­n and public enjoyment, and the motu/island was eventually bought for the people of New Zealand by the government (via the Nature Heritage Fund), ASB Charitable

Trusts, Auckland Regional Council and Auckland local authoritie­s. It was opened by the Prime Minister at the time, Helen Clarke, on 7 May 2005.

Located on the western side of Aotea, 90km from Auckland, Motu Kaikoura (previously known as Selwyn Island) is 564 hectares in size, making it the seventh largest island in the Hauraki Gulf.

The triangular shaped island forms the natural harbours of Ports Abercrombi­e and Fitzroy, providing sheltered, deep water anchorages for the

boaties that flock to Aotea in summer. Mimicking its parent island, Motu Kaikoura offers a remote wilderness and island experience quite different from the more sheltered inner Hauraki Gulf islands, with rocky outcrops, steep forested gullies, and the aforementi­oned sheltered, crystal-clear blue water bays.

Changing hands

As with most islands of the Hauraki Gulf, the island has a long history of occupation. Māori occupation began formerly with Ngāti Tai and latterly with Ngāti Rehua, for which the island’s seafood resources were immensely valuable. To this end Ngāti Rehua establishe­d two fishing pā, Motu Karaka and Pahangahou, on prominent headlands.

The island then passed into European ownership in the early 1850’s, changing hands more than twenty times in 150 years. Despite the clay soils and the tempestuou­s climate of the outer Hauraki Gulf, it was mostly used for farming, but notably was once a deer farm, and was used briefly as a wilderness retreat, resulting in various chalets being built.

During World War II, a 6-inch Howitzer gun was mounted on the southern side, while an observatio­n post and bunker were constructe­d on the northern edge.

Healing begins

A review in the early 2000s found that sporadic farm clearing and grazing by deer and goats over the last 150 years had left much of the island devoid of its original forest vegetation.

But pockets of native bush remained in gullies and on the outer edges of the island, while mānuka and kānuka scrub were popping up on the bare land, naturally beginning the island’s long natural journey back to regenerati­on without a policy of replanting. As such, the decision was made to gently guide the island back to its former state, with initial efforts focused on removing deer and cats (goats were eradicated in 1993), before starting on rat control.

The Trust has successful­ly reduced the rat population to a level under 6%, with ship rats virtually unrecorded for 18 months. A great result considerin­g

 ??  ?? Above: Overlookin­g the bay. :Photo courtesy of the Motu Kaikoura Trust
Above: Overlookin­g the bay. :Photo courtesy of the Motu Kaikoura Trust
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 ?? Photos ourtesy of the Motu Kaikoura Trust ?? Above left: Old Selywn Island map.
Above right:Tour around the island prior to the opening..
Photos ourtesy of the Motu Kaikoura Trust Above left: Old Selywn Island map. Above right:Tour around the island prior to the opening..

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