You are here

History of Matiu/Somes Island

Matiu/Somes Island is a 24.9ha island situated in Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington Harbour) about 5 kilometers from Wellington City. The island is a sacred place to tangata whenua.

Although the island is a scientific and historic reserve, it is now owned by local Iwi (Te Atiawa), following a Treaty claim settlement but managed by DOC. While still protected by its reserve status, accessible to the public, its future is directed by a joint governance board composed of members from the Iwi, the wider community, and DOC.

A revegetation effort, initiated by Forest and Bird Lower Hutt and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in 1981, 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 about 20,000 visitors per year. It is serviced daily by the East-West Ferry. As the Department of Conservation’s 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.”