Projects & Programmes
MSICT has been associated with a range of successful conservation projects since the island became a scientific and historical reserve. These projects are included in this list of current and past projects, some of which continue as ongoing conservation programmes.
More comprehensive descriptions of Matiu/Somes Island projects and programmes are being developed and will be published in attached pages.
Replanting native flora lost when Matiu/Somes became a quarantine site was the first critical step in the plan to return native flora and fauna to Matiu/Somes Island.
The first stage of this huge replanting task began in 1981 while the island's quarantine role was still under way. The replanting effort was initiated by the Department of Agriculture, and continued for 30+ years with much of the hard work carried out by volunteers from Forest and Bird Lower Hutt.
Initially, pioneering species, such as taupata, ngaio and harakeke were planted on the island. As they became established, secondary species, including totara, rata and kahikatea, were added to the planting scheme. Long-term plans include the reintroduction of threatened local native plant species.
The work of restoring and maintaining flora on Matiu/Somes is a long and time-consuming task. A reliable estimate indicates between 140,000 and 160,000 were planted before the first phase. With that primary planting work basically completed, the focus is now on secondary and tertiary plantings.
There is a programme for removing trees that are unlikely to have been on Matiu/Somes Island. This particularly sensitive programme is carefully managed by DOC.
Weeding is another never-ending and demanding task, one that needs to be carried out in conjunction with the replanting efforts. People interested in helping with weed removal can register for the Lending a Hand programme.
A number of the original buildings have been retained on Matiu/Somes. Some of these historic buildings are open to visitors and are definitely worth a visit – e.g. the Maximum Security Quarantine Centre, and the Lighthouse.
Don't forget to visit the memorial to people who were quarantined on Matiu/Somes if they had very serious and contagious illnesses. The Degaussing Station site and the WWII gun emplacements are other 'must sees' for the thousands of visitors who come to Matiu/Somes every year.
Maintaining these sites is a big programme. DOC Rangers on Matiu/Somes have the lead role in this activity, but they do need volunteers to help with the work – painting, repairing are just two examples of the areas where help is needed. People interested in helping maintain an historic part of Wellington can register for the Historic Heroes programme.
Sustainable Energy System
Provenco and IRL are conducting a project aimed at trialling a sustainable energy system that makes the island self-sufficient for power and heating.
The project has been a success from the start and is receiving national and international attention, notably its production of hydrogen as a by-product and its potential use for heating and cooking.
Fluttering Shearwater (Pakaha)
The fluttering shearwater is a small gull-sized seabird found in coastal waters. Its main breeding areas are islands off Northland, in the Bay of Plenty, in the outer Marlborough Sounds, and now on Matiu/Somes Island.
There was a colony of fluttering shearwaters on Matiu/Somes in earlier times. MSICT’s project, therefore, is aimed at re-establishing a breeding colony as part of the island’s ecological restoration.
A sound system playing fluttering shearwater calls were installed on the island in 2006. After several years without a positive result the sound system was moved to its present site, nest boxes were installed, and resulted in almost immediate success.
Initial results suggest the project will be very successful:
- Burrows are being visited regularly by adult birds that often feed in the harbour area.
- Transferred chicks have already returned from their migration to the southern coast of Australia.
- A pair of birds nested and produced a chick which fledged (departed on its migration).
Little Blue Penguin (Korora)
The little penguin is the smallest penguin in the world. It is found in New Zealand and southern parts of Australia. The colonies on Matiu/Somes and the other two islands in Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington Harbour) have been there for a very long time.
Studies of this bird have been carried out for over 50 years. The latest study covered eight seasons (2007 to 2014).
The Wellington Tree Weta and the rare Cook Strait Giant Weta exists on a very small number of off-shore islands. Matiu/Somes Island was added to the list of havens in 1996.
This gentle vegetarian settled in quickly and a healthy colony now exists on Matiu/Somes. Wetas have been transferred from the island to other places in New Zealand.
There is currently no research into the colony of Cook Strait Giant Wetas on Matiu/Somes.
The rare North Brothers Tuatara was brought to Matiu/Somes Island in 1998. Some came from North Brothers Island in the Marlborough Sounds, and the rest were hatched at Victoria University.
In 2007 two eggs found in a burrow on the island were taken to Victoria where they hatched before being returned to the island. Sightings of recently hatched Tuatara, including one in 2010, confirm the reptile has settled in and is now breeding on the island.
The Matiu/Somes colony of North Brothers Tuatara is not currently the subject of comprehensive studies but Victoria University does carry out regular surveys.
Spotted Shag (Parekareka)
Matiu/Somes is one of a very small number of nesting sites for the Spotted Shag. This bird is not currently the subject of major studies on the island but the colony size and distribution is monitored regularly by OSNZ volunteers.
If you pick the right time in the season you might see this beautiful bird in full plumage while nesting on Matiu/Somes.
The Matiu/Somes colony of Spotted Shags is not currently the subject of research studies.
Red Crowned Parakeet (Kakariki)
When the decision was made to re-establish native flora and fauna on Matiu/Somes, the Red Crowned Parakeet was one of the first birds considered. Translocations of this New Zealand parrot were carried out in 2003 and 2004.
The Kakariki has flourished on the island from the time they were. Chicks born on Matiu/Somes have been translocated to other sites in New Zealand.
There are now four species of Skinks on Matiu/Somes Island – Ornate, Copper, Spotted, Common, and Brown.
Skinks on Matiu/Somes are not currently the subject of research studies.
There are now three species of Gecko on Matiu/Somes Island – Forest, Green, and Common.
Geckos on Matiu/Somes are not currently the subject of research studies.
Returning native flora and fauna to Matiu/Somes, Makaro, and Mokopuna Islands is far from over! It will be many, many years before it can be safely stated that the task of re-establishing all three islands as conservation sites is completed.
MSICT is focussed on maintaining its support role for projects and programmes on Matiu/Somes Island. The Trust would like to see more native birds and animals included in a conservation plan and programme that blends in with the development and future growth of native fauna on the the three islands.
- Birds, notably: Takahe (non-breeding), Tomtit, Saddleback, Stitchbird, North Island Robin, Diving Petrels, and other sea birds
- Animals, notably: Geckos to supplement numbers already released on the island.
MSICT also welcomes the opportunity to link with research organisations to discuss their interest in conducting studies of existing fauna, as well as other activities aimed at improving the flora and fauna on the three harbour islands.