Matiu/Somes Island is a 24.9ha island situated in Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington Harbour) about 5km from Wellington City. The island is a sacred place to tangata whenua.
Makoro/Ward and Mokopuna Islands
Although the island is a scientific and historic reserve, Matiu/Somes, Makaro/Ward and Mokopuna Islands are now owned by local Iwi, Te Atiawa, following the settlement of a Waitangi Treaty claim. The Department of Conservation (DOC) has retained responsibility for managing the islands. While still protected by its reserve status, but accessible to the public, Matiu/Somes’ future is governed by the Kaitiaki Board composed of members from the Iwi, the wider community, and DOC.
From the 1870s Matiu/Somes has been a quarantine island for humans and animals and an imposed home for fathers and older sons who were interned there during the First and Second World Wars.
In 1981 a revegetation project, initiated by Forest and Bird Lower Hutt and the Ministry of Primary Industries, has fostered the regeneration of native plants and returned the island’s landscape from livestock paddocks to native bush that existed on the island before the arrival of European settlers. Rats were successfully eradicated from the island during the late 1980s.
Numerous species have since been successfully reintroduced to the island including the Wellington Tree Weta, Cook Strait Giant Weta, the Forest Gecko, Wellington Green Gecko, Ornate Skinks, Brothers Island Tuatara, Red Crowned Kakariki, and the North Island Robin. The regeneration programme has resulted in regular sightings of other native birds on the island, for example the Tui, Karearea (NZ Falcon) and Ruru (Morepork).
Matiu/Somes Island is an increasingly popular tourist attraction, with over 20,000 visitors per year. It is serviced daily by the East-West Ferry. As the DOC document “Matiu/Somes Island – a plan for conservation management” states: “No other island in New Zealand combines such diverse and important ecological, historical and cultural values with easy and open access.”